Indiana takes down No. 1 Purdue behind crazed Assembly Hall atmosphere

BLOOMINGTON — It was fitting fans stormed the court to celebrate victory Saturday night when the Indiana men’s basketball team upset nationally No. 1-ranked rival Purdue.

Anything less than the 79-74 triumph would have been anticlimactic since the intensity of the vociferous inhabitants of Assembly Hall needed an appropriate outlet.

The depression would have been significant if the Hoosiers lost to their Big Ten foe after leading 50-35 at halftime and after the 17,000-plus had spent two steady hours yelling, screaming, chanting, clapping, roaring, buzzing (and name any other synonym) to urge onward the crimson and cream.

Sound was magnified to hold-hands-over-your-ears level. Dick Vitale was even in the house broadcasting and received an ovation for winning his battle with cancer and for all he has done for college basketball.

These are the games people love at IU, ones that highlight the tradition, the ones where everyone from infants to octogenarians wear clothing expressing allegiance.

For all of Indiana’s long-term glory on the basketball court, it will surprise many that the all-time record against the West Lafayette-based outfit a couple of hours north is 91-125.

Indeed, the Boilermakers came to Bloomington with the swagger. Purdue had spent much of the 2022-23 season voted as the best team in the country.

Indiana was coming off of a horrendous shooting performance in a 66-55 loss at Maryland, though the Hoosiers had a five-game winning streak prior. That stretch did elevate the team back into the ratings at No. 21.

What was impressive about the crowd’s performance was its steadiness, keeping up the noise level, even the boos thrown at Purdue and its star, Zach Edey. Edey has done nothing to raise IU fans’ ire other than being big (as in 7-foot-4 and 305 pounds) and good.

Even IU star Trayce Jackson-Davis, who went one-on-one with Edey part of the day, acknowledged the crowd reached the height of difference maker.

“They were our sixth man, honestly,” the senior forward said. “We fed off that, especially in the first half. I feel like just shot after shot after shot was dropping, and that was the most electric crowd I’ve been part of since I’ve been here.”

If the Maryland loss demonstrated how Indiana, bugged regularly by injuries, can hit some lulls, the first half against Purdue showed at their best, the Hoosiers can play with anyone in the country.

Even if he was the enemy du jour, “Big Edey,” as IU coach Mike Woodson called him, showed why he is worthy of admiration, not boos, from any basketball fan. He plays a throwback-style game, occupying space in the low post and pumping in short hooks over the heads of would-be defenders, just as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did in bygone days.

Edey hit 15 of 19 shots, but his mates provided little help in the first half, and still, in the late going after Purdue rallied, he almost single-handedly rescued them with his 33 points and 18 rebounds.

IU needed every bit of its first-half cushion when the Boilermakers pulled to within 71-70 with 2 minutes remaining. While Jackson-Davis was again the key for IU with his 25 points and seven rebounds, his supporting cast was prominent in this one after faltering versus Maryland.

This was notably true of freshman guard Jalen Hood-Schifino, who scored 16 points, including IU’s clinching hoops in the last minute after shooting an abysmal 1-for-14 against the Terrapins.

With the poise of a senior, Hood-Schifino asked Woodson to call the critical plays for him, saying, “I’m going to get this last bucket” and then he executed.

Purdue was just 10-for-17 on foul shots and committed 16 turnovers to IU’s eight. Boilermakers coach Matt Painter blamed the loss on those statistics.

“We had three costly turnovers at the end where we needed to get a crack at it,” Painter said.

Now 22-2, in an unusual scenario, Purdue absorbed the loss and remained No. 1 in the new national poll. IU, 16-7, climbed to 18th.

Neither Woodson nor players seemed as joyous as the fan base over the victory. Woodson gave the Hoosiers about an hour to celebrate until focusing on a dangerous Rutgers (16-7) team — ranked 24th — Tuesday night back at Assembly Hall.

Woodson also essentially viewed the fan behavior as business as usual.

“Oh, we’ve got the best fans in college basketball, no doubt in my mind,” Woodson said. “I’ve seen it for 40-some years of my life since I came in here in 1976. The fan base here has not wavered one bit, and they were fantastic tonight.”

That’s it. The No. 1 fans beat the No. 1 team, right?

Lew Freedman writes sports columns for The Tribune. Send comments to [email protected]