Indiana's reward: It can stop worrying about votes and start focusing on the Big Ten title chase.
Will Sheehey scored a career-high 22 points and set a new school record Saturday by going 9 for 9 from the field and leading Indiana to its second straight blowout over archrival Purdue, 83-55.
"I thought our team was asked enough letdown questions, and I think they were tired of it, too," coach Tom Crean said. "The human dynamic can sometimes plays into it, but not today, not at all. Not with the way they are maturing, not with the way we feel about the rivalry with Purdue. It's a big, big deal."
It's not just the rivalry that's big any more.
Indiana (23-3, 11-2 Big Ten) bucked the recent trend of No. 1 teams losing games and sliding back in the poll.
Last week, the Hoosiers got a reprieve after losing at Illinois before winning at No. 10 Ohio State. They held onto the top spot only after the next four highest-ranked teams all lost, too.
The Hoosiers also hung on to a share of the league lead as they head into Tuesday night's showdown with No. 8 Michigan State. The Spartans beat Nebraska 73-64 later Saturday.
To the home-state fans, though, the most intriguing part of this game was how Indiana continued to dominate this series. The Hoosiers have won four straight over the Boilermakers (12-14, 5-8), all by double digits, handed Purdue its most lopsided home loss in school history (97-60) on Jan. 30 and on Saturday became the first Indiana team in school history to beat Purdue twice in the same season by 20 or more points.
It doesn't get much more impressive than that—even if you're on the other bench
"Across the board, they're just a better defensive team (this year) and then you could argue that they're the best offensive team in the country," Boilermakers coach Matt Painter said. "It's a pretty good mix."
This time, Indiana didn't even need its best defender in the second half.
Victor Oladipo limped off the court in the final minute of the first half after spraining his left ankle. After the game, Crean said the medical team opted against playing Oladipo in the second half, and it's unclear whether he'll play at Michigan State.
"I hope he's going to be OK, he thinks he's going to be OK," said Crean, who is now 78-78 at Indiana. "Wishful thinking would be that he will play, but we'll have to see how he does over the next 24, 36 hours."
Losing Oladipo only slowed down the inevitable rout Saturday.
Cody Zeller finished with 19 points and nine rebounds. Christian Watford scored 10 of his 14 points in the first five minutes. Jordan Hulls had 11 points and five assists.
Indiana made eight 3-pointers, shot 56 percent from the field, forced 17 turnovers, limited the Boilermakers to just 38-percent shooting from the field, and they got a brilliant offensive and defensive game from Sheehey, who became the first player to make all nine of his field goals in school history.
The previous record of eight was done four times—by Jared Jeffries in 2001, Matt Nover in 1992, Ricky Calloway in 1987 and Mike Giomi in 1985.
"I got excited because I got to play a little more," Sheehey joked when asked about Oladipo's injury and before turning to his shooting performance. "There's definitely a zone. If you see a couple of shots go through the hoop, your confidence goes up a little bit."
That's the last thing these Hoosiers need after winning eight of their last nine.
Purdue was led by Terone Johnson and Anthony Johnson, who each had 11. Nobody else reached double figures, and freshman center A.J. Hammons, who scored 30 points against Indiana in Round 1, was held scoreless in the first half and wound up with just six points and three rebounds.
The Boilermakers have lost five of their last six, a slump that began with the first debacle against Indiana.
"There's no doubt you're frustrated," Painter said. "We just have to do a better job of maintaining that consistent effort. Sometimes it's just a breakdown, sometimes it is effort, it's a little bit of everything."
On Saturday, Purdue never even had a chance.
Indiana broke to a 14-5 lead, made it 21-8 less than nine minutes into the game and led 33-14 with 7:06 left in the first half.
Purdue rallied to within 41-29 at halftime, then watched Indiana open the second half on a 12-4 run. The Hoosiers sealed it with a 19-4 spurt that ended with Sheehey's layup with 3:40 to go. That made it 82-48.
"The first two years, it was tough," Watford said when asked about the four-game winning streak over Purdue. "But any time you can come back and win against your rival, especially the way we've been doing it, it feels good."