BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The Indiana Hoosiers didn't listen to preseason predictions of mediocrity, and now they're making enough noise in the Big Ten Conference to drown out their detractors.
The ninth-ranked Hoosiers lead the conference, which this week includes four other rated teams, by two games over Illinois. The Hoosiers are 10-1, their lone conference loss coming against the No. 5 Illini, 7-3.
"We weren't listening to the people that were saying that," sophomore guard Jay Edwards said. "We know what we can do.
"If you look at the predictions at the beginning of the year, there were a lot of teams that were picked high that aren't doing so good now," said Edwards, the team's leading scorer with a 23-point average in Big Ten play.
It was Edwards' 18-foot jumper with four seconds left that gave the Hoosiers a 64-62 victory over Purdue on Sunday, raising their overall record to 20-5.
Indiana has won 17 of 18 after a scary 3-4 start, and the Hoosiers have climbed steadily in the rankings after being virtually ignored in the polls until January, when the Big Ten season opened.
One of the keys has been the success of the three-guard offense coach Bob Knight has installed. Indiana has won 23 of the 25 games in which Edwards, Lyndon Jones and Joe Hillman have started together since last season.
Hillman, one of six fifth-year seniors on the team, also has provided the floor leadership the Hoosiers lacked last season while unsuccessfully trying to defend their 1987 national championship.
Against Purdue, Hillman hit a 3-point basket with a minute remaining to give Indiana a two-point lead after trailing most of the second half. Perhaps more important, he showed the hustle needed to win during one two-minute burst in which he made two free throws after being fouled on a fast break, came right back with a basket in the lane, saved a ball from going out of bounds and then tied up a taller player, Purdue's 6-foot-9 John Brugos.
"Everybody picked us to be in the middle of the pack, that's the surprising thing," Hillman said. "We started off real slow at the start of the year, and then we've come back and played real well through December and we've kept it going right through January and February."
One might expect it from a Knight-coached team, but the Hoosiers have played especially tough under pressure. In games decided by four points or less, the Hoosiers are 5-0 this year, all of those victories coming in the Big Ten.
Before Sunday's game, Purdue coach Gene Keady said Indiana had effectively "put all the pieces together."
"Joe Hillman is playing as well as a young man can play and (Eric) Anderson is doing a tremendous job as a freshman. Everyone is filling his role."
Keady's assessment didn't change much after the loss: "It's tough to take, but Indiana is having a great year."