Coming off a huge victory over the top team in the Big Ten, Purdue hopes to avoid a letdown against the school at the bottom of the league standings.
The No. 19 Boilermakers look for a fourth straight victory Saturday when they host Indiana in the teams’ only regular-season meeting.
Though Indiana has dominated the rivalry of late by winning six of the last seven, the young Hoosiers (6-19, 1-12) will be hard-pressed to continue that success.
The Boilermakers (20-6, 9-4) won 72-54 over No. 6 Michigan State on Tuesday to move within one game of the league-leading Spartans.
Purdue has won five in a row at Mackey Arena since falling 71-67 in overtime to Illinois on Dec. 30. Now, it faces an Indiana team that’s lost four in a row and continues to struggle under first-year coach Tom Crean.
While the Boilermakers shot 48.1 percent, their defense was the difference against the Spartans. Purdue forced 22 turnovers and held Michigan State to 32.7 percent shooting.
“I think it was one of our better performances defensively of the year,” said Purdue coach Matt Painter, whose team is holding opponents to a Big Ten-low 37.1 percent shooting. “But maybe more important than anything was having a concentrated effort.”
Another strong defensive effort by the Boilermakers could mean problems for the Hoosiers, who rank 10th in the conference in shooting (42.4 percent) and haven’t scored more than 54 points in their last four contests.
On Tuesday for Purdue, JaJuan Johnson scored 17 points, E’Twaun Moore had 13 and Robbie Hummel added 11 in his first start since missing three games with a lower back injury. The 6-foot-10 Johnson is averaging 18.2 points in his last five contests.
Having Hummel back and healthy can only help keep Purdue in contention for its first Big Ten title since 1996.
“They’re a pretty good team without him, but they’re a special team with him,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said of the league’s preseason player of the year who is averaging 12.3 points. “He’s a special guy.”
Hummel, who had 17 points in Purdue’s 77-68 loss at Indiana in the teams’ only meeting last season, is feeling better, but he could have his minutes limited by Painter as a precaution.
“I have felt really good over the last few days,” Hummel said. “It’s been a drastic improvement. I’ve been wearing a brace, but I’m not hurting at all, and I can move a lot better again.”
Indiana is coming off a 68-51 home loss to Wisconsin on Thursday. Freshman Verdell Jones III had 16 points and star guard Devan Dumas added 12 in his return from a two-game suspension given on Feb. 8, one day after he threw flagrant elbows in a loss Michigan State.
Dumas is averaging a team-leading 13.7 points this season.
While Indiana has just one senior on its roster and is 0-8 on the road, Crean is excited about experiencing one of the Big Ten’s best rivalries for the first time.
“I am looking forward to this,” he said. “It is one of the greatest national landscape rivalries in all of college sports.”
Purdue, which won 81-68 on Feb. 15, 2007 in the teams’ last meeting at Mackey, leads 107-84 in the all-time series with Indiana.