When Indiana and Purdue face off against one another on Tuesday night, it will be a match-up of two teams going in opposite directions.
While Indiana’s once promising season has continued to fall apart at the seams, Purdue has put themselves in position to contend for a Big Ten championship despite a rocky start to their season. With the Hoosiers coming off an embarrassing effort on Saturday against Minnesota, Archie Miller has promised drastic changes to how Indiana operates, but what form those changes will take remains to be seen.
However, despite their disappointing performance on Saturday, Indiana should not have any trouble finding motivation against the Boilermakers. The Boilermakers thoroughly embarrassed the Hoosiers in the first match-up of the season, and though Indiana may find themselves on the outside looking in on the tournament, they still have their pride on the line.
For Indiana to pull off the upset, the first thing they will need to do is shore up their defense. Minnesota was able to pick apart the Indiana defense at will on Saturday, and Purdue boasts the top offense in the Big Ten in terms of points per possession. The Boilermakers are also one of the top perimeter-shooting teams in the conference, an area that Indiana has struggled to defend all season long.
Another crucial component the Hoosiers will need to focus on will be protecting the offensive glass; Purdue comes into this contest as the 2nd best team in the conference at offensive rebounding percentage. Meanwhile, Indiana finds themselves at just 10th in the Big Ten in defensive rebounding percentage.
Regardless of the statistics, the single most important aspect that Indiana needs to change is the lack of heart and fight in their recent play. When Indiana gets punched in the mouth, they have routinely folded and don’t show the passion or the will to win that their opponents display. Miller has been vocal at times this season about his team’s lack of toughness; Tuesday is a perfect opportunity for Indiana to show some fight as their pride and passion are being openly questioned by the media and fans. The question will be if the Hoosiers can rise to the challenge.