BLOOMINGTON – Size doesn’t matter. You know that, of course, and if you missed the message, check out P.J. Thompson.
The Purdue junior guard, generously listed at 5-10, played as big as his heart amid rivalry drama.
At a crucial moment in Thursday night’s crucial game, with Indiana and the Boilers playing as if their postseasons depended on it (and for the Hoosiers, it might have), Thompson grabbed a rebound there was no way he should have gotten, then scored an inside basket few would have expected.
In a game that came down to a few crucial crunch-time plays, Thompson came up big, and so did the No. 16 Boilers in a 69-64 gut-check victory.
“I think that was my first offensive rebound of the season,” Thompson said. “Biggie (Caleb Swanigan) usually grabs them all.
“I was in the right place at the right time. I got the ball and able to get it over JB (James Blackmon) for the layup.”
IU coach Tom Crean lamented the lack of a block out that allowed Thompson to make the play. It was part of the thin margin of error that continues to grow thinner with each mounting injury.
Welcome to a cliffhanger game full of unexpected twists.
The mystery double foul
Purdue led 64-59 with 44 seconds left when IU center Thomas Bryant attacked the basket. Purdue forward Caleb Swanigan moved to cut him off. They collided. Official Lamont Simpson called it a block on Swanigan. Official Paul Szelc called it a charge on Bryant. When both stood by their calls, they settled on the King Solomon approach, not by splitting a baby, but by calling fouls on both players.
Specifically, Simpson said, Big Ten rules stipulate that in that situation, a double foul be enforced with no free throws.
It was the fifth foul on both players.
“It wasn’t a good call for either player,” said Swanigan, who finished with his 21st double-double with 16 points and 14 rebounds. said. “It takes us off the court. It hurts college basketball to make calls like that.”
Bryant, who had 23 points, was more diplomatic.
“I don’t remember any of it. I was just getting to the rim. It just didn’t go my way.”
The big picture
Purdue (20-5 overall, 9-3 in the Big Ten) wrapped up a stretch of four road games in five contests with a 4-1 record. It won at Michigan State, at No. 17 Maryland and at Indiana. It lost at Nebraska, and also beat No. 25 Northwestern at home
“We really wanted to get all five,” Thompson said. “Nebraska got us. It was a chance to do something special at Maryland and at Indiana. We stuck together. Everyone made timely plays through the whole stretch.”
Or, as Purdue coach Matt Painter said, “We’ve shown mental toughness. Anytime you can win on the road in this league, especially in an environment like this, it’s going to help you.”
As for Indiana, it is 15-10, 5-7 in the Big Ten, with losses in four of its last five games.
"It was a great battle," Crean said. "We accomplished a lot of the things we wanted to accomplish, but our margin for error is not very big."
Indiana lost freshman forward De’Ron Davis in the second half to a blow to the face. “He wasn’t able to return,” Crean said. “Hopefully he’ll be OK.”
Last Friday freshman guard Devonte Green hurt his back while moving a 35-pound bar during a weight-lifting session. The resulting back spasms have limited him the last two games.
Blackmon just came back from a knee injury that cost him three games. Forward Juwan Morgan is battling a foot injury that limits his effectiveness. He fouled out on Thursday night after 23 minutes, seven points and six rebounds. Forwards OG Anunoby and Collin Hartman are out with knee injuries.
“You can’t make this stuff up,” Crean said. It just is what it is.”
Rocking the rivalry
Purdue has won two of the last three games at Assembly Hall. This one, said Thompson, an Indianapolis native, was especially sweet.
“Growing up in Indiana, I’m a big college basketball fan. I liked Indiana. I liked Purdue. I just happened to go to Purdue. It means a lot to beat team like IU here. It’s always a big thing.”
Vince Edwards resurrection
Five days previously at Maryland, the Purdue junior forward had the first scoreless game of his career, going 0-for-7 from the field. Against Indiana, he tied his career high with 26 points.
“I was running the floor, playing hard, playing my game, not worrying about scoring and doing anything to help the team win.”
It was the result of extra shooting sessions with Swanigan.
“It was just getting shots up,” he said. “Biggie (Swanigan) helped me out. It was getting in the gym, trusting my shots, and having confidence. Sometimes shots aren’t going to fall. Guys kept telling me they needed me. I just put up shots.”
Final thought on Davis
When Davis took a shot and crumpled to the floor under the Hoosier basket, nothing was called, Purdue got the ball and pushed for a Vince Edwards three-pointer.
The crowd booed. Crean protested. The crowd offered a chant that recalled Bob Knight’s colorful vocabulary, which caused public address announcer Chuck Crabb to say, in so many words, to cut it out.
“For there not to be anything (called),” Crean said. “When you end up on the floor, something happened. I could have lived with a foul on De’Ron.
“(Purdue) played hard. They earned the victory. They’re really good. (Painter) has done a good job of building that, putting shooters around those big kids.”