Despite pounding Bryant University 90-42 to close out the non-conference schedule on Monday, the mood around the Hoosiers locker room was not a joyous one. Early in second half, Indiana was dealt a devastating blow when freshman shooting guard Maurice Creek landed awkwardly on his leg and had to be carted off the floor on a stretcher. The diagnosis was a fractured knee cap, and Creek, who was leading all NCAA freshmen in scoring with a 17.6 per game average, underwent surgery on Tuesday. He’s done for the season.
Not exactly the best circumstances to begin Big Ten play, but IU made the best of the situation when they faced Michigan University on Thursday afternoon. Bloomington, Indiana native Jordan Hulls, a freshman himself, got the start in place of Creek and played a very heady 35 minutes, while Verdell Jones III and Christian Watford assumed the scoring duties by combining for 39 of the Hoosiers 71 points. A three-point play by Jeremiah Rivers broke a 61-61 tie with a little over a minute to go in the game, and IU held on for a 6 point victory. The win was just Tom Crean‘s second in the Big Ten since he took over as coach of the Hoosiers.
Indiana travels to Columbus to take on the 15th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes on Wednesday, They then return home to Assembly Hall to face Illinois and the hated Bruce Weber on Saturday. Tickets are still available by contacting the IU ticket offices.
KEY STATISTICAL NOTE
Devan Dumes, from Decatur Central High School by way of Vincennes University, led IU in scoring last season, but is averaging just 5.8 points off the bench for the team this year. With Creek’s injury, he’ll be looked on to up his scoring production, and over the last game-and-a-half, Dumes has done just that, tossing in 18 points in 26 minutes of action. If he can continue to stretch the defenses with his outside shot, the Hoosiers won’t suffer the effects of Creek’s absence nearly as much.
The Boilers faced the Iowa Hawkeyes in their Big Ten opener on Tuesday. Matt Painter‘s squad overcame a slow start to win 67-56, marking Purdue’s 12th straight victory, the most wins they’ve had to start a season since Gary, Indiana‘s Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson led Purdue to a 14-0 record to start the 1993-94 season. It also set up a New Year’s Day “Battle of the Unbeatens” against 6th-ranked West Virginia.
The game started out predictable enough, with the two undefeated teams staying close for much of the first half. The Boilers held a slight 37-32 lead when they headed to the locker room, and fans attending the game in West Lafayette, Indiana prepared themselves for a back-and-forth second 20 minutes of basketball. They didn’t need to.
Powered by Franklin Central High School‘s JaJuan Johnson, Purdue outscored West Virginia 14-2 to start the second half, and by the time the clock showed 12 minutes to play, Robbie Hummel (Valparaiso, Indiana), E’Twaun Moore (East Chicago, Indiana), Johnson and the rest of the Boilers had built a 64-39 lead. The final scored ended up a slightly less impressive 15 point margin, but in front of a national television audience — on a holiday — the Boilers proved without a doubt they’re one of the top contenders for a spot in the 2010 NCAA Final Four, which is conveniently being hosted in downtown Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium.
There’s no doubt the toughest portion of the Boilermakers schedule is about to commence. Three of their next four games are against ranked opponents, and Minnesota, the only unranked opponent, visits Mackey Arena on Tuesday sporting an 11-3 record. Tickets for that game can be purchased by contacting the Purdue Athletics ticket office.
KEY STATISTICAL NOTE
For as good as their starting lineup is, a lack of experienced bench depth could prove problematic down the stretch for Purdue. Outside of the starting five, only Ryne Smith and Kelsey Barlow (Indianapolis, Indiana) have been trusted with playing over 15 minutes a game. In the win against West Virginia, those two were the only bench players to hit double-figures. For those Indianapolis sports fans ready to purchase Final Four tickets in anticipation of Purdue’s presence, an injury that exposes Painter’s limited depth could be the one thing that puts a damper on those plans.