Indiana’s regular starting lineup doesn’t feature a single player taller than 6-foot-7, which often gives coach Tom Crean an advantage offensively, especially in transition.
The 22nd-ranked Hoosiers are still trying to figure things out on the other end of the floor, though.
They could be without versatile freshman Robert Johnson as they face a potentially difficult size disadvantage in Wednesday night’s road matchup with rival Purdue.
Indiana (15-5, 5-2 Big Ten) has defeated four ranked opponents and has used an athletic lineup to push the tempo while ranking among the nation’s leaders in scoring offense at 81.4 points per game. It beat then-No. 22 Ohio State 69-66 on Jan. 10 and then-No. 13 Maryland 89-70 on Thursday as part of a four-game winning streak that was snapped with Sunday’s 82-70 road loss to the Buckeyes.
Yogi Ferrell scored 26 points, but Johnson suffered a left knee injury in the first half and played sparingly in the second. Crean isn’t sure if Johnson will be ready to go for this contest.
“I don’t think it’s anything that’s going to be long-lasting, but there’s still nothing that says it’s going to be OK for this game (Purdue), either,” Crean said.
The Hoosiers aren’t short on scoring with freshman James Blackmon Jr. (16.5 points per game), Ferrell (16.0) and Troy Williams (13.2) leading the way, but they also rank last in the Big Ten in points allowed per game at 71.9.
They’ll likely face a tough challenge stopping a Purdue team that boasts 7-foot starter A.J. Hammons and 7-2 reserve Isaac Haas. Hammons finished with 13 points and Haas added 10 as the Boilermakers (12-8, 4-3) knocked off then-No. 25 Iowa 67-63 on Saturday.
“We’ve got to continue to understand how to get people out of their comfort zone, how to take away strengths of the other team and at the same time continue to play to our strengths,” Crean said. “Part of it is the challenge of making sure we’re teaching these guys constantly what enables them to win and be successful … when it comes to what Purdue is doing, with how big and physical they are.”
Purdue coach Matt Painter will try to expose Indiana’s lack of height, though he also realizes Crean won’t just sit back and watch it happen.
“This (size differential) is probably the biggest extreme we will have and the biggest extreme they will have in Big Ten play,” Painter said. “Both teams are going to have to adjust. (Crean) does a lot of different things to try and throw you off. You have to be able to probe the defense and not take the bait.”
The Boilermakers aren’t one-dimensional, though. Rapheal Davis scored a career-high 24 points against the Hawkeyes, and fellow guard Kendall Stephens hopes to be fully recovered from a pinky injury suffered in last Wednesday’s loss to Illinois.
Stephens was limited to 15 minutes off the bench against Iowa because of the injury and missed all four shots, but he’s shooting 41.0 percent from 3-point range overall.
“They’ve got numerous guys that can hurt you from the perimeter,” Crean said. “If you get caught up in worrying about two things, they’ve got three or four other things that they could take advantage of.”
Purdue overcame 27 points from Ferrell to snap a four-game skid against the Hoosiers with an 82-64 victory Feb. 15.