Wednesday, February 08, 2012
Coming into this game, I was all but positive that aOSU's horses would be able to push Purdue around and simply pound them into submission...but Purdue played their best two halves of the season and nearly found a way to beat the Nuts at home for the second time in two years.
Smith and LewJack didn't start; I presume as a message to the two that poor effort would yield consequence...and the team responded to the idea. Purdue played crisp, disciplined and tough (after a slow start). While they were out-rebounded, they weren't out-hustled...and offensively, a few guys reminded us just why we're so pissed off that this team hasn't won more games this year.
Byrd looked determined and looked for his shot...at the half, he was near his career high with 17 points. He finished with 24 points and 6 rebounds while going 7/9 from three. Kelsey Barlow took advantage of his length and size against Craft all day. He drove and finished strong and didn't accept easy threes...And finished with 14pts, 3ast and 2 steals...and one of those finishes was one of the best dunks of the college basketball season as he and Sullinger got intimate.
LewJack had 14 and 4...and doesn't get a lot of calls while driving. But when he did tonight, he hit is free throws (6-6)...and the Boilers shot 68% from the stripe; better than many nights this season. Hummel finished with 13 and 8...but got cold down the stretch and Smith finished with 9 and was 2/3 from three.
Let's make no bones about it, it's always tough to win on the road in the B1G. The hostile crowd and even more-hostile officiating are two things you can count on while away from home. The Discount Arena hasn't seen a visitor leave with a victory since our Boilers did it in '10...and they nearly did it again tonight by playing like they needed it; which they did. But in spite of playing their best two consecutive halves of the season, The Forces of Good came up short. But if they play with the focus, effort and fight we saw tonight, they'll finish this season with some big wins; which they simply must earn to get into the dance.
My thought is that Matty's squad must beat the teams they should (Northwestern, Nebraska and Penn State) then steal one from one of the ranked opponents to get into the dance. Granted, there's no guaranteed formula...but 19 wins out of the B1G and a .500 record in conference will probably get the job done.
There are no moral victories...but perhaps Matty can point to this one to remind the team that they can play with anyone in the nation when they play the game the right way...which they simply haven't done for much of the season.
Next up, Northwestern comes to Mackey on Sunday.