BLOOMINGTON – On a seven-day break between games, Indiana’s goal is to get healthier before its showdown Saturday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall against rival Purdue (2 p.m., ESPN2).
The Hoosiers (15-7, 5-6 Big Ten) have lost three straight and looked lethargic in back-to-back road losses at No. 22 Penn State and Ohio State last week. Indiana has played without sophomore forward Race Thompson during the three-day stretch, and head coach Archie Miller revealed on his weekly radio show Monday starting center Joey Brunk played through an illness last week. The 6-foot-11 Brunk, who has provided consistent energy and effort in the post for IU, averaged just 5 points and 4 rebounds in the two losses.
“Joe has been sick all week, sick as a dog leading into Penn State and sick going into Ohio State,” Miller said. “I thought Joe, just in talking to him yesterday, I think he’s getting over it a little bit, but everyone is going through something right now, but he was probably, for a while, our hardest playing, most consistent guy. We’ve got to get him back to that.”
Thompson hasn’t played since taking a hard fall on his hip during IU’s 67-63 upset of then No. 11 Michigan State on Jan. 23. Miller didn’t offer a timetable for his return. The 6-8, 235-pound Thompson has provided physicality for the Hoosiers inside off the bench, averaging 3.1 points and 3.5 rebounds.
“He’s now trying to work himself back,” Miller said. “He is getting better, which is a good thing, but he’s not clearly what he was a week-and-a-half ago, so as he continues to work through the injury and get back, we’re hopeful he’s going to make a quicker return than later. But, Race, I just think people don’t understand the value of your rotation and the value of what you know you are getting when you put a player in there. Per-minute play, Race is as good of a rebounder as we’ve had all season.”
Indiana is in need of a win Saturday over its in-state rival to erase concerns of a late-season meltdown after the Hoosiers lost 12 of 13 during a stretch last season. Miller said IU will use the break to get fresh physically and work on being more efficient offensively.
“We have a game that means a ton on Saturday for a lot of different reasons,” Miller said.
PATBERG ON WOODEN LIST
IU redshirt junior women’s basketball point guard Ali Patberg was named to the Wooden Award Late Season Top 20 Watch List on Wednesday.
Patberg, a Notre Dame transfer from Columbus, is averaging 13.7 points and 4.8 assists for the No. 18 Hoosiers while shooting 49.5 percent from the floor.
Indiana (18-5, 8-3 Big Ten) won at rival Purdue 66-54 on Monday night to sweep the season series against the Boilermakers. The Hoosiers take a four-game win streak into their matchup Thursday night against No. 13 Maryland at Assembly Hall (8 p.m.).