Boilers Rout UM by 17; Move to Conference Tourney Finals
I said privately to several members of the BS staff that once the path became Illinois followed by MIchigan that Purdue really had no excuse not to be in the tourney finals. That’s not to say Illinois or UM couldn’t beat Purdue -- we all know from experience this very season that they absolutely could. But that if Purdue is what we all hope they are and what they ranking and record suggest they may be, well, then these two games should really be wins.
Hammons, Edwards, Swanigan, Thompson, and Mathias are playing the best basketball of their careers right now. that's fun.— Aneesh Ramaswamy (@aneeshswamy) March 12, 2016
This is a good point. And when you add that in, Purdue really had reason to be excited. Then they went out and followed up their 31 point whipping of the Illini with a 17 point dismantling of a pretty good Michigan squad.
So how is everyone feeling?
Everything is cool when you’re part of this team. Or so it seems.
These guys like each other so much and it makes us all love them that much more. And this is why I say to you again, enjoy this. Drink it in, friends. Because AJ and Ray are only on the floor for Purdue a precious few more times. Tomorrow in the BTT final followed by however long the NCAA tourney lasts for Purdue. And then this fun is over. While I think many of us do appreciate AJ, I’m not sure everyone realizes just how much we’re going to miss him. He’s so polished right now, so confident, so driven. Purdue has the luxury of having a slick, 7-foot senior center out there in crunch time. They have the luxury of giving him the ball to AJ down low and knowing he’ll either score or get fouled and make his free throws. More on this later.
In today’s game, I wouldn’t say the Boilers came out flat by any means but they didn’t come out super-sharp. That said, Michigan came out kind of clumsy and the Boilers bounced out to an 8-0 lead, which is always nice to almost have a double digit lead out of the chute. The Maize and Blue came alive, though, and it wound up a pretty even half. As the first half wound down, though, Purdue had a 38-30 lead. I don’t know about you, but it felt to me like it should have been a big larger. Purdue had some sloppy turnovers -- Vince in particular had a couple of boneheaded ones -- but an eight point lead at the half when you hadn’t played your best is a nice position to be in.
Another guy who didn’t have a great day today was Johnny Hill, but allow me to say something about Johnny. I think the impact this guy has had on the team is far more positive than his stats would suggest. As we saw on senior night, he and Ryan Cline are buddies and I am sure that helped Cline adjust to college basketball. Two “new guys” but one being a senior who has seen quite a bit. And secondly, I think Johnny’s being here has helped PJ come into his own. Sure, PJ has played a lot better this season than I think everyone had expected him to. However, maybe one of the reasons was because he knew there was another guy there who could take minutes if he struggled and Purdue wasn’t required to lean heavily on PJ. I’m just spitballing here...who knows.
For the second straight game, Purdue showed they’ve stopped having pasta at halftimes of late and came out with a strong, 9-0 run to start the second half, stretching the lead out to 17 (47-30). Four minutes later, it began to look like another Purdue romp as Dakota Mathias hit a three to make it 53-37 with just 13:40 to go. But in true Purdue fashion, there was no getting comfortable, as Michigan began to chip away. Before anyone knew it, they’d chiseled it back down to six points at 60-54 with a 17-7 run.
There were seven minutes to go and I saw Purdue twitter begin to take its usual turn towards sadness with comments like “I know how this ends.” But that wasn’t how today was going to end because AJ Hammons was on the case. And as I mentioned earlier, Purdue right now has a ridiculous luxury at their disposal and that is to activate AJ Hammons, game assassin.
First, that spin to the inside was filthy but then AJ follows it up with a patented block to stuff Michigan’s hope back into their faces. It was never close again, as the Boilers went on a 16-5 run to turn it into a comfortable win. Let’s try remembering that kind of result from a seemingly close Purdue basketball game the next time things start getting tight.
The player of the game today was of course Aaron Jarrell Hammons, who went for 27 points (on 11/17 shooting) 11 rebounds and three blocks all while being whistled for only ONE foul. Well, sheet, son, if AJ doesn’t get whistled for more than one foul I like Purdue’s chances. He also played 31 minutes (same as Vince) as the Boilers rode their workhorses a bit today to ensure the win. Isaac Haas only got nine minutes of action but capitalized with 11 points. Vince was the only other Boiler in double figures with 13 points on 5/7 shooting.
Caleb Swanigan was credited with four turnovers in the box score and just seven points, though he did have eight rebounds and three assists. PJ Thompson and Ray Davis each had six points and combined for ten assists. The Boilers shot 53% from the field to UM’s 38% and outrebounded the Wolverines 41-26. That’s always helpful, too.
So aside from a 5 minute stretch where Michigan made it interesting, the Boilers have basically had their way so far in the BTT. It figures to get a lot harder in tomorrow’s Final but from here on out, the stakes are higher no matter what. I don’t think we can ask for these guys to be playing much better than they are right now so let’s enjoy it.
Oh, and hey, look out..choo choo, muthas!