Purdue veteran ready for, embraces rivalry with Indiana

Purdue center Isaac Haas (44) shoots a free throw against Michigan in the second half of a game in West Lafayette Thursday. (By The Associated Press)
Purdue center Isaac Haas (44) goes up for a dunk against Michigan in the second half of a game in West Lafayette Thursday. Purdue defeated Michigan 92-88. (By The Associated Press)
Purdue center Isaac Haas (44) dunks against Michigan during the second half of a game in West Lafayette Thursday. (By The Associated Press)

Isaac Haas was nearly 20 years old before he got a taste of the whole Indiana and Purdue athletic rivalry. However, that hasn’t prevented the Boilermaker men’s basketball player from learning the importance of competing – and winning – within the series between the two universities.

“I think it’s a big deal,” Haas said. “I’ve kind of thrived on the whole Purdue-IU thing since coming here from Alabama.”

No. 3-ranked Purdue (20-2, 9-0 Big Ten) will travel to Indiana (12-9, 5-4) Sunday at 3:30 p.m. (FOX).

Haas grew up 560 miles from West Lafayette, but the Purdue senior center has embraced the competitiveness within the Indiana vs. Purdue rivalry, which has been easier to do, because he has almost never failed in beating the Hoosiers.

Over his three previous seasons, the rivals have played five times and the Boilermakers have won four of those games, two by double digits.

“It’s a little different for me because I was always an Alabama vs. Auburn kind of thing,” Haas explained after his team won its 16th consecutive game by beating Michigan Thursday. “But I’m starting to develop that kind of drive to beat IU just as much as everybody else.”

The Boilermakers start just one player (senior guard P.J. Thompson) from Indiana and only three (juniors Ryan Cline and Grady Eifert) Hoosier natives really see any type of consistent action, but that hasn’t curbed the passion for the rivalry within the program. However, Haas was quick to note that in regards to preparation, Sunday’s game isn’t any different than Thursday’s was or any other game for that matter.

“It’s just another game in our opinion,” Haas said. “We have to prepare the same way we did for Michigan. We have to prepare the same way we did for Louisville, Marquette, (and) all of those other teams that we beat.”

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The Hoosiers have evolved (out of necessity) into a much different type of team than their rival is.

While Purdue has a pair of 7-footers in Haas (7-foot-2) and redshirt freshman Matt Haarms (7-foot-3), Indiana lost its main post presence earlier this month when 6-foot-10 sophomore center De’Ron Davis went down in a practice with an Achilles injury.

With Davis out for the season, first-year Indiana coach Archie Miller has had to experiment with a much smaller lineup that consists of 6-foot-8 Juwan Morgan at the center spot, backed up by 6-foot-6 Freddie McSwain Jr., while 6-foot-7 athletes Justin Smith and Collin Hartman also get frontcourt time.

“We haven’t really scouted IU yet,” Haas said Thursday. “I’m sure the coaches will get on that. I know that it’s going to be a tough game. Because they are small, they can shoot the ball and they can run the court very well.

“It’s going to be a matter of staying disciplined on offense and defense.”

Indiana will face the same dilemma that every other team that Purdue plays faces, which is how do you defend the 290-pound Haas?

Most teams have tried to concoct some type of strategy in which they double the post from a perimeter player, but that doesn’t work because of the Boilermakers’ shooting prowess.

Purdue has hit almost 15 3-pointers in each of the last four games.

Michigan was allowing 5.4 3-pointers each game this season prior to Thursday, but gave up double that number to Purdue (which shot 11 of 20 from long range).

“It’s a very difficult challenge for everybody,” Wolverine coach John Beilein said of defending Purdue. “We only give up like six 3’s per game. I think that is one of the leaders in the country. We were trying to shut that down and play one-on-one in the post.

“We couldn’t do that.”

Boilermaker senior forward Vince Edwards agreed with Beilein that allowing Haas to play against single coverage doesn’t work, but neither does helping off of him and his teammates.

Haas finished with 24 points on Thursday, while Edwards, despite the defensive attention, still scored 30.

“It just opens everything up for us,” Edwards said of Haas being guarded by one defender. “Everybody on this team can shoot the ball and handle the ball, (and) has some type of skill set.

“When Isaac is getting the ball down low… it’s a tough guard.”

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