More than just a game

More than just a game

BSR's Jeff Washburn details Purdue's rivarly with Indiana, joined by those who know it well.

Soon after signing a national letter of intent to play college basketball for Matt Painter at Purdue, Ohio native Ryne Smith learned a lesson about the Boilermakers' rivalry with Indiana that would serve the 3-point shooting specialist well.

"My first true experience with the rivalry was in Assembly Hall on my sister Nikki's Senior Night at IU when after playing her final home game, she announced that I was going to play basketball at Purdue," Ryne Smith, now the head basketball coach at Clinton Prairie High School, said. "The whole place was just an echo of boos.

"I had not even put on a Purdue uniform and I was getting booed. I realized that it was pretty heated. My record against them was positive (5-2), and that is something you are always judged by, "Did you beat Indiana? And I won in Assembly Hall twice, which is always good. I told someone recently that there literally is no better feeling than winning in Assembly Hall. In more than 21 years in the game, I have never experienced more joy."

There will be joy for only one team and its fan base on Saturday afternoon in Mackey Arena when Purdue and Indiana meet in men's basketball for the 201st time. Purdue leads the overall series 102-88, but the Hoosiers have won four in a row by an average margin of 23.3 points.

And just before that IU run, the Boilermakers had won five in a row.

The series has taken a unique turn since the 1994-95 season with Purdue winning 8 of 11 before IU won 11 of 13 and then the Boilermakers had their five-game winning streak followed up by four consecutive Hoosier blowouts.

Some say the series will never be quite the same since Gene Keady stopped coaching the Boilermakers, and Bob Knight was ousted at IU. For some, Matt Painter and Tom Crean just don't match that kind of basketball theater that began in 1980 when Keady replaced Lee Rose as the Purdue coach.

This season has been an extremely frustrating one for each fan base. Each team enters Saturday's game 14-10 overall and only 4-7 in the Big Ten.

But no matter the records, Smith, who shares the Purdue single-game record for most 3-pointers made with eight, said there is an unmatched passion for this basketball rivalry in this state.

"I am experiencing it now in high school basketball, but the people in Indiana do love it," Smith said. "Whether it's a Monday night makeup game or a prime time Friday night conference game, people are coming. Even if it's a small gym, people want to watch the game.

"It starts at that level, and then you pick your allegiance between the south side of the state (Indiana) or the north side of the state (Purdue). You stick with your team, and you root against the other. What makes it great is the love of basketball in this state."

A Cardinal's view

As the son of former Illinois men's basketball athletic trainer Rod Cardinal, Brian Cardinal grew up keenly aware of how significant any Illini game against either Purdue or Indiana was.

Then in 1995 when he accepted a basketball scholarship offer from Purdue's Keady, the 6-foot-8 forward who would go onto play 12 seasons in the NBA got to experience the Purdue-IU basketball wars first hand.

Including his redshirt season of 1995-96, Cardinal was a part of 11 of the Keady-Knight coaching chess games, of which the Boilermakers won eight times.

Former Purdue standout guard Chad Austin made shots from opposite corners in 1996 and again in 1997 in Bloomington to give the Boilermakers 74-72 and 89-87 victories.

In the 1998 Big Ten tournament in Chicago's United Center, Cardinal was suffering from the flu hours before a quarterfinal matchup with IU, but after being hooked up to an IV and eating a full order of Carson's Ribs, Cardinal literally got out of bed to lead Purdue to a 76-71 victory.

Cardinal ranks 17th in Purdue all-time scoring and now is the John Purdue Club's assistant director after retiring from the NBA after the 2011-2012 season.

He helped the Dallas Mavericks win the 2011 NBA title playing for owner Mark Cuban, who is an IU grad. Cardinal says there's nothing better in the Big Ten than a Purdue-IU basketball game.

"I think it is a combination of things," Cardinal said. "It's two historic programs, and the success of both programs helps. When I was playing, that was part of it. It also was two legendary coaches. Coming into every game we played them, it was a critical game, whether it was for positioning near the top of the Big Ten or positioning for a spot in the NCAA tournament.

"The excitement that built up before game time was amazing, whether it was energy at practice, in the locker room or at the arena. It was emotional. For me, it was a great time. When we won twice in Bloomington in my five years; that was something you never forget.

"I think I had 20-some points in my first game against them, and then to have Chad hit two game-winning shots in Assembly Hall is amazing. When the fans are excited and involved, it's crazy, but as a player, you are so focused on winning. There is nothing better than beating Indiana."

Through a fan's eyes

Purdue senior Melissa Hunt, an elementary education major from tiny Borden, Ind., deep in the southern part of the state, probably understands the Purdue-Indiana men's basketball rivalry as well as any current member of the Paint Crew, the Boilermakers' student cheering section.

Her cousin, Pat Graham, was a star player for Bob Knight at IU after being selected Indiana's Mr. Basketball in 1989. Graham attended Floyd Central High School, not far from Borden.

Approximately 90 percent of her schoolmates at Borden are IU fans. She estimates that in the entire Borden community, there are four Purdue families. That makes Hunt dislike IU more, simply because she was surrounded by cream and crimson growing up

She and her former Mr. Basketball cousin enjoy spirited discussions during family gatherings. She said the talking and the texting never gets hostile.

Hunt's favorite memory in the rivalry took place during her freshman year at Purdue, when the JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore led Boilermakers defeated the Hoosiers 67-53 in Mackey.

The game was played on Feb. 6, which is Johnson's birthday, and Hunt made a "Happy Birthday JJ" sign, which the center signed for her during a postgame celebration in the stands.

"It's Indiana, and basketball is Indiana," Hunt, 22, said. "It goes back and forth in that they both have been really good, and they both have been really bad. But that doesn't matter, because it always is a pretty good game.

"Even though Purdue leads the overall series, anybody could win anytime we play. There are so many fans of each team that it truly is hatred. Purdue fans and IU fans hate each other, but at the same time, everybody loves basketball, and everybody loves the game. That's what makes it fun, because people can hate on each other yet understand what they are saying."

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