Purdue security guard Sasha Stefanovic loves to hear the booing every time he plays in the Assembly Hall.
The only sound Stefanovic appreciates more is the silence of 17,000 screaming Indiana fans as he celebrates another win.
While everyone understands that Thursday night's empty arena won't provide the traditional raucous atmosphere of this highly anticipated game, Stefanovic knows one thing won't change: the intensity of this rivalry.
"You should hate each other," he said Wednesday. "It's just that way and it will always be. Fans or no fans, it doesn't matter. Both teams really want to win, we both need that victory. We're both physical, both strong, we'll both go after you. So fans or no fans, the rivalry is still there. ”
Stefanovic understands why so many people in the state of Indiana invest in these games.
He grew up in Crown Point, a small town in northeast Indiana. Purdue was his dream school, although he often played alongside future Hoosiers such as 2018 teammate Grant Gelon and Indiana All-Stars Damezi Anderson, Romeo Langford and Rob Phinisee. Only Phinisee, who grew up in the shadow of Purdue's West Lafayette campus, is still on the Indiana roster.
But it's not just in-state guys, like Stefanovic, who get it. Outsiders are also learning the nuances of one of college basketball's fiercest rivalries.
"It's Indiana," said Trevion Williams, Purdue & # 39; s all-conference attacker from Chicago. "It's a game we have to win, it's a game we have to be ready for. It's probably going to be one of the most physical games we'll be playing all season."
Nationally, the Indiana-Purdue match can look like it has lost some shine.
Things have changed a lot since the must-watch TV days of the 1980s and 1990s, when the kettle makers, Hoosiers and their boisterous, iconic coaches routinely competed for Big Ten titles and in-state recruits.
In a season where as many as nine Big Ten teams have already been ranked in The Associated Press' weekly poll, neither the Boilermakers (8-5, 3-3) nor the Hoosiers (8-5, 3-3) have made the Top 25.
Still, it would be a mistake to write them off with more than half the conference schedule left to play. Purdue and Indiana trail No. 9 Wisconsin with one game, No. 14 Illinois with 1 1/2 games, and No. 5 Iowa with two games. That means Thursday's winner will have the momentum to move up the leaderboard.
And in Indiana, this is never just any game.
"I think all coaches would agree that playing at home (without fans) is a huge disadvantage," said Hoosiers coach Archie Miller. "We haven't played many home games, but I think it will be disappointing that we will not have fans for it. In games like this I think both teams are focused on themselves and you should be ready to roll."
For Miller, the Purdue games were filled with consternation.
He's lost all six matchups since taking the IU job in 2017, although Indiana's struggles predate his arrival. Indiana has lost 10 of the last 11 to Purdue, and its seven-game losing streak is the longest in the streak since 1968-72.
Indiana guard Armaan Franklin could also miss his third game in a row with a sprained ankle. Miller called it a game-time decision.
A Purdue win would give the Boilermakers a chance to equal the school record with a ninth straight win in the March 6 rematch at Mackey Arena. The last time it happened was from 1929-35.
In addition, this season's two games are of additional interest after the football game between the two schools was canceled twice due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
So how can the Hoosiers get things started? By making some noise on Thursday evening.
“With Trey (Galloway), Anthony (Leal), Khristian (Lander), they all don't know what it's like to lose from (Purdue) and they don't want to continue that tradition,” Indiana forward Trayce said Jackson-Davis, referring to the freshmen of the Hoosiers. "The only way to do that is to beat them."