First of all, Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Thanks for coming to the site.
Purdue’s second half surge wasn’t enough to beat Marcus Smart, Markel Brown and the OK State Cowboys, finishing strong but ultimately falling short, with a final score of 97-87. I know I sound a bit deflated...but keep reading. The good stuff is at the bottom.
OK State was aggressive from the tip-off, with Smart and Brown doing most of their early work driving to the paint, and the refs were quick with their whistles. Purdue spent most of the first half trying to adjust to these quick fouls, and OK State was ruthless in capitalizing on the confusion. With a few spectacular plays (and more than a few beneficial calls), OK State dominated the first half on the back of 20 points from Smart. Play became very choppy, and Purdue devolved into some very uninspired basketball. Early sets were mostly dribble drive (Bryson ain’t scared of nobody), but as the deficit got larger, Ronnie Johnson and Bryson Scott started settling for contested long jumpers. But with players like Smart and Brown feeling it, Purdue fans started to feel the inevitable first loss creeping slowly closer.
Late in the first half, OK State’s Kamari Murphy drew a foul on Jay Simpson, and some unpunished OK State taunting got under Jay’s skin. An ill-advised neck shove earned Jay a Flagrant 2 and automatic ejection. It was a harsh call (a double technical would have been more appropriate for that moment) but Jay took the altercation to the next level with the shove. He forced the officials into a tough decision, and that’s really all that matters. Jay can’t lose his cool when he’s such a big part of the game plan, especially against an OK State team with a (relative) weakness in the paint. Before getting ejected, he was showing some great activity on defense and could have been a difference-maker in the second half. Very poor form on his part.
Despite trailing by 23, Purdue came out of the halftime locker room firing on all cylinders. Ronnie Johnson led the charge, attacking Smart every time he had a chance. OK State was giving RJ and TJ plenty of room to work, and both capitalized on their opportunities. But, spoiler alert, Smart and Brown and the rest of OK State’s perimeter attack are really really really good. They attacked Purdue in NBA-style sets, finishing four straight possessions with thunderous dunks and baiting RJ into foul trouble.
Thankfully, Big Ten Freshman of the Week Bryson Scott is an absolutely monster. He started attacking OK State the second he got off the bench, and was the reason we chipped away at OK State’s lead. His toughness is absolutely contagious, and got Smart a little frustrated. The straw that broke Smart’s back was a touch foul on Hammons in the post, and he said something to the officials that drew him a friendly technical. With 4 fouls, Smart earned himself a spot on the bench for a while…and Purdue started their run.
RJ made some fantastic decisions, dishing off to Peck and Terone Johnson who finished big time plays. That one-two punch of RJ and Bryson attacking (and hitting clutch free throws) is an amazing weapon to have, and will definitely win us a few Big Ten games this year.
A double-tech on RJ and Brown (for some bologna reason) threatened to slow our run, but Bryson the Bulldog kept attacking the basket and good things kept happening. And then…all of a sudden…THE KID KENDALL STEPHENS HIT A MONSTER THREE FROM ANTARCTICA, Basil Smotherman hustled for a put-back and Purdue pulled itself within four points.
But, unfortunately, Smart and Brown kept their composure and continued to attack the paint. (This is where I put a sentence about Simpson really helping beef-up our inside presence with Hammons, but I’m too angry at that idiotic shove and excessive flagrant call to write anything coherent). Bryson kept attacking the basket (finishing with a Purdue-high 18 points and 6-7 from the line), but the hole we dug ourselves in the first half was too deep against this unbelievably talented OK State squad.
Quick whistles and trash talking aside, this game showed a tremendous amount of growth from Purdue’s young players. RJ and Scott are unbelievable with the ball, and seem to have Coach Painter’s complete trust. Errick Peck (12 points) and Sterling Carter were steadying presences during OK State runs. Smotherman, Ray Davis, and Travis Carroll (who played Simpson’s minutes after the ejection) were hustling for every 50-50 ball…but were responsible for a few unforced turnovers. THE KID CAN SHOOT FROM ANYWHERE ON THE COURT (I’m sorry…I love gunners). And, most of all, Purdue showed the kind of grit that was completely absent on our team last year. There is a lot to be thankful for in Purdue’s 2013-2014 roster, and the ability to hang punch-for-punch with a top 5 team could foreshadow some great things later this year.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Enjoy the stuffing, be generous with your helpings of gravy, and be happy that you can root for this fun team.