Mike Woodson Pushing for Signature Defensive Performance Against Purdue
By Jack Ankony,2023-02-03
Indiana will have to knock down shots, but Mike Woodson knows the Hoosiers need to be at their best on the defensive end to contain Zach Edey in the middle and Purdue's variety of 3-point shooters.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The nation's No. 1 team comes to Assembly Hall on Saturday for the first time since the 2012-13 season when No. 3 Indiana defeated Michigan, 81-73.
That matchup featured the future national player of the year Trey Burke, who scored 25 points for Michigan and powered the nation's top-ranked offensive, according to KenPom . In similar fashion, Purdue center Zach Edey is the favorite to win national player of the year, and the Boilermakers run KenPom's No. 2-ranked offense.
On the other sideline, Indiana had the No. 2 offense and No. 19 defense in 2012-13 under coach Tom Crean, and 10 years later, Mike Woodson's Hoosiers rank 39th in defensive efficiency and 25th in offensive efficiency.
The Hoosiers will have to knock down shots – better than their 37.5 shooting percentage at Maryland on Tuesday, at least – but Woodson knows handing Purdue its second loss of the season starts on the defensive end.
"Our defense has got to be our signature coming into that game," Woodson said Thursday. "We're going to have to defend and rebound with this team."
That's easier said than done against a Purdue offense centered around the 7-foot-4 Edey, who's surrounded by 3-point shooters. Edey averages 22.0 points and 13.0 rebounds on 61.7 percent shooting. He's a solid free throw shooter for his size at 73.2 percent, which puts even more pressure on defenses to avoid foul trouble.
"When you look at Edey, he's seen double-teams, he's seen zones," Woodson said. "The guy is just a big presence in the middle that demands the ball, and they go to him a lot, a lot more than they did last season. He didn't play the minutes that he's playing now last season. My thing is, we got to just play him as hard as we can play him and make sure that the surrounding pieces don't go off, and see what happens."
On Wednesday, Purdue coach Matt Painter shared some insight on how teams have limited Edey in the past.
"The people that did the best work against [Edey] was Saint Peter's, and their big guy was 6-foot-8, 210-215, so take it for what it's worth," Painter said. "It's also the fight inside people, like are you willing just to fight the whole game? And then can you fight without fouling? A couple of those bigs for Saint Peter's were able to do that, and a lot of people aren't, a lot of people aren't. All of a sudden they get fatigued and then they do something stupid and they grab him and hold him and put their knee up his keister."
Woodson is sure to bring additional help on Edey in the post, but the Hoosiers can't overcommit to Edey, either. Purdue's junior forward Mason Gillis knocked down 9-of-12 3-point attempts, setting a Mackey Arena record on Tuesday in a 20-point win over Penn State. Freshmen guard Fletcher Loyer shots 36.2 percent from beyond the arc, and he's tied for fourth in the Big Ten with 47 3-pointers made. Next to Loyer in the backcourt is another freshman, Braden Smith, a 40 percent 3-point shooter on 65 attempts.
Purdue is eighth in the Big Ten with a 33.9 3-point shooting percentage as a team, but the Boilermakers have increased that number over the last three games. For Edey, he's always been confident to kick it out when the double-team comes.
"We've always had the shooters," Edey said Wednesday. "We've always had the talent on the outside to make teams pay. Earlier in the season we just weren't knocking them down, but I was never concerned with our team. I knew we could shoot. I knew what we could do on the perimeter. We just got everyone. I think at some point in their career everyone has shot 40 percent from 3 so it just shows you can't really, it's hard to double when shooters are knocking down shots like that and it kind of showed today.
Defensively, the Hoosiers hit a rough patch in early January after injuries to Race Thompson and Xavier Johnson, but they've made a concerted effort to lock down on the defensive end. Indiana held opponents to 70 points or less during its recent five-game win streak, including 45 points against Wisconsin and 57 at Minnesota.
Woodson wants his team to be physical, but Indiana has struggled to defend without fouling in recent games. That's a definite concern on Saturday against Purdue, especially when defending Edey. In the 11-point loss at Maryland on Tuesday, Indiana committed 20 fouls, marking its ninth game with 20-plus fouls.
"I don't mind the fouls if it's fair both ways," Woodson said. "I mean, I'm telling our guys to play hard and try to play more physical, get into the ball and things of that nature. I don't think our team should be punished for that. There are teams that do it, too."
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