Purdue Escapes The Barn with a 68-64 Win over Minnesota
Starters: PJ Thompson, Dakota Mathias, Ray Davis, Vince Edwards, AJ Hammons
Finishers: PJ Thompson, Johnny Hill, Ray Davis, Vince Edwards, AJ Hammons
Good lord, I have no idea. Purdue won at Minnesota’s Barn of Horrors, 68-64.
In a game that should have been a drowsy victory, the Boilers decided to make everyone sweat a little bit by allowing the Golden Gophers to go on three separate 10-2 runs to keep the game uncomfortably close.
Now, Purdue was missing two key cogs: Kendall Stephens didn’t make the road trip because of the death of a high school teammate, and Caleb Swanigan was hobbled with a twisted ankle from the first half of the Iowa loss this past Sunday. Even so, Minnesota had lost 12 of their last 13 games, are comprised entirely of freshman of sophomores, and are coached by a dude that might not actually know how to coach. This should have been an easy victory…but boy are road wins tough to come by in the Big Ten.
Purdue started off quickly on the backs of Vince Edwards and AJ Hammons, a sentence I’ll never grow tired of typing. Unfortunately, it was immediately followed up by a barrage of early shot clock jumpers and missed layups that allowed Minnesota to claw their way back. With Ray Davis finally looking like Ray Davis again (at least, when he was driving to the basket…not when he was getting blown by on defense), Purdue still maintained a double digit lead.
That is, right until Minnesota went on a run to close the first half. Every single basket Minnesota tallied during the final 7 minutes of the first half was either scored or assisted by guard Nate Mason (4 points and 5 assists during that stretch). He absolutely picked apart Purdue’s defense with his high pick and roll passing, and continued his borderline breakout year with a fantastic performance (15 points, 12 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 turnover). Keep your eye on him, because Richard Pitino could have found a diamond in Georgia.
The most frustrating statistic from the first half: Minnesota was outscoring Purdue in the paint, 18-12, despite losing the rebounding battle 20-12. AJ’s turnover issues, Haas’ general ineffectiveness, and the Gophers’ pick and roll wizardry helped pad those numbers, but it wasn’t pretty to watch. Nevertheless, Purdue couldn’t catch a break and was still up by 7 with 20 minutes to play. Sometimes talent is a fun thing to have.
Davis, Edwards, and Hammons helped Purdue get out to a decent start to the second half, but Mason’s incredible play continued to overwhelm the Boilers’ defense. Minnesota was capitalizing off of an incredible amount of off-ball cuts to the rim, and Purdue’s defensive rotations looked lost all night. Minnesota did a particularly good job attacking Dakota Mathias and Ryan Cline, and both were several steps too slow tonight.
But, like he has all season, AJ Hammons’ calm post-ups kept Purdue’s lead every time Minnesota made a run. Two shots in particular, at the 14:54 and 8:26 minute marks of the second half, were crucial in keeping Purdue’s lead intact. That second shot was assisted by Vince Edwards, who proceeded to take over and hit a dagger of a three at the 4:41 mark and two game-clinching free throws following a defensive rebound with 7 seconds left. Vince did commit 3 brutal turnovers during that stretch, but Purdue won (and it turns out he suffered a bruised knee during the Iowa game) so life is good.
Player of the Game:
Vince Edwards finished with 24 points (14 in the first half) on 8/15 shooting, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals (with 5 turnovers, but still). Vince started the season pretty slow, with uneven numbers to show for it. In the first 16 games of the season, Vince only had six 10+ point games, and had 10+ field goal attempts only once.
Now, check out these lines from the last five games:
Beautiful. Aggressive Vince showed up for the 5th game in a row, and it was super fun, and I hope this is the Vince we get night in and night out until he is drafted #1 overall in the 2017 NBA draft and I’m sitting right next to him in the green room crying and hugging everyone as he puts on that blue and gold Indiana Pacers hat.
The game was over when…
…Minnesota had the ball, down by two, and Carlos Morris (a 38% three point shooter) lined up for a three at the top of the key with 22 seconds left. And then Ray Davis did Ray Davis things.
· AJ freaking Hammons is a bulldozing monster, man. Yes, there were frustrations on defense, particularly in the pick and roll (see The Ugly section). But every single time Purdue needed a bucket to end a Minnesota run, AJ came through. He finished with 16 points on 7/14 shooting, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks, not to mention a one-handed rebound that received an instant-entry into the Purdue GIF Hall of Fame. (See below.)
· Winning on the road in the Big Ten. It’s ugly, it’s gross, nobody should watch it, and a doctor should probably check it out and provide some sort of ointment to soothe the pain. But Purdue got the W, and doesn’t have to think about the Barn anymore.
· Ray Davis is back. The Captain broke out of a brutal funk with 10 points on 5/8 shooting, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 game-saving block, and a few confident drives to the basket that I haven’t seen from him in a solid month. He also had one of his physics-defying drives, which is always fun.
· 79% from the free throw line. Thank the heavens.
· Winning the rebounding battle despite not having Caleb Swanigan in the lineup.
· Kendall Stephens going through what he’s going through. Nobody should have to bury their 20 year old child, or their 20 year old sibling, or their 20 year old friend. It’s not fair, and I hope Kid Stephens gets through this as best as he can.
· Purdue fans begging for Basil Smotherman, not realizing that he would play maaaaaybe 5 minutes per game and further muck up the wing rotations and hurt Purdue’s spacing even more. Such a short-sighted complaint, especially when he can step into a 30 minute per game role for two more years.
· 10 turnovers between Hammons and Edwards. They were the stars of this game, and were easily the two best players of the night (with apologies to Nate Mason), but Purdue can’t have that many careless mistakes from
· PJ Thompson, Ryan Cline, and Isaac Haas. Rough games from some very good players, combining for 6 points on 11% shooting. I was fairly surprised that Coach Painter shortened the frontcourt rotation this much, especially while short-handed, but Hammons looked fantastic offensively tonight and Haas looked fairly lost.
· BTN’s “Technical Difficulties” screen making its daily appearance.
· WHY ARE WE LETTING ROBBIE HUMMEL GET ANYWHERE CLOSE TO THE BARN WHEN HE STILL WANTS TO PLAY BASKETBALL FOR A LIVING AND JUST GET THROUGH LIFE WITHOUT SUFFERING A DEBILITATING INJURY OH GOD WHY.
· Purdue defending the pick and roll at the top of the key. Somehow, possession after possession, the Gopher big would end up rolling down the middle of the lane without anyone trailing him, and would end up with an easy dunk. This is exactly how teams take Hammons’ rim protection out of the game, and Minny sure as hell capitalized. Don’t ask me why no adjustments were made to stop this play that Nate Mason and Dupree McBrayer ran again and again and again, to the count of 17 assists between the two of them.
· About 900 missed layups in the first half. *vomits*
· Theories that Purdue might be better without Biggie Swanigan. Turns out a five-star, rebounding machine of a power forward is a good thing to have on your basketball team. Get outta here with those hot takes.
· Defense from Cline and Mathias every time Minnesota attacked them in isolation. Pitino isn’t a great coach, but he did a fantastic job exploiting these mismatches and forcing Hammons out of the paint.
Moving Picture Thingy of the Night:
Sometimes it’s really hard to pick a highlight for this category. And sometimes AJ Hammons grabs one-handed rebounds because he’s holding his shoe in the other hand.
Tweet of the night: