|Thursday, January 23
Updated: January 25, 4:45 PM ET
Indiana looking to shoot down Boilermakers ... again
By Jay Bilas
Special to ESPN.com
This is the second meeting this season between Indiana and Purdue, but the first in conference play. The Big Ten's unbalanced schedule means only one game counts toward the conference title, but this rivalry's fans demands at least two meetings a year. Indiana beat Purdue 66-63 in Indianapolis on Dec. 14. Look for a similar game to develop at Purdue on Saturday.
The Hoosiers have outstanding perimeter shooters who spread the floor and can hit from deep. But in that first meeting, Indiana struggled from the field against a Purdue team that once again prides itself on defense. IU shot just 37.5 percent from the field against the Boildermakers (21.4 percent on 3s, 3-for-14). Indiana is the most prolific 3-point shooting team in the Big Ten, and much of the Hoosiers' offense stems from the ability to shoot the ball from the perimeter.
The Boilermakers made it difficult for Indiana to run its sets in last month's meeting. Gene Keady's team takes away what an opponent does well, choking off areas that opponents use to reverse the ball, or get the ball to an entry position to the post. It should come as no surprise that the Boilermakers lead the Big Ten in turnover margin, steals and have defended the 3-point shot very well.
Indiana Breakdown: When Bracey Wright is healthy, no team in the nation has better shooting guards than Indiana. Wright is long, athletic and can go off the dribble. Tom Coverdale is one of the toughest players in the nation and has unlimited range. Kyle Hornsby is a terrific shooter who spots up well, and can get hot in a hurry. All three guards can hit free throws as well.
Inside, Indiana is solid, with Jeffrey Newton, who can go inside or step away and hit from the perimeter. Newton shoots only 42 percent from the field, but has the ability to put up a big number if he is allowed to get going and get confidence early. George Leach is not a big scorer, but a good rebounder and shotblocker.
Indiana is a very good defensive team, and has two shotblockers in Newton and Leach who allow their teammates to get out and defend with confidence. Because of the interior shotblockers, whose length and athleticism blocks or changes so many shots, the guards can get out and challenge on the perimeter, and Indiana is near the top of the Big Ten in defending the 3-point shot.
While the Hoosiers have gotten good play out of Newton and Leach, they still need consistent performances from each nightly to be a true contender. Newton has all of the tools to be among the college game's best big men, and when he is efficient, he is just that. Leach has been limited by some of Indiana's tougher opponents, and if he is kept off of the offensive glass and pushed off of the low block, he can be shut down.
When the IU big men play well, it takes pressure off of the perimeter, and opens up clean looks for the Hoosiers.
Indiana is very good defensively, but has been allowing too many second shots. Because Indiana often plays three guards, the rebounding is often left to Newton and Leach. Rebounding has to be a five-man pursuit for the Hoosiers, and all five guys have to go to the defensive glass. If the Hoosiers rebound on the defensive end, they are very difficult to score on.
Purdue Breakdown: Purdue's defense has improved greatly from last year, when the Boilermakers were easy to score upon, and now have taken defense as a point of pride. As a result, Purdue's offense has been much more efficient, due to the tone set by the defense. The Boilermakers get right into an opponent's chest, rebound the ball, and then run down the court to force teams to guard them. The Boilermakers stay in front of their foes, deny one pass away, and protect the lane by denying the backdoor, wing and give good help from the weakside.
A real strength for Purdue is Willie Deane, a senior guard who can really score. Deane is tough to stop one-on-one, and when he plays within the context of the offense, can be a great player. He can get his own shot with great creativity and is very good off the dribble. Deane also gets others involved, and when he does, and when he takes good shots, there are few better guards in the Big Ten.
Purdue has several new faces from last season, and Deane can combine with Kenneth Lowe and post man Chris Booker to form a nice scoring trio. Rebounding, however, is the biggest issue the Boilermakers face in every game. Purdue has been out-rebounded on the season, and is allowing too many second opportunities to opponents, which are often high-percentage looks. If Purdue rebounds, its defense is even better.
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