Doyel: Two programs going in different directions, Purdue has what IU fans envy — a winner

Gregg Doyel
Indianapolis Star

IU basketball coach Archie Miller has a team that can’t shoot straight or think straight, a bad combination on most days and a killer combo against an opponent that does both well. An opponent like Purdue, in other words, which beat the Hoosiers 67-58 on Saturday for its ninth consecutive win in the series, 7-0 against Miller.

The most telling moment came late in the second half, with the Hoosiers trying to rally from a 12-point deficit. They’ve cut the Purdue lead to 53-45 with 4½ minutes left, and on the bench, Archie is sensing his team’s moment. He pulls down his mask as he tends to do, points at his head with both hands and shouts to his players:

“Hey – hey!” he’s yelling, touching his temples. “Be smart!”

More:Insider: IU slump vs. Purdue reflective of broader program decay

Doyel: Zach Edey, Jaden Ivey turning Purdue into a March terror

Purdue guard Brandon Newman (5) pumps up the team before the start the first half of an NCAA men's basketball game between the Purdue Boilermakers and the Indiana Hoosiers, Saturday, March 6, 2021 at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette.

On the court, IU freshman Trey Galloway is driving the baseline, picking up his dribble and jumping, and realizing he has nowhere to throw the ball. He’s been doing that all year, attacking the rim with absolutely no plan once he gets there, an indictment of himself and the coaching staff, and he throws it to Purdue guard Eric Hunter. Now the ball is going the other way and Hunter is attacking the rim, where 7-4 Purdue teammate Zach Edey is dunking home the offensive rebound and bellowing out in that deep voice of his:

Bahhhhhhhh!

A snapshot, right there, of two programs going in different directions.

One plays smart, shoots well and improves as the season goes along.

The other is IU.

Shots fired at IU

Purdue junior Sasha Stefanovic has no idea how badly he’s about to make IU look. Or maybe he does. Maybe, as a kid from Crown Point who wasn’t offered a scholarship to IU, that was his point. Only Stefanovic knows, but he’s sitting down now for a postgame Zoom meeting with local reporters, and with two short comments he’s about to lay bare the difference between IU and Purdue.

First, he’s asked about Edey. Before I get to Stefanovic’s answer, you need to understand how far Edey has come, and not just as a hockey defenseman/baseball closer three years ago who’d never played basketball. I mean, in the past eight weeks. Last time IU played Purdue, the Boilermakers won 81-69 at Assembly Hall despite getting zero points and zero rebounds from Edey. On Saturday, Edey continued his late-season surge — he’s averaging 13 points in 17 minutes over the past seven games — with 20 points and nine rebounds.

First meeting:Doyel: A turning point for Purdue, and a breaking point for IU

Edey dunked four times, maybe five, though it’s hard to say what happened on one bucket. Not even Stefanovic knows, and he’s the one who threw the pass. It was a lob to Edey, a pass heading over the backboard and into the Mackey Arena rafters until Edey reached up and redirected it into the basket.

“No idea what he did,” Stefanovic was saying later. “Ridiculous.”

Now, after Purdue stuck the knife into IU for the ninth consecutive game — and 12th win in 13 meetings — Stefanovic is about to twist it. He’s asked about the way Purdue kept lobbing it to Edey for easy buckets, and he says:

“I hope people keep not scouting it for us,” he said, and that sounds like a shot at Saturday’s opponent, but I could be wrong.

This next one? This next one really sounds like a shot. Because Stefanovic is asked about getting his hands on so many IU passes on Saturday. How did he keep doing that?

“I feel like I know all their plays,” Stefanovic says. “I feel like I know what they’re going to do. I kind of know all the calls that they give out. I was just anticipating where the pass was going. That’s all it was.”

Oh, is that all?

IU fans will be so pleased.

Wanted: IU donor to write check for Brad Stevens

What did I write after Purdue beat Wisconsin on Tuesday? Something about the rapid, damn-near shocking improvement of freshmen Zach Edey and Jaden Ivey in recent weeks, and how it’s turning the Boilermakers into a team nobody will want to face in the NCAA tournament? Maybe we should just re-print that story. Because it happened again, this time to IU.

Edey had his 20-and-9, as I’ve said. Shot 8-for-10 from the floor. Did that in 21 minutes, again filling the gap left by junior Trevion Williams, whose four-game slump continued (six points, seven rebounds). Ivey was almost as good, with 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting, some on jumpers but most on explosions to the rim.

Nobody else scored in double figures for Purdue. Nobody had to. Matt Painter's Boilermakers led for 35 minutes, falling behind 7-0 but then going on a 23-6 run and playing with their food the rest of the way.

Another quality game from Aaron Wheeler bears mentioning, though. He had eight points and seven rebounds, and if the crazily skilled but long-slumping junior keeps playing like this in the conference and NCAA tournaments, the 2020-21 Boilermakers might have a whole lot more games left to play.

Meanwhile, IU.

What can you say? It’s not working, clearly, Archie Miller’s tenure. Exhibit F: His freshman class, ranked No. 2 in the Big Ten, has regressed to the point where those four players combined for one field goal and five turnovers in 38 minutes Saturday.

Player stagnation is among the reasons Miller has had the same basic team for four years in a row: Missing too many shots, making too many mistakes, and losing too often in league play. In his four seasons in Bloomington, the Hoosiers have gone 9-9, 8-12, 9-11 and 7-12 in the Big Ten.

Every game, it’s the same thing. The Hoosiers shot 38.5% from the floor and 21.7% on 3-pointers (5-for-23) Saturday, including 1-for-13 from distance in the first half, when this game was decided. And nobody misses shots like this IU team misses shots, leading me to create a new header on my legal pad when I take notes during an IU game: Horrible misses.

Indiana head coach Archie Miller reacts during the second half of an NCAA men's basketball game, Saturday, March 6, 2021 at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette.

I’m serious. Here’s what went into that column Saturday:

Khristian Lander, 3-pointer off the glass from the front. Al Durham, air-balls 3. Jerome Hunter, 3-pointer off the glass from elbow. Anthony Leal, overshoots rim on 3 from elbow. Rob Phinisee, air-balls 3 short. Durham drives at Zach Edey, reverse, no rim, no chance.

Without Armaan Franklin (foot), IU has one above-average player, likely All-American Trayce Jackson-Davis, who barely reached half his season averages with 12 points and five rebounds Saturday. It’s not all his fault, though. Jackson-Davis went 13 minutes without a shot in the first half, when IU was seeing its 7-0 lead become a 28-16 deficit.

This team can’t shoot and doesn’t play smart, and has the 12-14 record (7-12 Big Ten) to show for it.

“We’re just struggling shooting the ball,” Miller said, and when I asked about his team’s basketball IQ a little later, he spoke more truth: “Offensively we need to get smarter.”

That’s one team from Saturday’s game, the one whose fanbase is waiting for a rich donor to buy out Miller and throw a blank check at Brad Stevens or John Beilein.

The other team Saturday, the one that shoots well and plays smart and gets better as the season rolls along? That’s just Purdue doing what Purdue does. You know, what IU used to do.

Find IndyStar columnist Gregg Doyel on Twitter at @GreggDoyelStar or at www.facebook.com/gregg.doyel.