|"This way to victory."|
Byrd started off by simply shredding the nets from three, scoring 20 points in the first half alone. Sure, he only finished with 22...but he had 7 reb, 2ast and 2stls to go along with his game-high points.
Purdue didn't hit everything from the free throw line, but hitting 71% of your FTs is a ton better than around 50%, which is what they had shot the last few big games...and the shoe was on the other foot, with the Tigers only hitting 55% of their freebies.
Purdue's lead got as big as 20 and our Boilers were in complete control for the middle 20 minutes...but the game got tighter, at least for a few mintes, late in the second half. But each time it looked like Purdue might lose it's grip, the Boilers would pull down a key rebound or close out Clemson to keep them from getting an open look at the bucket.
TJohn had a couple clutch buckets and played cool under pressure...he ended the game with 13 and 6. While his cool demeanor helped keep Clemson at an arm's length, both AJ and Byrd struggled a bit with Clemson's press...something that Purdue will see a lot of until they figure out how to beat it consistently. But RonJohn looked better against the trap than he did in NY...off the bench, he had 10 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists...and just one turnover. But overall, once again, Purdue had a few too many turnovers; 13.
AJ Hammons started the game, and had another good one. His combination of size and strength will eventually make him nearly unstoppable...as for now, we'll have to deal with him being just pretty damned good. He had 10 points, 6 reb, 2 ast, and 2 blocks. The starting line-up of Hammons, Lawson, Byrd, AJ and TJohn was solid...the coaches might have found the combo as RonJohn was sixth man...and was solid in the role.
Purdue won the rebounding battle by 15 (38-23)...and the bench got a bit shorter as Painter only went 10 deep...and Simpson and Davis only played two minutes each.
While Clemson was without one of their starters, that wasn't the only story. Purdue built a lead and forced Clemson to shoot the three more than they probably would've liked to...but unlike the games v. Oregon State and Villanova, Matty's boys were defending the three much better...and really were just playing better defense. Purdue did a lot more correctly than they had been in their last two losses, and go figure, they end up getting a 12-point road win.
The six days between games clearly helped Purdue figure some things out- the half court offense looked very crisp at times...and Purdue seemed to show a match-up zone at one point in the second half. Overall, they were solid and finished strong after building a big lead. Who knows if this is just an uptick in a roller coaster season or a turning point...regardless, it was a much-needed win.
Next up, they'll host Xavier at Mackey on Saturday.