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January 30, 2013
Against probably the best player he will face all season, A.J. Hammons didn't just show up.
Purdue's freshman big man turned in a career-best offensive performance against Indiana's Cody Zeller, widely considered to be one of the country's best centers.
Hammons scored a game-high 30 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the field and 10 of 12 from the free throw line.
Not that he seemed too eager to talk about his individual effort afterward.
"I didn't play good enough because we lost," Hammons said following third-ranked Indiana's 97-60 throttling.
But what else could Hammons have done?
Play flawless defense and hold Zeller without a point? That'd only wipe away 19. Still a loss.
Box out like a beast and keep Zeller from getting any of his 11 rebounds, including seven offensive? That'd cut into Indiana's 24 second-chance points. Still a loss.
Not pick up two early fouls and play more than 28 minutes? Even if he kept up his more-than-a-point-per-minute pace, that's still a loss.
Go perfect from the field and the line, giving him 10 more points? Still a loss.
"A.J. Hammons showed what he is capable of," Indiana coach Tom Crean said. "We didn't double and we could have done a better job in the post. We could have done a better job with the ball pressure. We could have been more active. He's going to be very good. There's no doubt about that. We're going to have to make adjustments in two weeks when we play Purdue with A.J. Hammons."
It wasn't only that Hammons dominated when he had the ball, but it was how he scored.
He showed a full repertoire of moves in the post, using both hands well and going over both shoulders. He took advantage, too, of when Zeller and other Indiana post defenders tried to cheat and go for the steal off entry passes - which IU had some success doing - by finishing those passes with dunks or getting good enough post position to force the Hoosiers to foul by reaching around.
And even when the game was essentially over, with the lead ballooning to its largest as the minutes ticked away, Hammons kept chugging down the court. It was with that kind of effort that he scored his 30th point, racing down the floor on a fastbreak that Ronnie Johnson fed him for a right-handed dunk.
Hammons' 30-point night was the first for a Boilermaker since E'Twaun Moore dropped 38 against Ohio State in 2011.
Hammons also had five blocks and five rebounds. Zeller made 6-of-14 shots and all seven of his free throws and also had 11 rebounds in 25 minutes.
"(Hammons has) really worked hard at his scouting report and focusing who he's going to go against. (Wednesday) was a tough challenge, guarding Cody Zeller," Coach Matt Painter said. "(Hammons) got in that early foul trouble. You're going to have that. It's not going to be the last time Cody Zeller gets somebody in foul trouble. He's just a really good player.
"(Hammons) just had a better focus. It's really a simple game if you play hard and you just follow your scouting report and what you're supposed to do. But I was pleased with him."
Despite being up by at least 20 much of the latter part of the second half, Crean had Zeller and other starters in late in the game and also continued to use some full-court pressure.
Did that irk Painter?
"When you play hard, you get to do whatever you want," he said. "Indiana played hard. They took us behind the woodshed and whipped us, so I'm not one of those guys (who is mad). You can talk. When you're talking out there and you're up 40 points, it's like the old saying, 'It's not bragging when you can back it up.' They backed it up."
Last season's home game against the Hoosiers had 15,108 fans.
"It's a tough environment," Crean said. "They've got great fans. They're passionate. It's the state of Indiana. We've got an incredible atmosphere. They have an incredible atmosphere. It's a great environment to play in. It's an excellent arena.
"If you come in here and win, you've done something. We felt like that last year and it was a great springboard for our team. To come in here and win like this tonight, it's a big deal. It's a very big deal."
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