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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Recorder Rewind: The Indy Classic

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The Indy Classic is here to stay!

Since early November, the basketball Gods have been hard at work to make sure that this event would be special.

In its second year, The Indy Classic welcomed Ball State, Indiana State, Purdue and top-ranked Arizona to Gainbridge Fieldhouse. The four teams entered Saturday’s doubleheader with a combined 34-4 record, stepping foot in the world’s greatest basketball arena on a collective 21-game win streak.

In 2011, Indiana, Purdue, Butler and Notre Dame – Indiana’s four most prominent basketball schools – came together to play in the inaugural Crossroads Classic. The brainchild of former Purdue Athletic Director Morgan Burke, the Crossroads Classic built on the legacy of the former Hoosier Classic played in Indianapolis for 40 years. After ten Decembers of competition, the schools in South Bend and Bloomington decided they no longer wanted to participate in the event traditionally contested on the Saturday before Christmas.

The Indy Classic
(Photo/Austin Taylor)

In response, leaders in the Indianapolis sports community, championed by the Indiana Sports Corp, came together to fill the void on the Indianapolis sports calendar left by the canceled Crossroads Classic. Last year, the Indy Classic was inserted into the coveted Saturday slot, traditionally filled by the Crossroads Event, a week before our country’s flagship holiday.

Ball State and Indiana State were the opening act in an event that had the attention of the college basketball world. Ball State Coach Michael Lewis and Indiana State leader Josh Schertz knew that they would be playing second fiddle to #1 Arizona and #3 Purdue in the second game. At a VIP Reception hosted by the Indiana Sports Corp Friday night, Schertz was asked by host Eddie White why his program agreed to play in the Classic.

Schertz responded, “They told me if we played we would get a ticket to the Purdue – Arizona game.”

In the first game, Ball State would get off to a strong 9-3 start. Former Pike standout Ryan Conwell hit a free throw for Indiana State with 10:43 left in the opening half giving the Sycamores their first lead of the game at 18-17. Ball State would score the next bucket, but that would be their last lead of the game.
Indiana State maintained control the rest of the way pushing the lead out to 20 in the second half before the Cardinals cut it to 4 with 1:35 left in regulation. Conwell’s 27 led ISU to an 11-point win over their in-state rival from Muncie!

Gainbridge began to fill as the clock ran out on the Sycamores and Cardinals. You could feel an energy in the arena. National writers Pat Forde, Andy Katz, Dana O’Neil and Jeff Goodman were in the house. Former Butler legend Matt Howard stood at one end of the court while his ’07 Indiana All-Star teammate, and Purdue All-American, Robbie Hummel prepped at midcourt to call the game on Peacock. Boiler Nation represented a significant share of the sellout crowd of 17,315 on hand to witness a game whose victor would move to the top spot in the national polls on Monday.

The Indy Classic
(Photo/Austin Taylor)

Purdue PG Braden Smith opened the game with a jumper 14 seconds into the contest, putting the Boilers on the board first. Early on Purdue stuck with the Wildcats but there was a sense that the team from West Lafayette was barely hanging on. The Arizona crowd erupted as Wildcat guard Caleb Love got a breakaway dunk off a Smith turnover at the 16:58 mark.

The team from Tucson was up 10-6. Purdue finally settled in and tied the score up at 17 on a Mason Gillis layup with just over 13 minutes to play in the first half. It was a heavyweight fight for the rest of the opening period. The Boilers went on a 9-0 run over a 2:24 stretch toward the end of the half giving the home team control heading into the locker room. Smith and Fletcher Loyer, Purdue’s sophomore backcourt, combined to shoot 13-19 from the field, including 6 triples, before the halftime buzzer sounded. Their production sent the Boilers into the locker room up 49-38 on the #1 team in the land.

Purdue came out strong to start the 2nd half, maintaining their lead early. A Loyer 3 would push the Boiler margin to fifteen with 15:09 left to play. But average people, average teams don’t rise to #1 rankings in college basketball. The Wildcats made an adjustment, switching to a zone defense that would puzzle Purdue. Over the next six minutes, Arizona would go on an 11-0 run punctuated by an Oumar Ballo alley-oop dunk! With just over 9 minutes to play Purdue’s lead stood at 67-63. Arizona’s fans burst out with a chant, of “U of A, U of A!” It was game on!

Even Arizona’s Cheerleading Coach was locked in, yelling “That’s so weak!” at a basket interference call on her Wildcats!

Zach Edey would show why he is the reigning National Player of the Year with a short 6-2 run of his own, stemming the Arizona advance. Purdue’s crowd was electric! Giving Purdue a decided home-court advance in what was technically a neutral site contest. Down the stretch, the trio of Smith, Loyer and Edey would be joined by first-year Boiler guard Lance Jones in coming up with big buckets to keep the Wildcats at bay.
With just under 3 minutes left, a pair of Braden Smith free throws would push the home team’s advantage to 85-73.
Caleb Love would cut Purdue’s lead to five with 15 seconds left but it was too little too late as Matt Painter’s team would find themselves on top 92-84 as the final horn sounded.

After the game Purdue Head Coach Matt Painter was asked how important the Indy Classic is to the fans, “It’s a great event. We obviously liked the previous event [Crossroads Classic]. That made a whole lot of sense… To get quality neutral games is huge. You can’t get enough exposure, especially in your state capitol, in Indianapolis with your fans.”

Purdue is back in action on Thursday, Dec. 21, at 6:30 p.m. against Jacksonville on the Big Ten Network.


Austin Taylor is the Executive Director of The City League. Contact Austin at austin@thecityleague.orgFor more Butler Bulldogs coverage courtesy of Austin and the Indianapolis Recorder, click here.

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