Then came the Wednesday night massacre.
The Hoosiers' 97-60 victory was their biggest ever at Purdue, surpassing the 86-50 blowout in 1954. They did everything they wanted, and more, against a young Boiler squad not nearly ready for the moment.
So bring on No. 1 Michigan for Saturday night's Big Ten first-place showdown. Let's see if the Wolverines (20-1) can handle the Cream 'and Crimson juggernaut in Assembly Hall.
Wisconsin did a few weeks ago, but that was because it forced a half-court, control-the-tempo style Michigan isn't built for. If IU has an Achilles' heel, and that's not etched in stone, it might be a slower pace.
The Wolverines won't slow it down, and it's hard to imagine any team outrunning the Hoosiers anywhere, let along in Assembly Hall.
“I expect a great atmosphere,” guard Yogi Ferrell said. “Like Michigan State, but even better. I can't wait.”
He has plenty of Hoosier company given both teams share the conference lead with 7-1 records. Both teams have spent the entire season in the top 10, most of it in the top 5.
“Every game is big in the Big Ten, especially with the lead riding on this game,” forward Cody Zeller said. “We'll be ready for Saturday.”
And consider this — another decisive victory, this time over the nation's top-ranked team, might propel IU past No. 2 Kansas and back to No. 1.
But that's getting ahead of ourselves.
IU thrived Wednesday night with the kind of ruthless 40-minute execution that it has lacked in Big Ten play. There was no letup. It won the first half by 20 points, the second half by 17.
“Our guys never took foot off the gas pedal, which is really important for us to take the next step,” coach Tom Crean said.
He talked of the great Purdue teams of the past that included Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore, and the other powerhouse Big Ten squads of recent vintage that once hammered the Hoosiers into submission by their relentless pursuit of excellence.
“When you see enough of that,” Crean said, “you either become that or you keep getting it done to you. We've learned to become that type of team. Our growth process continues.”
Growth on Wednesday night meant 18 offensive rebounds and 24 second-chance points. It meant 21 assists and eight turnovers against what had been a solid Purdue defense. It meant 19-for-20 free-throw shooting and 49.3 percent shooting overall.
Zeller busted out of a two-game scoring slump to total 19 points and 11 rebounds. Christian Watford had 17 points on 5-for-7 shooting, including 4-for-5 from three-point range. Will Sheehey had a career-high seven assists, a total which nearly matched his number from the previous seven games combined (eight).
“We played with a resolve,” Crean said.
The Hoosiers did so at one of the nation's most intimidating arenas. Purdue's student section, the Paint Crew, was loud and passionate and not shy about targeting Hoosier players.
“We embrace that,” Ferrell said. “We don't listen to them, but we do listen to them at the same time. We laugh to see how wild opposing fans can be. It's just fun and games. We stay together and play.”
Victor Oladipo was the major pre-game fan target. His response — 17 points, six rebounds, three steals, two assists and one block.
“You've got to love it,” he said. “We're road dogs. I always ask in the locker room, 'Where are my dogs at?'
“It's tough playing on the road. You've got to have that dog mentality. We did a great job with that. It's always fun coming here. I'm not from Indiana,, but when I come here I still feel (the rivalry). You've got no choice but dislike Purdue. It's a great atmosphere. They support their team and make us feel like we're hated.
“Great” wasn't part of Purdue's experience, although it did get a career-high 30 points from A.J. Hammons.
So how do you explain the blowout?
For the Boilers (11-10, 4-4), it was simple — submission.
“We got down on ourselves,” Hammons said, “which we really shouldn't do.”
Added fellow forward Travis Carroll: “We knew how they'd be. They're top 5 in the country. We were expecting it, but we didn't play up to it.
“They have a lot of weapons. Zeller is a dominate big man inside. (Jordan) Hulls can shoot. Watford can shoot. There isn't just one guy you can focus on.”
The Boilers couldn't handle it.
Can Michigan? .
We can't wait to see.
Up nextTipoff: Michigan at Indiana, 9 p.m. Saturday
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