Human Interest


For Indiana University men’s basketball fans, the 2022-2023 team has been a very frustrating enigma! You never know which team will show up. You never know which player will step up and play the game of his life. You’re puzzled by how they can clobber a team at home, but on the road, lose to the same team by 12! It’s hard to explain, and it’s maddening.

Indiana is 11-7 in BIG 10 conference games. The seven losses are to Rutgers (A), Iowa (A), Penn State (A), Michigan State (A), Maryland (A), and Northwestern twice (A, H). The one constant here is that 6 of the 7 losses were road games. The Hoosiers, as is the case with most BIG 10 teams, play much better at home than on the road. That was true until 7:30 PM EST yesterday when a miracle occurred!

Purdue University, IU’s arch rival, early this season looked very much like a final four team. They rarely missed 3-pointers, rebounded aggressively, played stifling defense, and had the best big man in college basketball, Zach Edey. Edey was unstoppable, freshman Fletcher Loyer’s shooting was unconscious, and Indiana Mr. Basketball, Brandon Smith, played well above his freshman level. Purdue’s long string of victories, including convincing wins over Gonzaga and Duke, won them the number one ranking in the AP poll for seven weeks. I even went so far as to tell Purdue friends I hoped Purdue would win it all. 

Well, something happened to Purdue along the way. First, they lost to Rutgers by 1 at home, January 2nd. Then, a month later, they had a terrible second half in the game against Indiana, played in Bloomington. That started a cascade of losses to Northwestern, Maryland, and Indiana, again, that has fans wondering what has happened.

Yesterday, Indiana went to Mackey Arena as a clear underdog. I thought the game would be a blowout because IU has rarely won at Purdue, and they certainly haven’t beaten Purdue twice in the same year since 2013. In fact, since 2013 (10 years), IU has beaten Purdue only twice, both times in Bloomington. Road wins at Mackey have  been difficult to come by.

Then a miracle happened! Freshman point guard Jalen Hood-Schifino had the game of his life! He emerged as the great player we thought he was scoring 35 points, nearly half of the team’s 79 points. JHS drove to the basket, slashed through the middle, and got open repeatedly for short jumpers. He was 14 of 24 on short jumpers, 1 of 2 on 3-pointers, while committing only 3 turnovers. His play was spectacular! 

JHS had to play well because the team’s leading scorer, Trayce Jackson-Davis, was double- and triple-teamed and held to just 10 points, half his scoring average. Hood-Schifino took over the game. When IU needed a basket, JHS got it. He was helped by hot shooting from Miller Kopp (13pts.) and Trey Galloway (13pts.). For an IU fan, the team that showed up yesterday is the team we’ve been waiting for for many years; tough defense, good shooting, made 3’s, and a point guard we can rely on. The chink in the armor remains offensive rebounding—IU had only 5, while Purdue had 19! 

So, what’s the miracle, you ask? There are several:

Indiana beat Purdue twice this year! TWICE! That hasn’t happened for 10 years. That’s a miracle.

Indiana went into Mackey Arena clear underdogs and pulled off a convincing win miraculously.

Jalen Hood-Schifino emerged as the blue chip point guard coaches thought he could be.

Indiana showed they can still win in a hostile environment when Trayce Jackson-Davis is held in check and scores a season-low 10 points. That’s a miracle, too.

Mike Woodson has proven to be the coach IU needed. As one of the TV commentators said during the game “Mike Woodson really has IU prepared for this game!” And they were.

Of course this win isn’t as big as the 1980 “Miracle on Ice,” but to IU Hoosier basketball fans it’s very close. I wish Purdue well the rest of the season and hope they advance far in the NCAA tournament. On the other hand, I hope Jalen Hood-Schifino’s performance wasn’t a fluke, and he continues to play like he did yesterday. I hope Trayce Jackson-Davis can find ways to beat double-teams and triple-teams. His scoring, defense, and shot-blocking are essential to IU victories. I hope coach Woodson can scout future opponents and have his team as well-prepared as yesterday and find success. It’s been a long dry spell for Indiana basketball so fans are eager for success and more miraculous wins like yesterday. Let’s hope it happens!

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