A funny moment happened in the hallways of Purdue University’s Mackey Arena on Tuesday afternoon. When asked how familiar Freshman center A.J. Hammons was with the the Big Ten rivalry that is Indiana and Purdue, the soft-spoken 7″0 Hammons kind of raised his eyes with a shocked face.
“No I haven’t thought about it,” said Hammons with a smile on his face. “I just know that if I would have went to IU, we wouldn’t like Purdue. But I came to Purdue so we don’t like IU, so that is our rivals. We have to beat them.”
Everybody has to have their hatred start for their rival at some point, and no better place for Hammons and the Boilermakers (11-9) to build on that when the #3 Hoosiers (18-2) visit Mackey Arena on Wednesday night. Both teams are coming fresh off victories on Sunday (the Hoosiers knocking off Michigan State 75-70, Purdue defeating Iowa 65-62 in overtime) and have the chance to make the next mark in the long-storied rivalry.
The Hoosiers have won the last two games of the storied rivalry, the last game taking place last March 4th at Assembly Hall as Indiana won 85-74. Hoosiers center Cody Zeller had 13 points and 7 rebounds in the victory, and Wednesday night will be the first time that Hammons has the duty of trying to stop Zeller down in the paint.
“It will be great actually,” said Hammons, who seems to look forward to the idea of playing one of the top big men in the country.
“(Zeller) is going to challenge me a lot. To stay down, and to make sure that I don’t foul, and he’ll be running the floor. I’ll have to make sure I’m ready to rebound, box him out, and if everyone else and me do our job, we should come out with a win.”
Hammons is averaging 9.7 points per game along with 6.3 rebounds, with his opponent in Zeller coming into Wednesday night 16 points and 8.1 rebounds. The team knows how important slowing down Zeller is, but they also know how dangerous guards like Victor Oladipo (13.9 ppg), Jordan Hulls (11.2 ppg) and Yogi Ferrell (7.3 ppg, 4.3 assists) can be.
“They are really good in transition,” said Purdue Senior DJ Byrd. “Even on makes they get the ball out and run, and try to get threes, easy buckets, and that sort of thing. That is going to be our biggest part, is getting back on defense and slowing them down a little bit.”
Purdue has won four of their last five games, with the only loss coming against now #1 Michigan by the final of 68-53 last Thursday, and the Boilermakers are expecting a game that could end up very similar in style.
“I think what put us behind in the Michigan game is that they got out in transition and like that,” said Junior Terone Johnson. “It is going to be the same with IU. They have athletic guys that get out on the wing, like we were just talking about with Oladipo. When he gets a dunk it really gets him going, so it is going to be forty-minutes of sprinting.”
The contest between the Boilermakers and Hoosiers tips off at 8:30 pm on Wednesday night, and will be broadcasted on the Big Ten Network.