Purdue has gotten back on track after a surprising three-game losing streak, winning four straight to climb back into the top 10 heading into a matchup with its struggling in-state rival.
Trips to Bloomington, however, have rarely been a pleasant experience for the Boilermakers.
The No. 8 Boilermakers have not beaten Indiana at Assembly Hall in nearly 11 years, but Thursday’s visit could be a great chance for them to snap an eight-game road losing streak in the series.
Purdue (18-3, 6-3 Big Ten) was ranked fourth before losing at then-No. 17 Wisconsin on Jan. 9, and subsequent defeats to Ohio State and Northwestern dropped it to 13th.
The Boilermakers have bounced back with four consecutive victories, and the team’s top three scorers have done even more than usual in helping them win the past three in West Lafayette.
E’Twaun Moore, Robbie Hummel and JaJuan Johnson have scored 63.7 percent of Purdue’s points this season, but contributed 75.4 percent in wins over Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State.
The trio had 48 points against the Nittany Lions on Sunday, with Hummel leading the way with 23.
“We were 2-3 (in the conference) at one time, so we’re pretty excited to be 6-3 at this point,” coach Matt Painter said. “Starting Big Ten play, you never know where your next win’s going to come from.”
Purdue has not won in Bloomington since 1999, a stretch of eight straight losses by an average of 13.7 points. The Boilermakers were a Top 25 team on only two of those occasions, however, and did not visit in 2008-09 when Indiana was 6-25 in Tom Crean’s first season.
Hummel had 17 points and four steals in his only game at Assembly Hall, a 77-68 loss Feb. 19, 2008, when he, Johnson and Moore were freshmen.
Moore, who shot 3 of 15 in that game, was 10 of 14 and had 26 points in Purdue’s 81-67 home win over the Hoosiers on Feb. 21, 2009.
Indiana (9-11, 3-5) has surpassed its conference win total by two from last season, but it missed out on a pair of other victories against Illinois. The Hoosiers blew a 13-point halftime lead in a 66-60 home loss to the Illini on Jan. 9, then overcame a 13-point first-half deficit before falling 72-70 in Champaign on a buzzer-beater Saturday.
“Our confidence was high. This team has to have an edge and it has to play with confidence and energy,” Crean said. “When we don’t play with as much energy and without an edge, we’re not as good. But we had that today.”
Indiana has shot a combined 35.2 percent in back-to-back losses to Iowa and Illinois, an average it will almost certainly need to boost to have a chance against Purdue, which is holding conference opponents to 40.6 percent.
The Hoosiers are 0-9 when they fail to shoot at least 42.0 percent.
Neither of Indiana’s top scorers shot well Saturday. Leading scorer Verdell Jones III had 22 points but was 5 of 20 from the field, while Christian Watford was 1 of 10 and had six points - his lowest total since Nov. 19.
The Hoosiers are 7-2 when Watford scores at least 14.
While Purdue is vulnerable to 3-point shooting, allowing opponents to shoot 36.1 percent, Indiana has shot just 31.8 percent from beyond the arc since Maurice Creek (44.8) was injured.