Indiana Basketball: 3 Keys to Upset #1 Purdue

Indiana and Kel'el Ware attempt to contain National Player of the Year candidate Zach Edey and the top-ranked Boilermakers at Assembly Hall Tuesday evening.

Jan 12, 2024; Bloomington, Indiana, USA; Indiana Hoosiers center Kel'el Ware (1) rebounds the ball.
Jan 12, 2024; Bloomington, Indiana, USA; Indiana Hoosiers center Kel'el Ware (1) rebounds the ball. / Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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Indiana Basketball
Indiana v Rutgers / Rich Schultz/GettyImages

Winning the Paint War

No one scores more of their total points in the paint than Indiana. The Hoosiers score a nation-leading 51% of its total points on the inside. That is not going to be easy against Purdue. While Kel'el Ware is a legit seven-foot-tall, he surrenders four inches and close to sixty pounds to Zach Edey. If Indiana wants to score on the interior, they must find a way to get Edey out of the paint.

Indiana could be in trouble if the Boilermakers play zone and plant Edey defensively in the middle. Anytime you have a player of that size in the middle, he alters shots. Ware must make mid-range shots to pull Edey out of the paint. Purdue doesn't have to double-team or high-low Ware because of Edey. That means Malik Reneau has to find his spots in the paint and score.

Although Edey has the size advantage, Ware has the edge athletically. He needs to take advantage of that. The Hoosiers have to make shots from 8-10 feet outside the basket and force Edey to move from under the basket, forcing and opening up more chances close to the rim.

Indiana Basketball
Jan 12, 2024; Bloomington, Indiana, USA; Indiana Hoosiers guard Trey Galloway (32) dribbles the ball. / Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Make Your Weakness Your Strength: Offense

One of the reasons Indiana scores so much on the interior is they struggle shooting from the outside. That said, if the Hoosiers hope to pull an upset, they have to make shots. Edey's presence in the middle of the paint will create opportunities in the mid-range and open three-pointers. Can the Hoosiers make those shots?

Malik Reneau has extended his scoring range to the three point line. However, Mackenzie Mgbako and Trey Galloway are the x-factors in this game. Mgbako has to play at the level he did against Minnesota. He scored at all three levels against the Golden Gophers and needs to do the same against Purdue.

Galloway has to find the game he had against Kansas. He scored a season-high 28 points on 70 percent shooting against the Jayhawks. Indiana does not have a better perimeter player, and he needs to have a game similar to the one he had against Kansas. If there was another player that could be a difference maker it is sophomore CJ Gunn.

A top 150 recruit, Woodson and the Hoosiers have waited Gunn to begin to fulfill his potential. His ten-point performance against Ohio State flashed his ability to score the basketball. That production off the bench would be useful for the Hoosiers.

P.S. Please hit your free throws.

Indiana Basketball
Jan 12, 2024; Bloomington, Indiana, USA; Indiana Hoosiers forward Mackenzie Mgbako (21) shoots the basketball. / Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Make Your Weaknesses Your Strengths: Defense

Two areas that Indiana struggles defensively are three-point defense and defensive rebounding. Zach Edey is not an elite rebounder; he's just big. However, his ability to plug the middle makes it difficult to rebound. Indiana struggles to secure defensive rebounds against teams with active hands. Purdue is one of those teams.

The Hoosiers must snag and squeeze the basketball when they get the rebound. That leads to senseless turnovers. Indiana must protect the basketball against the Boilermakers. Expect this game to be close. Anytime you have a close match, turnovers can be the difference.

It goes without saying that Edey will be nearly impossible to stop, even if you foul him. Ware is likely going to play Edey without help. That means Indiana has to contest three-pointers when the ball is reversed and kicked out to the three-point line. If Indiana hits tough shots all night, tip your cap. However, they must reduce the number of open looks from deep.