WEST LAFAYETTE – Since they began their in-state battle on March 2, 1901, time has had a way of neutralizing momentum.
A young team struggles against inexperience. Sometimes its Indiana who has the upper hand. Other times its Purdue.
Two years ago the latter was true, when the experienced Boilers were able to overtake the up-and-coming Hoosiers for a fifth consecutive victory, beating them by 11 in Bloomington on March 23, 2011.
Twenty-three months later, the roles have been reversed again. This time third-ranked Indiana came in with the experience and moxie of a championship contender while a young Purdue team was in search of its first signature win. For at least another game, the current trend is continuing.
Indiana used its size, quickness and experience advantage to its fullest in a third consecutive double-digit win over the Hoosiers, beating the Boilermakers 97-60 Wednesday night at Mackey Arena. The 37-point margin of victory was the most by the Hoosiers over the Boilermakers in a game played in West Lafayette ever, breaking the previous record of 36 set in 1954.
“They never took their foot off the gas pedal,” said Indiana head coach Tom Crean of the win. “That’s really, really important for us as a team to take the next step.”
The victory sets the Hoosiers (19-2, 7-1 in the Big Ten) up for a significant contest at home on Saturday night as they face No. 1 Michigan, who beat Northwestern on Wednesday night. The Hoosiers used balance offensively to pace the high scoring blowout as five players reached double figures with Cody Zeller leading the way with 19 points.
“That is kinda neat,” said Zeller when informed the 37-point win was the biggest against Purdue on the road in series history. “IU has had so many great teams over the years and to be the biggest win, it is kinda neat.”
Winning the game itself was a clean effort as Indiana ran past a Purdue team that wasn’t able to keep pace. As he did against Michigan State, Victor Oladipo helped to set the Hoosiers off and running with a three-pointer and a pair of steals that helped to push Indiana’s lead to ten.
From there the Hoosiers were able to fluster the Boilermakers with their pressure, forcing nine steals which led to a number of lay-ups at the other end. In the final 4:18 of the first half Indiana outscored Purdue 13-2 to push out to a 20-point advantage at the break.
“We just felt like everyone came to play,” said Oladipo-who finished with 17 points. “It was an energy and a swagger about us that felt like everybody was ready to play.”
Hammons tried to give Purdue a bit of a spark in the second half when he ran off eight points in the first six minutes, much to the delight of a Boilermaker crowd mostly deflated after Indiana’s first half tear. But with Zeller and Oladipo continuing their own offensive push, Purdue could never get the lead closer than 18 points.
The freshman center-who played his first two years of high school in Carmel-finished with a game-high 30 points but his efforts weren’t nearly enough.
Indiana turned up the offensive heat after that as they pushed the lead over 30 and then kept it there for the final parts of the game, doing so by shooting 57 percent from the field in the final 20 minutes. Maurice Creek’s three-pointer with under a minute to go gave the Hoosiers the margin of victory record in West Lafayette and secured momentum in the series for another night.
“Never letting up-offensively and defensively,” said guard Yogi Ferrell of the key to the big victory, which he contributed 11 points. “They kept pounding us inside and we kept trying to take that away and I felt like we did a good job, Cody did. We just kept attacking them offensively.”
Enough to make Wednesday night record-breaking.