Something about Indiana has brought out the best in Purdue in recent seasons.
The Boilermakers will look to extend their win streak against Indiana to eight games when they face the rival Hoosiers (8-5, 3-3 Big Ten) on Thursday night at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall (7 p.m., FS1).
Last season, Purdue swept the series, winning 57-49 at Mackey Arena and spoiling Bob Knight’s first public appearance at Assembly Hall in 20 years with a 74-62 win over the Hoosiers.
“It kind of speaks for itself,” Purdue forward Trevion Williams said. “It’s Indiana. It’s a game we’ve just got to win, we’ve got to be ready for. It’s probably going to be one of the most physical games. Games like these, refs let calls go, also. You’ve just got to be prepared for it, just watching film, putting in work in practice and everybody getting shots up on their own.”
Purdue coach Matt Painter attributed the recent success in the rivalry to having good players, such as All-American guard Carsen Edwards and All-Big Ten center Isaac Hass.
“Collectively, we’ve played well together,” Painter said. “But I don’t think there’s one aspect, like rebounding or 3-point shooting. Each game is its own entity.”
Purdue (8-5, 3-3) is coming into the game with some positive momentum, rallying from down 15 points at halftime to knock off Michigan State, 55-54, on a short jumper by Williams in the game’s closing seconds Friday night.
“It was a huge win for us, but we can’t be satisfied with that,” Williams said. “We have to build off it and be a better team overall.”
Williams is averaging a team-high 15 points and at 6-foot-10, 265 pounds is a load to handle inside. Junior shooting guard Sasha Stefanovic, meanwhile, is Purdue’s main perimeter threat, averaging 10.7 points while shooting 49.3% (35-of-71) from 3-point range.
“When you are playing against IU, that’s the whole thing,” said Stefanovic, a former Crown Point standout. “You are supposed to dislike each other. It’s just how it is, and it’s just how it will forever be.”
Stefanovic admitted it will feel different with just family and friends at Assembly Hall instead of facing the jeers and boos coming from an opposing packed house.
“We’re obviously not going to have that, but the rivalry is still there,” Stefanovic said. “You still want to obviously go beat your in-state rival, and it’s a huge game for us. They’re a great team. They are just knocking on the door of that Top 25 poll, and they’ve gotten some big wins. Regardless of if this is a rivalry or not, this is a huge game for us and we’ve just got to be ready to go and accept that challenge.”