BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP)—Kelvin Sampson couldn’t understand why he was still being asked if his problems over possible NCAA violations were a distraction for his team.
Eric Gordon scored 22 points to lead No. 15 Indiana to a 77-68 victory over No. 14 Purdue on Tuesday night in the Hoosiers’ last game before the completion of the school’s investigation into accusations Sampson committed major rules violations.
“I think the way our team is playing answers all the questions,” he said. “I think our play speaks for itself.”
D.J. White, who had 19 points and 15 rebounds despite playing on a sprained left knee, said the Hoosiers (22-4, 11-2 Big Ten) aren’t thinking about what Sampson’s future holds.
“When we’re on the court, that’s all we’re focused on,” he said. “Right now, we’re just trying to win games.”
The latest win snapped Purdue’s 11-game winning streak and brought Indiana within one-half game of the Boilermakers (21-6, 12-2) at the top of the conference standings.
Indiana’s fans seemed to move toward Sampson’s side after a giving him a lukewarm response during pregame introductions. Chants of “Kel-vin Samp-son” rang out in the game’s final minutes.
Sampson said he expects to be on the sideline Saturday at Northwestern. If Tuesday’s game was his last at Indiana, he has White to thank for it ending well.
“You learn not to take a kid like him for granted,” Sampson said. “He’s a horse.”
White said it would have taken a more serious injury to keep him out of the game.
“At the beginning, I was kind of timid,” he said. “It’s always in your head when you have an injury like that. I got more comfortable as the game went on.”
Armon Bassett added 16 points and eight rebounds for the Hoosiers.
Robbie Hummel had 17 points for the Boilermakers, while Scott Martin added 12.
University president Michael McRobbie said last Friday that the school would conduct a new investigation into the NCAA’s accusations that Sampson committed five major rules violations.
A school investigation last year revealed Sampson and his assistants made more than 100 impermissible calls. That occurred while Sampson was on NCAA probation for making 577 improper phone calls between 2000 and 2004 while coaching Oklahoma.
Athletic director Rick Greenspan, university counsel Dorothy Frapwell and faculty representative Bruce Jaffee were asked to run the investigation and recommend by this Friday what steps the university should take.
The Hoosiers went 30-of-34 from the free throw line while Purdue was just 11-of-21.
Purdue coach Matt Painter said his team was aggressive in creating turnovers, but couldn’t turn it down enough to avoid committing fouls.
“We made careless mistakes, putting our hands on guys,” he said. “We had so many situations where if we get a stop, we could take the lead, and then we’d foul.”
The Hoosiers shot 47 percent to make up for committing 23 turnovers.
Sampson said his team played a great game aside from the turnovers.
“Sometimes you have to bring them into the huddle and remind them what color jersey they’re wearing,” he said.
Painter said there was no answer for Gordon and White.
“Those guys have got to be the best 1-2 punch in the country, the best inside-outside combination,” he said.
The Boilermakers shot 31 percent (11-of-36) in the first half but stayed in the game by forcing 12 turnovers.
White had 10 points and six rebounds in the first half, which featured five lead changes and ended with Indiana leading 32-29.
The Hoosiers opened the second half on a 13-6 run capped by a long 3-pointer by Gordon that gave Indiana a 45-35 lead with 12:28 left.
Indiana led by 12 points before Purdue went on a 7-0 run, including a 3-pointer and a layup by Hummel, that made it 53-48 and forced the Hoosiers to call a timeout. Martin’s 3-pointer with just under 7 minutes to go cut Indiana’s lead to 57-55 but the Hoosiers went 17-of-20 from the free throw line the rest of the way.
Painter expects his team to bounce back.
“We’re still in first place,” Painter said. “The ball didn’t go down. We’ve got eight days off. We’re going to get rested and get ready for Minnesota.”
The Hoosiers beat then-No. 10 Michigan State on Saturday and they hope to carry the momentum from consecutive wins over ranked teams to a conference title.
“There was a lot riding on this game,” White said. “We have a chance to do something special here.”