BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Vindication found Rob Phinisee elevated about the masses.

Fans stormed Branch McCracken Court, pouring out of the Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in the aftermath of Thursday night’s 68-65 win over No. 4 Purdue, and as they did, Phinisee found his celebrating teammates.

Guard Xavier Johnson tried to lift him. Forward Trayce Jackson-Davis helped. Soon he was carried as a conquering hero, which he was.

“It was a surreal experience I won’t forget,” he said.

It had to be Phinisee.

The senior guard was, in so many ways, meant for this moment, this chance to blast away disappointment, frustration and all the misery-generating talk of losing to Purdue.

It ended with a corner three-pointer as pure as any Hoosier had ever taken at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

The Boilers (15-3, 4-3) were beaten. That nine-game losing streak against Purdue was as relevant as disco, mullets and tight basketball shorts.

“To finally beat Purdue,” Phinisee said. “I was 0-6 against them. We needed this one bad.”

For those who doubted the Hoosiers, who saw frailty in close road losses, this is a new era, a new team under coach Mike Woodson. They are 14-4 overall, 5-3 in the Big Ten with a pair of top-15 victories on their resume (they’d beaten No. 12 Ohio State a few weeks earlier).

They held the Big Ten’s top-scoring team to 21 points below its average.

“We have great talent,” Johnson said in a voice so hoarse it was as if someone had raked his vocal cords with sandpaper. “We all competed and got the job done. I’m at a loss of words with how happy I am.”

Words were left for Phinisee, a former Lafayette-area high school standout who could finally silence all those who have given him grief over the last four years.

“Every time I would go home,” he said, “I had people talk trash to me. I needed to get one.”

This career-high 20-point performance — and third game-winning shot of his IU career — started with a conversation hours before the game, when Phinisee and Woodson met one on one.

“He told me that if no one is in your corner, I am,” Phinisee said.

Added Woodson: “We had a beautiful conversation. Sometimes you have to have a man-to-man talk, and he responded. It was nice to see him perform. It was beautiful to watch.”

Beauty started with Phinisee making his first five shots. By halftime he had 17 points, one shy of his career high. It was huge for a guy who had scored a total of two points in his previous two games.

Then, for nearly all of the second half, no points.

But in the closing seconds, with IU down two and everything at stake, Phinisee had a message for his coach.

“He said give me the ball,” Woodson said. “Run a play for me.”

IU ran it. Phinisee missed, but Purdue knocked the ball out of bounds. IU retained possession. The Hoosiers ran a second play, Phinisee got a second chance from the corner and buried a contested three-pointer.

“It was the biggest shot of the night,” Woodson said.

Added Phinisee: “We just wanted to win the game, so I hit the big shot.”

Big shots had rarely fallen this season. He averaged 4.6 points and shot 28.8 percent from the field. Still, Woodson wasn’t about to give up on him.

“I tell him, you can do your thing. It’s okay to be good. It’s okay to be great.

“He’s had his ups and downs, but tonight he was one a mission.”

Phinisee wasn’t alone. Hoosier heroes were everywhere you looked.

Johnson had 18 points, four rebounds and two assists. Forward Race Thompson had nine points and eight rebounds. Guard Trey Galloway had eight points, four rebounds and two assists.

Then there was 7-foot reserve center Michael Durr, whose four points, two blocks, two steals and solid inside defense in 24 minutes were huge given Jackson-Davis was limited by foul trouble to four points and 11 minutes.

“Mike stepped up,” Woodson said. “That was the most he’s played. He gave us positive minutes. We’ll need more of that. He answered the challenge.”

IU had a season-low three turnovers. It had a 15-5 edge in points off turnovers.

“It’s all about these 17 guys,” Woodson said. “Any time you beat Purdue, it’s special. They got it done. I couldn’t be more proud of a team. They played their hearts out.”

IU rocked Purdue with a 13-0 first-half run fueled by Phinisee sharp shooting and defense no offense wants to face. Only 8-for-16 free-throw shooting kept the Hoosiers from a double-digit halftime lead.

With Jackson-Davis picking up two early fouls, Purdue shot to a 16-8 lead. That sent him to the bench and Durr into action.

Then Phinisee came in and turned into a Boiler destroyer. His 13 straight points on 5-for-5 shooting pulled IU within a point at 22-21 with 7:11 left in the half.

The Hoosiers tied it at 24-24 a minute later on a Jordan Geronimo dunk. A Galloway free throw gave them their first lead at 25-24.

IU forced a couple of more turnovers, got a couple of more baskets and six free throws for a 35-24 lead.

The Hoosiers ended with a 37-28 halftime lead behind Phinisee’s 17 points on 7-for-10 shooting.

Purdue’s Jaden Ivey opened the second half with a pair of three-pointers. In less than five minutes, IU’s lead was down to a point at 43-42.

Adding to the challenge – Jackson-Davis picked up his third foul and was back on the bench.

Durr’s 18-foot jumper showed he was ready. Parker Stewart followed with a steal and two free throws. Johnson beat the shot clock with a turn-around three-pointer. IU was up 50-42.

Another Johnson three-pointer gave the Hoosiers a 57-49 lead with just over 10 minutes left.

Back came the Boilers. They trailed 59-58 with 7:40 left. In came Jackson-Davis. A minute later, he picked up his fourth foul, and came out again.
Purdue tied it at 63-63 as the clock approached three minutes.

Jackson-Davis returned. Purdue had a pair of empty possessions. Jackson-Davis drove and was fouled by Williams. He missed both free throws.
Purdue scored for a 65-63 lead. IU missed a layup. The Boilers missed a couple of inside shots. The Hoosiers got the ball with 33.2 seconds left down 65-63.

Phinisee’s three-pointer and a pair of Jackson-Davis free throws put IU ahead 68-65. Purdue had a final chance, but Ivey’s last-second three-point attempt spun out, and the fans stormed the court.

“Phinisee got hot,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “It was a big-time shot.”

IU’s celebration will only last a day. It hosts Michigan on Sunday.

“It feels good,” Johnson said, “but it’s only one win. We have a lot more to go.”

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