BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Purdue coach Matt Painter appreciated the effort from his team Sunday.
He'd just like to see it a little earlier.
The Boilermakers fell behind early at No. 18 Indiana, never caught up and wound up losing 85-74 to their biggest rival in the regular-season finale.
"They have some fight to them. At times we would like that to be more consistent," Painter said of his team. "It's obviously been better in the past three weeks, but you would like to have that fight right away and not dig yourselves a hole. Any time you're playing catch-up, it's going to be tough on the road."
The Boilermakers (20-11, 10-8 Big Ten) found there's no tougher environment to rally in than Bloomington, where they were trying to win their third straight — something Purdue last did from 1968-71.
Instead, the Hoosiers jumped out to a double-digit lead in the opening minutes, forced Painter to call three timeouts in the first half and never allowed Purdue to get within a single possession of even tying the game. It was the same blueprint Indiana used to beat No. 5 Michigan State on Tuesday.
Lewis Jackson led the Boilermakers with 17 points and Robbie Hummel had 16 before fouling out with 1:12 to go.
But after winning five of its previous six games, this was not how Purdue wanted to head into this week's Big Ten tournament. The sixth-seeded Boilermakers play Thursday night against No. 11 seed Nebraska.
"Is it frustrating that we lost? Yes, but we didn't give in and get blown out by 20, either, and we easily could have done that," Hummel said. "I think we can take this loss and start working toward, I believe we play Nebraska."
The Boilermakers didn't stick around to watch the Hoosiers' Senior Day celebration.
Christian Watford scored 19 points and Will Sheehey added 16 as Indiana's first four-year players of the Tom Crean era said goodbye to their home fans.
"We've been through a lot, and these four guys have been through more than anyone will ever know," former walk-on guard Daniel Moore told the crowd. "A lot more downs than ups, but that makes what we've done even more sweet."
Indiana's five-man senior class achieved more than just about anybody could have imagined when it entered Assembly Hall as the start to a major rebuilding project.
After going 6-25 as freshmen and enduring three straight losing seasons, the Hoosiers (24-7, 11-7) produced one of their most memorable regular seasons in years.
Indiana became the first conference school in six decades to upset a No. 1 and No. 2 team in one season. The Hoosiers became the first team in school history to knock off three top-5 teams during the regular season, and the latest victory puts Indiana within two wins of its highest victory total since 1992-93.
Plus, the Hoosiers have their first season sweep of Purdue since 2005-06, and Indiana isn't finished yet.
"These fellow seniors, we've been through just about everything you can imagine and there's one thing we haven't done, so we're just going to keep working," said Matt Roth, referring to what is expected to be the school's first NCAA tournament bid in four years.
Indiana started fast and answered every Purdue challenge, repeatedly beating the Boilermakers defense with crisp, precise passes.
Everybody had a part.
Freshman center Cody Zeller had 13 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. Junior guard Jordan Hulls had 10 points and five assists. Victor Oladipo finished with nine points and eight rebounds, and the five seniors combined for 18 points, including nine from Roth and seven from Verdell Jones.
For the first 30 minutes, it looked as though it would be easy.
The Hoosiers broke out to a 15-6 lead, extended the margin to 28-13 midway through the first half after a 10-0 run and led 49-34 at halftime against a defense that was allowing just 64.8 points per game.
It didn't look as though things would change much when Indiana extended the lead to 58-40 on Zeller's breakaway dunk with 13:58 to go.
That's when the Boilermakers finally rallied with an 8-1 run that cut the deficit to 59-48 with 11:01 to go. After scoring eight straight points, Purdue was within 65-58 with 6 minutes left.
But Indiana got two free throws from Watford, another from Zeller and a 3 from Sheehey to rebuild a 71-58 cushion with 3:58 to play. And after Purdue got within 77-71 with 1:18 to go, the Hoosiers closed it out by making enough free throws to let the five seniors dribble out the final 22.4 seconds and draw the loudest ovation of the day.
"They have all evolved into doing what it takes to be successful, what the team needs to be done," Crean said. "They've changed for the better in truly understanding what it takes to make teams successful and that's why they'll all be successful in whatever they do."
Indiana also honored those who died in the recent swarm of tornadoes in southern Indiana with a moment of silence before the national anthem.