Purdue's A.J. Hammons is the bigger man, by 40 pounds. But Indiana's Cody Zeller is the better player, on a better team. Hammons outscored Zeller 30-to-19. But the third ranked Hoosiers outscored the Boilermakers 97-60 in a game that was over before halftime. The 37 point Indiana (19-2, 7-1) victory gave Purdue (11-10, 4-4) its worst loss ever at home.
"Our guys never took their foot off the gas pedal," said Indiana coach Tom Crean, "which is really important for us as a team to take the next step."
Hammons scored half the Boilermakers points despite sitting out half the first half in foul trouble. The game turned in IU's favor when the seven foot, 280 pound freshman picked up his second foul just 4:01 into the game. When Hammons went to the bench, Purdue struggled to find a good shot offensively and had no defensive presence in the lane. Hammons finished with 30 points in 28 minutes, shooting 10-for-14 from the field and 10-for-12 at the free throw line. He grabbed five rebounds and blocked five shots. But those numbers might have been even more impressive if he had avoided foul problems.
"Tonight was a tough challenge for him, going against Cody Zeller," said Purdue coach Matt Painter. "You're going to have that. That's not the last time someone is going to get in foul trouble against Cody Zeller."
"I didn't play good enough," said Hammons, despite his career best 30 points. "We lost."
"He's a nice player," said Zeller of his first-time match up against Hammons. "He's a big body. The only match up I was worried about was IU vs. Purdue, and we obviously won that one."
Zeller stuffed the stat sheet with a team-high 19 points, 11 rebounds, two assists and two steals. The seven-foot, 240 pound sophomore also forced most of the contact that put Hammons in foul trouble and on the bench. Indiana built a double digit lead with just under 8:00 to go in the first half. By halftime, the Hoosiers increased the margin to 18. The IU lead kept growing all the way to the final buzzer.
Indiana comes home for a showdown with number one ranked Michigan in Bloomington Saturday at 9 p.m. Purdue travels to Northwestern for a Saturday 12 noon contest.