I've been looking forward to this one for a while...The anticipation almost feels like a football game- the week planned out quite nicely as Iowa was little more than a speed bump for the train that seems to be gaining momentum with each contest. But before we focus on the game at 6:30, let's look back to not-so-long ago.
Purdue had just come off of a loss at Wisconsin after winning 14-straight. Their next opponent was the limping Buckeyes. Evan Turner was banged-up, Matta's team was in desperate need of a win and the angry Boilers were coming back to God's country to hopefully get back on track. We all know that didn't happen. Dallas Lauderdale took it right at JJ...and JJ responded poorly. He played one of his worst games, offensively at least, as a starter at Purdue, I'd argue. The Ostrich went crazy in the first half, ended with 35, but really, this game was Evan Turner's. After miraculously healing, Turner didn't show any ill effects of his time off WITH A BROKEN BACK and got stronger down the stretch as he put the game away and kicked Purdue in the collective ribs in the closing minutes of the contest.
That game still stings, if you ask me.
And, if you ask your fellow Purdue fans, most think it's the worst loss this season- At home, playing with a lead and giving it away...not what a team full of veterans is supposed to do.
But the season is different now than it was a month ago. Sure, Purdue has gone on a bit of a run, but much of the national media tells me the conference race is aOSU's to lose. They're right...this Bucknut team is finally living up to its billing- they have a ton of talent, they're confident and they're using it well. From Diebler hitting the big shots...to Turner doing everything well...to Buford blossoming into a special player...to Lighty being the straw that stirs the drink and making everyone around him better...to Lauderdale becoming as intimidating as he looks...at least on the glass. This is a team is chocked-full of blue chips and they're playing like it.
Make no mistake, Purdue's the underdog.
Matty and this great Junior class hasn't cracked the code of Value City Arena...heck, no Purdue team has. In spite of aOSU needing to go two-for-one to get the sellouts, it's been a house of horrors for our Boilers...that's gotta change eventually, right?
I like this Purdue team with its back against the wall. I like this team when it needs to exact revenge...but I don't like some of the matchup problems that the length on this Buckeye lineup creates.
So what will it take for the black and gold to finally win in Columbus? I think it's simple- everyone needs to know their role. Kramer needs to have 3 steals, a couple points and solidify his reputation as the most-hated man in BT arenas. The Ostrich doesn't need to score 35, but an efficient 17 with 7 rebounds and a few assists will suffice. Smooge needs to look for his shot, as he's one of the few guys on the team that attacks the game offensively. But most-importantly, JJ's gotta play aggressively. He's 6'10", but he can sometimes play like he's 7'1"...and others, like he's 5'10". If he makes the decision to be great and fight through what Lauderdale's dealing out, Purdue will be in great shape as they heads back toward God's country on Wednesday night.
Pay special attention to LewJack as well...I think the old mojo that he and JJ had last season is starting to get magical again.
But as a team, they simply must finish strong...and a strong finish v. aOSU will almost-assuredly mean a strong finish for the BT season.