Indiana and Purdue Host ACC/Big Ten Challenge Games

The ACC/Big Ten Challenge gets underway tonight, with two Indiana colleges participating. The Challenge has been dominated by the ACC, but a strong group of Big Ten teams is trying to reverse the trend. Let’s take a look at the two matchups most Indy fans will be watching this evening.

Indiana University vs. University of Maryland

In a rematch of the 2002 NCAA Tournament championship game, the Hoosiers face off against the Terrapins in the ACC/BIG TEN Challenge Tuesday night. Game action gets underway at 7:30 from Bloomington, Indiana.

Maryland is coming off two consecutive losses suffered in the EA Sports Maui Invitational, while Indiana is still recovering from their own disastrous island tournament. The Hoosiers lost all three of their games down in Puerto Rico, finishing in last place. They did get back on the winning track Saturday afternoon against Northwestern State, defeating the Demons 90-72.

Freshman Maurice Creek, who grew up 20 minutes from the University of Maryland campus, has been the scoring catalyst for Indiana, averaging over 16 points a game on 52 percent shooting. He’ll be joined in the starting lineup by fellow double-digit point scorers Verdell Jones III and Christian Watford, along with do-it-all point guard Jeremiah Rivers. Last year’s most productive low post player, Tom Pritchard, rounds out the starting five. Pritchard has seen his numbers drop from 9.7 points and 6.4 rebounds in 2008-09 to 5.2 and 3.3 this season. His spot in the lineup is being seriously threatened by the much more athletic Derek Elston.

The freshman from Tipton, IN has shown the ability to score from outside and in, and he’s averaging 4.5 rebounds a game, good for third on the team. His multi-dimensional, above the rim game is in stark contrast to the plodding style of Pritchard. For IU to have a chance against Maryland, Elston’s athleticism will need to be utilized by Tom Crean and his staff. Devan Dumes led the Hoosiers in scoring a season ago, and with Matt Roth sidelined because of a broken ankle, he becomes the designated gunner off the bench. Dumes poured in 11 points in 22 minutes against Northwestern State, a performance Indianapolis sports fans who follow the team are hoping he can re-create tonight.

Maryland has four players averaging over 11 points a contest, led by sure-shooting forward Landon Milbourne’s 13.7. Senior guard Greivis Vasquez is their best all-around player, averaging 11.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.0 steals. Maryland’s strengths are their length (their starting five averages 6’6″), and their defense (they’re allowing just over 57 points a game). Considering IU lacks a reliable big man and struggles to score out of a half-court set, those two strengths will be magnified in tonight’s game. If the Hoosiers have any dreams of scoring an upset over the heavily favored Terrapins, they’ll need to shoot lights-out and dominant the transition game, a tall task for such an inexperienced squad.

Purdue University vs. Wake Forest University

Purdue moved up to 4th in the latest national poll, and they’re taking on a Wake Forest squad reeling from a home loss to William & Mary. On paper the Boilers would seem to have a decided advantage, especially since the game’s being played in West Lafayette, but Purdue’s lost their past two games in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and Wake Forest’s roster is stacked with talented performers.

Coming off a big win against #10 Tennessee in the finals of the Virgin Island Paradise Jam, the Boilers dismantled Central Michigan on Saturday, holding the Chippewas to 14 first half points in route to a 64-38 victory. East Chicago’s E’Twaun Moore, the MVP of the Paradise Jam, starts at shooting guard and leads the team in scoring at 15.8 a game. Fellow juniors Robbie Hummel (Valparaiso) and JaJuan Johnson (Franklin Central) are each chipping in over 13 points, and senior Chris Kramer (Huntington) has been his usual outstanding self on the defensive end while running the point on offense. The fifth starter, Keaton Grant, has had an up-and-down season, and his inconsistencies have opened the door for sophomore Ryne Smith.

Smith’s averaging nearly as many points as Grant in almost seven less minutes. He’ll be counted on to stretch the defense with his long-range shooting, opening things up for Johnson and the post game. The rest of the bench production comes from a trio of talented freshman; D.J. Byrd (Crawfordsville), Kelsey Barlow (Indianapolis) and Patrick Bade. While the play of the young guys has been encouraging, the success of Matt Painter’s team hinges on the production of Moore, Hummel and Johnson. If those three stay out of foul trouble and on the court, the Boilermakers are nearly unbeatable.t our most recent Pacers team report.