Senior Night Success: Purdue 91 Wisconsin 80
It hadn't been since January that The Forces of Good had won three straight games, but PJ Hill's opportunistic shooting, Swanigan's best game as a Boilermaker and Hammons businesslike effort propelled Purdue to a somewhat comfortable win; their third in as many tries.
Purdue struggled to find an offensive rhythm in the first half, but as Wisconsin sagged off of Thompson, he took advantage of the collapsed defense...time and time and time and time and time again. Five straight open three pointers made later, Purdue was up...and they really didn't look back. Purdue's least turnover prone player finished with three TOs...BUT, he also poured in 22 points and had 4 assists.
Both Hammons and Haas got into a bit of foul trouble, but in typical Painter fashion, neither guy flirted with fouling out...they just sat. In their stead, Swanigan played some forward and center and Wisconsin couldn't match his intensity. He crashed the glass to the tune of a mere 8 defensive rebounds that made it difficult for UW to get into rhythm. But his team leading 27 points, while turning the ball over just once, was rock solid. He hit 14 of 17 free throws...a few of those helped salt the game away. Hammons sat on the bench for most of the late minutes of the game...finished with 16 and 8, with two blocks.
Edwards had 11 points and 6 assists with no turnovers and flashed his ability to shoot the deep ball yet again. He went 3 of 5. But his aggressive play offensively led to another notable highlight:
So the final games for AJ and Ray have been played in Mackey Arena...It went fast, didn't it? Well two seasons did anyway. Both of these guys were HUGE pieces of Purdue's basketball program scratching and clawing back to respectability from the deep, dark places the ship sank to in their first two years on campus. RayDay earned the BT's defensive player of the year last season and he set a tone for everyone else on the team to try to emulate. This year, it looks like Hambone will win the same award. Even when he wasn't erasing shots, he was changing them.
We all know how bad it feels to send a Senior class off with a loss...these two, along with former walk-on Toyra and 5th year transfer Hill deserved this ending to their careers at Mackey...but I don't think they only have two more games in the metallic beige and black.
They'll end this regular season as the fourth best team in the league, with 24 wins and a top-15 ranking...that's the good news. The kinda bad news might be that they will to play Iowa on Friday if things go according to seed before that. Back to the good news -- they have a chance to avenge two painful losses.
As Purdue heads to the postseason, the things that make this team potentially great are in place, with one exception. Hammons and Haas are a handful as they both make it tough for opposing teams to simply stay out of foul trouble. Swanigan crashes the glass, and when he's not forcing things, is a solid player on offense...and even without Stephens being part of the rotation, the Boilers nine man rotation has a bunch of players who can score and help Matty's squad stay fresh. The lone exception to Purdue potentially peaking in March is Davis' offense as he continues to struggle to score consistently. That said, if he can ratchet up the defense versus Purdue's opponents in the dance, he'll create havoc.
Thanks Steven, Johnny, Ray and AJ...it's tough to see you guys go. You've represented our Alma Mater well.