By CHRIS GOFF
These are not your younger brother’s Indiana Hoosiers, not with Cody Zeller roaming the middle and defensive stalwarts like Victor Oladipo and Yogi Ferrell clogging driving lanes, and they reestablished supremacy again Wednesday night.
Purdue’s Baby Boiler era looks for all the world like a fading memory, a four-year blip on the state’s basketball landscape in which the West Lafayette school owned the Hoosiers and romped through Big Ten play.
It’s basically a dead heat between Michigan and Indiana at the top of the Big Ten.
And after the Hoosiers’ 97-60 dismantling of Purdue in Mackey Arena, who could argue against the cream and crimson?
They’re deep, talented and blessed with quality size.
And on Wednesday, Tom Crean’s team unleashed a brutally effective alter ego, one that competed with unrelenting aggression and toughness on both ends of the floor for 40 minutes.
The Boilermakers’ loss was one of the most lopsided in series history, and it was every bit as humiliating as the final score.
In their defense, few solutions were available.
Indiana is one of the most unselfish offensive teams to be recently assembled in college basketball. The Hoosiers carved up Purdue with 21 assists on 33 field goals. Players didn’t stop the ball for one-on-one actions.
Purdue has a decent team, particularly on defense. A lot of young, quality talent populates the locker room. Ronnie Johnson is a fantastic point guard prospect.
But the home team failed epically and displayed its inexperience.
The first half started with the Boilermakers matching Indiana tit for tat, with the score 18-17. It ended with Indiana up 47-27 at the break, and things got worse from there.
Because Indiana was forever reaching, knocking, pushing and prodding, the Boilermakers were dared into trying some ill-advised jump shots and dribbling around the perimeter rather than trying to work the paint.
The Hoosier bench outscored Purdue’s bench 23-9. Will Sheehey had seven points and a career-high seven assists. Remy Abell had six points and five rebounds and played a mistake-free 18 minutes. Jeremy Hollowell, an enigma with all the physical tools, contributed on both ends, playing with much more activity and confidence.
Zeller needed a breakout performance and delivered in a big way with 19 points and 11 rebounds. The star center wanted it more than anyone else from the opening tip.
In the aggregate, a rivalry game, in front of a hostile crowd, brought the best out of Indiana.
Energy. Desire. Fire.
Starting in West Lafayette, the Hoosiers threw it into another gear. As Crean often preaches, every practice and every game is a step in that journey to the ultimate destination.
Everything about Indiana’s attitude and approach Wednesday answered the challenge. Domination in a broad sense must stem from smaller bursts. On this night, the Hoosiers played like a team desperate to not only win, but win big.
Indiana will get the opportunity again “ to ditch the œsoft label, to play with force, to overpower an opponent, to act the protagonist, to run, jump and cut with never-ending urgency, to create a more energized brand of defense.
In boxing, a competitor never wants to slack off. He’s always thinking, œI have to knock the guy out.
For the Hoosiers, it all came together in West Lafayette, and the rout becomes a giant post-it note to remind them just how good they can be when they set the tone, press the issue and take the fight to an opponent. Now these Hoosiers will try to give Michigan a taste of that aggression.