Boilers Bounce Buckeyes

Boilers Bounce Buckeyes

I was a Freshman at Purdue…and Glenn Robinson was wearing gold and black the last time the Forces of Good started 17-3. Late Thursday evening, these Boilers matched that start with an ugly 11 point win over sweaty Thad Matta’s Buckeyes.

Purdue started the game 0-8 from three point range as Ohio State absolutely shot the lights out. Every loose ball, it seemed, ended up in the hands of the guys in the ugly scarlet uniforms…and when things were at their worst for Purdue in the first half, Purdue was only down eight points (but it felt worse). Thanks to a tenacious effort on the glass by Biggie and others in the florescent yellow socks, as well as some great post play by Haas, Purdue was only down three points at the half.

In the second half of Purdue’s Hammer Down Cancer night, Purdue’s shooting woes continued, but at the same time, RayDay and company tightened up on the defensive side of the court. Purdue’s defensive rotations got quicker, so aOSU cooled off a bit…which was a nice change. And as the game began to look like an old school Big Ten beat-em-up, grind-you-down game, the biggest Boiler flexed his muscle in the post with an array of post moves. Haas finished with 10 points in about 11 minutes of play.

Purdue scrapped hard…but the turning point was Cline’s three pointer that put the good guys up 53-52. For the next 9:06, Matty’s squad kept the Nuts at greater than an arm’s length. PJ Thompson’s two three pointers in the closing minutes were clutch…The Sophomore point guard finished the game with 12 points on 2/3 three pointers, and made all six of his free throw attempts. He also had three steals, an assist and no turnovers in 23 solid minutes of play.

Hill on his hustle...

Hill on his hustle...

The other PG for the Boilers, Johnny Hill started the game…and actually, one of Purdue’s most effective line-ups included both Thompson and Hill. Hill had 8 points, 2 assists and 0 turnovers, like Thompson…but his hustle and effort set a tone that helped the Boilers out-grit a determined aOSU squad.

It was a weird game- Purdue won 75-64, and in spite of having the lead for nearly half of the second half, it didn’t feel safe because Purdue never really got into a tremendous offensive rhythm. So what made this one different from the Butler or Iowa games? Well, in short, Purdue counter-punched. In all three of these games, Purdue’s opponent played hard defense. But in this game Purdue out-fought their opponent and didn’t succumb to traps (like they did v. Iowa) or start forcing dumb shots (as they did versus Butler). While the game was somewhat tough to watch, it was a sign of progress. Sure, Ohio State isn’t great this season, but they’re loaded with talent and well-coached.

Caleb Swanigan had his 7th double-double of his young career, and finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds…and only two turnovers. When Purdue loses, Biggie is a bit of a turnover machine…perhaps this is another sign of progress?

Edwards looked great while attacking the bucket, but didn’t shoot too well. He finished with 12 & 7, but had 3 turnovers of his own. Like many of his teammates, Edwards shot his FTs well (4-4). The only member of Purdue’s game-changing frontcourt that I haven’t mentioned is the All-America candidate, Hambone…he finished with a workmanlike 16 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks to lead all scorers.

Purdue hit a lot of free throws, 25 in fact (80.6% of their freebies)…and that mattered. Ohio State’s athleticism and length forced Purdue’s three biggest defensive liabilities (who happen to be their three three point specialists) to stay on the bench for long stretches. Stephens only played five minutes, Cline played eight minutes, Mathias played 14…the sharpshooters combined for just three points…Purdue had to find points someplace, the did that at the stripe.

Purdue also out-rebounded Brutus 37-30 which is quite noteworthy since Ohio State was so packed in on defense. Swanigan and Hammons specifically, just muscled their way to quite a few rebounds that should have been Ohio State’s.

You might notice that I’ve only mentioned Ray Davis once…he didn’t play that great, offensive or defensively. In fact, he looked pretty bad at times on defense in the first half. At the same time, he can’t really find a groove offensively- he’s not the slasher that he used to be, and isn’t the shooter that he was earlier this season. Sure, it could be just a slump, but it doesn’t feel like that.

It’s really great to see Purdue being able to handle a trapping press with relative ease…it’s really tough to watch this Purdue offense struggle so mightily over and over (except for when they play Rutgers). Honestly though, I don’t care if the offense is ugly…if they win.

After a short rest, Matty’s boys travel to Iowa on Saturday to attempt to avenge the gut punch that Fran and Co. put on them a few weeks ago. Iowa is the best team in the league, in spite of what a handful of delusional IU fans say. The top-10 ranked Hawkeyes are legit and they have a ton of momentum following their somewhat shocking sweep of MSU. But if Purdue wants to earn a top-3 seed in the tournament, they kinda have to beat Iowa, Maryland and/or MSU. With the B1G down quite a bit this season, there simply aren’t a ton of chances for our Boilers to make up for the shellacking that Illinois gave them.

The last time Purdue started 17-3, they finished the season with a number 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and an Elite 8 appearance. That team beat some really good teams on the way to March…it’s time for this team to do the same so comparisons like this can actually mean something.

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