Poll Dancing: A Turning Point?
This season, our Boilers haven't been much of a finishing team. They've run out to big leads and lost them, they've fought back against teams only to go cold in crunch time, and they've let opponents score far too many points in the second halves of many games. Last night was not much different, and it felt like the cousin of the soul-crusher versus Iowa last month...Then AJ Hammons happened.
Purdue fans get flat-out pissed when talking about Purdue's legit All-America candidate center. They lament that he doesn't have a motor, that his consistency is lacking and that his passion for the game is sometimes non-existent. Last night wasn't one of those nights...and it was obvious.
In the second half, following giving up a 16 point lead, Purdue needed somebody, ANYBODY to step up score a bucket. Hammons did that. And when the lid stayed on the bucket and Coach Paint's late timeouts led to some of the worst offensive possessions of the season, Hammons was there again, ripping down boards while Spartans hung on him and forcing two and nearly three MSU bigs to foul out.
The box score looks good for AJ...because it was. He scored 19 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, blocked 8 shots and even dealt 2 assists for good measure. When the really bright lights are on, some guys thrive...Hammons is one of those. A top-10 foe in the friendly and deafeningly-loud confines of Mackey Arena woke the beast up and helped propel the Boilers to a signature win.
Did we witness a turning point in which RayDavis once again becomes a scorer? I dunno about that. He was shooting the lights out...and Painter smartly allowed him to stay in while his hand was white hot. The results were good. Hopefully, Coach Paint continues this trend by allowing Purdue's other shooters to get into a groove with a bit more PT in longer stretches. I still don't understand the substitution patterns.
If Purdue goes on to earn a top-3 seed in the dance, you can say you remember the moment when things turned around- when Hammons fought off three Spartans on two occasions to rip down two or three really important rebounds. Hopefully, we've witnessed the second turning point of the season...this one much more positive in nature...the other side of the bookend collapses at Mackey; this one with a happy ending.
Due to work travel, I didn't get to publish the Boiled Sports Composite Ranking at the top of the week...better late than never, I guess.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Purdue holds relatively solid BSCR of 17. Keep in mind that none of the polls have updated since Tuesday afternoon...and the human polls obviously haven't changed since Monday. If they can win in Ann Arbor and kick a struggling Wolverine squad in the gut while on the road, they'll probably be flirting with the top-10 come Monday.
Stay tuned...crunch time is around the corner.