Purdue guard Sasha Stefanovic enjoys hearing the boos every time he plays at Assembly Hall.

The only sound Stefanovic appreciates more is the silence of 17,000 screaming Indiana fans as he celebrates another victory.

While everyone understands Thursday nights empty arena will not provide the traditional raucous atmosphere of this highly anticipated game, Stefanovic knows one thing wont change the intensity of this rivalry.

Youre supposed to dislike each other, he said Wednesday. Thats just how it is and thats how it always will be. Fans or no fans, it doesnt matter. Both teams really want to get a win, we both need that win. Were both physical, both tough, were both going to get after you. So fans or no fans, the rivalry is still there.

Stefanovic understands why so many people around the state of Indiana are invested in these games.

He grew up in Crown Point, a small city in northeastern Indiana. Purdue was his dream school, though he often found himself playing alongside future Hoosierssuch as high school teammate Grant Gelon and 2018 Indiana All-Stars Damezi Anderson, Romeo Langford and Rob Phinisee. Only Phinisee, who grew up in the shadow of Purdues campus in West Lafayette, is still on theIndiana roster.

But its not just in-state guys,such as Stefanovic, who get it. Outsiders learn the nuances of one of college basketballs fiercest rivalries, too.

Its Indiana, said Trevion Williams, Purdues all-conference forward who came from Chicago. Its a game weve got to win, its a game weve got to be ready for. It will probably be one of the most physical games well play all season.

Nationally, the Indiana-Purdue matchup may look like it has lost some luster.

Things have changed mightily since the must-see television days of the 1980s and 1990s, when the Boilermakers, Hoosiers and their vociferous, iconic coaches routinely battled for Big Ten titles and in-state recruits.

In a season where as many as nine Big Ten teams already have been ranked in The Associated Press weekly poll, neither the Boilermakers (8-5, 3-3) nor the Hoosiers (8-5, 3-3) have cracked the Top 25.

Still, writing them off with more than half of the conference schedule still to play would be a mistake. Purdue and Indiana trail No. 9 Wisconsin by one game, No. 14 Illinois by 1 1/2 games and No. 5 Iowa by two games. That means Thursdays winner will have the momentum to make a move up the standings.

And in Indiana, this is never just another game.

I think all coaches would agree playing at home (without fans) is a huge disadvantage, Hoosiers coach Archie Miller said. We havent played a ton of home games, but I think it will be disappointing we wont have fans for one. In this type of game, I think both teams are focused on themselves and you have to be ready to roll.

For Miller, the Purdue games have been filled with consternation.

Hes lost all six matchups since taking theIU job in 2017, though Indianas struggles predate his arrival. Indiana has lost 10 of the last 11 to Purdue, and the seven-game losing streak is its longest in the series since 1968-72.

Indiana guard Armaan Franklin could miss his third straight game with a sprained ankle, too. Miller called it a game-time decision.

A Purdue win, meanwhile, would give the Boilermakers a chance to tie the school record with a ninth consecutive victory in the March 6 rematch at Mackey Arena. The last time it happened came from 1929-35.

Plus, this seasons two contests come with added importance after the football game between the two schools was canceled twice because of a COVID-19 outbreak.

So how can the Hoosiers stir things up? By making some noise Thursday night.

With Trey (Galloway), Anthony (Leal), Khristian (Lander), all of them, they dont know what its like to lose to (Purdue) and they dont want to continue that tradition, Indiana forward Trayce Jackson-Davis said, referring to the Hoosiers freshmen. The only way to do that is to beat them.

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Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by PaprClips.
Publisher: FOXSPORTS

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