Same Story, Different Ending: Biggie Beats Iowa State 80-76
Let's make one thing so clear if you're not paying attention you may run right into it: Biggie Swanigan is greater than the sum of his stats, and Purdue is going home tonight without him. Not because they'd miss someone putting up a 20-12-7 line. No, because they'd miss him, a talent, dare I say, Purdue has never seen. Sure, there have been some special Boilermakers over the years, and for my money, Glenn Robinson is the greater basketball player in Purdue history. But Biggie's version of special is such that it makes him a singular entity in Purdue history.
As I sat down to write this post I thought of 2011. That was a Hummel-less Purdue team, facing a red-hot VCU team. That team was amazing, JaJuan Johnson, E'Twaun Moore, Lewis Jackson...man, that team was talented. And that team fell apart in that game. Jackson and Moore each shot about 30% from the field, Johnson attempted four threes for some reason and was visibly disinterested in playing defense. That team had all the talent a Purdue fan could hope for and blew it. That game, on the back of two Sweet Sixteens in a row, was the first step in a several year downturn, and the wilting at the first sign of pressure was a harbinger of future NCAA Tournament futility.
Why are things so different in 2017 than they were in 2011? It certainly isn't Coach Painter; his in-game decision-making still leaves much to be desired. We'll save that for another post. It's Biggie, it's everything that future pro brings to this team. He was adamantly stating his case to be put back in the game when ISU was making their run during the middle of the second half. And when he finally got in, he went to work. He made it clear that he wasn't going to cede this win without fighting with every ounce of his ability. He was a man possessed, and though his time on the court wasn't perfect, it was everything Purdue needed, right when they needed it. He played like a National Player of the Year. And he saved Purdue's season.
Special shout-outs to Vince Edwards and PJ Thompson as well. PJ didn't score much, didn't shoot well, but was money from the free throw line to push Purdue's lead from one to three in the final seconds. Edwards was aggressive on both ends of the court on his way to putting up a double-double of his own (21-10).
Purdue went from winning by 19 to losing by two, and Purdue Twitter collectively lost their shit. This is a script we've read before, especially in the NCAA Tournament. But they won by four, having been placed squarely on the back of a man who would not let them lose, who is not satisfied with what came before, focused only on what is ahead.