BLOOMINGTON — Two teams headed in vastly different directions will meet Tuesday night, when Purdue visits Indiana.
The 15th-ranked Boilermakers (18-7, 11-3) are rolling — winning nine of their last 10 games and rising to third, a half-game behind co-leaders Michigan and Michigan State, in the Big Ten standings.
Meanwhile the Hoosiers (13-12, 4-10) are reeling — losing 10 of their last 11 and falling to 12th in the Big Ten.
Tipoff for this team-going-up vs. team-going-down showdown is scheduled for 7 p.m. (ESPN2) at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
Purdue, which was 6-5 in mid-December, has won 12 of its last 14 games and may not have reached its zenith yet.
“I think we can get better,” Boilermakers coach Matt Painter said following Saturday’s 76-64 win over Penn State. “I think we can play better than we’ve played in the last 10 games. So that’s what you want to strive to do, is keep getting better and keep working on things, so that’s what you want to have in mind.”
In the mean time, IU’s 84-63 loss at Minnesota on Saturday definitely had the feeling of the Hoosiers’ nadir. Indiana, which was 12-2 in early January, trailed by 12 at halftime before falling behind by 30 in a second half that had “an intrasquad-scrimmage vibe” according to the Associated Press story on the game.
Afterward IU coach Archie Miller dubbed the defeat a “deal-breaker.” Mixed-metaphors aside, he had a troubled tone in his post-game press conference.
“We have to make some real, in my opinion, drastic changes to the way we’re doing things right now,” Miller said. “We’ve got to get some guys’ attention and we’ve got to get some guys to play better. If you do that you give yourself a chance to be in more games.
“We have to recreate ourselves here a little bit. As you try to recreate yourself at times you’re living and dying with the same mistakes. Eventually you have to stop living with those same mistakes and find out if somebody else can help you at times. We’re searching.”
Not only are the Hoosiers looking for ways to curtail their current collapse, they’re also trying to end a four-game losing streak to the Boilers.
Purdue won this season’s first matchup 70-55 Jan. 19 in West Lafayette. In that game Boilermakers’ All-American guard Carsen Edwards tallied 20 points while sophomore Nojel Eastern had 10 points, 10 rebounds and played dogged defense on IU star freshman Romeo Langford, who finished with four points.
Langford had 10 points in 31 minutes at Minnesota and attempted a season-low six shots.
“For us, they didn’t play with the urgency, the toughness, the fight that you need on the road this time of year,” Miller said. “We continue to struggle offensively, being able to play the game together, making it easy for one another.”
The Hoosiers’ upcoming schedule is anything but easy. Tonight’s matchup is the first of four straight games against ranked opponents. IU visits 21st-ranked Iowa at 9 p.m. Friday night before hosting No. 22 Wisconsin next Tuesday and 10th-ranked Michigan State on March 2. It’s a stretch that doesn’t appear to be conducive to a turnaround as Miller and his staff try to end Indiana’s free fall.
“At the end of the day you can try to push as many buttons as you want to push,” Miller said. “You need your best players and everybody moving in the right direction, rolling in the right direction, working as hard as they possibly can.”