Hoosiers can’t close in 74-67 loss to Boilers

The building buzzed like it always does when Purdue is in town.

It was loud, hot and hostile inside Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Sunday, the prospect of Indiana upsetting the No. 3 Boilermakers fueling an electric, sold-out crowd through much of the afternoon.

The Hoosiers, however, failed to live up to their end of the bargain. Guard play, once again, remains an issue Indiana has yet to solve.

IU’s backcourt dropped the ball during the final two minutes, allowing a back-and-forth, one-possession game to crumble into a 74-67 loss to Purdue before an announced crowd of 17,222 at the Hoosiers’ venerable arena.

Senior guards Robert Johnson and Josh Newkirk each committed critical turnovers in the final two minutes, spoiling what had been a valiant Indiana effort up to that point.

“We battled,” IU coach Archie Miller said. “We gave ourselves a chance to win the game. Like I told the team afterwards, very disappointed we didn’t come through. Our last two minutes, we squandered possessions, especially offensively. We can’t do that in a big game like this against that type of team.”

Miller took most of the blame for the way the final two minutes unraveled, calling his team’s approach to offense “unorganized.” The first-year IU coach said he should have called a timeout or two to settle down his players and provide them with a scoring template.

Instead, the team rushed through, illustrating once again that it lacks the kind of competent guard play that separates the good teams from the middling ones. A misfired layup by Johnson, followed by turnovers by both he and Newkirk allowed Purdue (21-2, 10-0) to match those stops with baskets on the other end.

As a result, the Boilers escaped Bloomington with their 17th consecutive victory of the season.

“Purdue’s obviously very tough to score on anyway, but Rob had a tough finish I thought that was rushed,” Miller said. “We had a turnover in transition (by Newkirk) on a ball screen, then late in the game Rob had a curl and a drive where he ends up losing it. Those plays, you can maybe put on me. I should’ve had guys maybe a little more organized the last couple minutes, call a timeout just to make sure we get a shot and we didn’t do that. That killed us.”

It was a disappointing finish for Johnson, who otherwise played outstanding basketball in his final regular season game against IU’s in-state rival. He played like a senior, hitting big, tough shots on the way to a 21-point performance. Matched with Juwan Morgan’s 24 points, it was welcome and needed production from the veteran.

But outside of hustle plays by Freddie McSwain (eight points) and Zach McRoberts (six rebounds), IU (12-10, 5-5) received little else.

Newkirk posted a co-game-high five assists, but shot merely 2-for-7 from the field, while sophomore Devonte Green and freshman Al Durham were non-factors.

“No question: consistency and productivity from our guards, that’s been something that when we’ve had it we’ve been good,” Miller said. “Obviously Rob answered the bell today. We didn’t get much scoring from anyone else. Hopefully as many games continue to pound, we’ll get some guys that can give us better minutes. But it’s been an issue all year.”

Indiana started strong and led for the first 15 minutes of action, relying on the steady play of Johnson and Morgan.

Although Purdue center Isaac Haas asserted himself in the paint, the Boilermakers struggled to consistently knock down their usual shots from the perimeter. They didn’t make their first 3-pointer until the 5:46 mark of the first half and went only 5-for-18 beyond the arc on the day.

Indiana took a 37-35 lead into halftime, but Purdue started the second period with a burst. The Boilers used an early 11-4 run to seize momentum, finding a jolt from six quick points from Vincent Edwards. After settling for perimeter looks during the first half, Edwards became a more aggressive driver in the second. He scored 13 of his eventual 19 points in the final period, serving as a nice complement to Haas, who finished with a game-high 26 points.

With Sunday’s victory, Edwards and Haas are part of a Purdue senior class that has won three of the four games it played in Bloomington.

“It’s a huge feather in the cap,” Boilers coach Matt Painter said.

For Indiana, Sunday was another reminder of how far it still must go.

“I just think we didn’t do a good job of executing,” Johnson said. “That’s a part of executing down the stretch. That’s something that we have to get better at.”

3 comments

  1. Dakich was criticizing IU fans for being happy with the effort IU made during this game. I understand that shouldn’t be a standard for our program but when you start a walk on and a freshman on a team the first year coach isn’t responsible for assembling I think it a realistic take on the game. Purdue is good. Purdue is veteran. Purdue has stuck with painter for some really high ups and some pretty low downs. The effort our fan based witnessed had been lacking for a few seasons now. The talent level is low. We took two top 3 teams down to the last few minutes. Our record looks bad, but ft wayne, isu, Duke, Illinois, louisville, Wisconsin, and Purdue were all winnable games. Had we edged them out we’d be 19-3 with wins over 4 ranked opponents. Of course we are 12-10, but once we get some talent we will be in good shape.

  2. Did Dakich address why we didn’t have that “chip” on our shoulder…There was just too much of a “feel good” vibe …..for Olamagnifico.

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