- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Morning After is our semi-daily recap of the night's best action. Thought for the morning: Even if you have to work on Saturday, Friday still feels awesome. That never goes away. Why is that? What's so special about this day? Anyway, per the usual, try not to make it awkward.
No. 7 Purdue 78, Indiana 75: It's hard to say when Indiana fans are going to start feeling discouraged by games like Thursday night's loss to highly ranked and obviously superior rival Purdue, when they won't be able to take moral victories away from losses like this, when their patience will eventually run out. It isn't happening yet, and it shouldn't -- and last night's game proved why. Sure, the Hoosiers didn't pull out the victory. But for a team that started last year's season with one returning player, and is relying on freshmen and sophomores and two transfers, lost its high scorer and most promising youngster Maurice Creek to a kneecap fracture in late December, to stay with Purdue up to a last-second Verdell Jones three that hit the front rim, well, that's an accomplishment. The Hoosiers played hard. They never gave up. The crowd was rocking. For a moment, you could forget the Hoosiers were still in rebuilding mode; the team and the arena and everyone else seemed to forget it too. It was just Purdue-Indiana, just like the good old days. That this was even possible is a testament to the job Tom Crean has done at IU. He hasn't been perfect, to be sure, but if teams take on the personality of their coaches, Crean is one hard-working, thorough, and determined dude -- and IU will be back in the top 20 sooner rather than later.
Give some credit to the Boilermakers, too. It's not easy to win in Assembly Hall, even when the team there isn't vintage Indiana. This year's Boilermakers are the first team to do so since 1999. How'd they do it? They kept up with a torrid Hoosiers offense with buckets of their own, and they took advantage of their size and athleticism by getting to the rim and getting fouled. (Purdue posted a 50 percent free throw rate. Shooting this many free throws is helpful.) It was an impressive win, the Boilermakers' fifth in a row.
No. 9 Duke 86, No. 19 Georgia Tech 67: Take a good long look at Duke's four factors output from last night's blowout win over Georgia Tech. It's crazy. A 55.4 FG percentage. An 18.2 percent turnover rate. A 45.9 percent offensive rebounding rate. A 64.3 percent (!!) free throw rate. Do any one of these things, and your offense should be in good shape; do all three of them, and you can chalk up 1.3 points per trip, which is what the Dukies somewhat insanely did last night. No wonder Pomeroy's numbers still love this team so much: They are efficient. Whether they can put together these sorts of performances on the road is a different question. Andy Katz made a good point last night: Duke, despite being a less talented team than Kansas, never seems to get pushed the same way Kansas does at home. That's a huge home court advantage; no wonder Coach K didn't schedule any real non-conference road games other than the one required by Big Ten-ACC Challenge. Kansas can take its show on the road this year. Duke hasn't. The Dukies are 14-0 in Cameron Indoor Stadium and 1-4 outside it. Do the Crazies really matter that much? Are Duke's shooters just that used to Cameron's rims? Duke is an awfully good team, but it's weird they can't prove it off-campus.
Everywhere else: In other "road conference games are hard to win" news, Tennessee hit a drought at the wrong time Thursday night, scoring a mere seven points in the last eight minutes at LSU but avoiding the upset all the same, winning 59-54. ... Portland can call itself a victim of scheduling: The Pilots are a solid team capable of upsetting Gonzaga, but not right after a Gonzaga loss. ... Butler went to 12-0 in the Horizon with a hard-fought home win over Detroit. Gordon Hayward led with 18 points and 10 boards. ... Florida continues to get the benefit of buzzer-beating shots. Erving Walker's jumper with 11 seconds left lifted the Gators to a one-point win at Alabama. ... It might be time to pay attention to Maryland again. The Terps went on the road for their latest ACC win, topping Florida State in Tallahassee, and are 5-2 in the conference, and one game behind rival Duke, which should make Feb. 13's trip to Cameron Indoor mighty interesting. ... Notre Dame beat Cincinnati handily in South Bend. ... For more on last night's Pac-10 results, check out Diamond and Andy's posts early this morning.