Boilers Bow Out of BTT; NCAA Tourney Awaits

Boilers Bow Out of BTT; NCAA Tourney Awaits

Kendall-vs-Wisc-BTT.jpg

The Boilers played their Big Ten Tournament semifinal game against Wisconsin this afternoon – for a half, anyway. Then Wisconsin did Wisconsin things, which you may find yourself both admiring and hating at the same time – and that’s understandable. But regardless, it added up to a 71-51 loss for the black and old gold. For the season, the Boilers are 21-12, with a 12-6 Big Ten record and a 1-1 showing in Chicago. What Happened?

Purdue came out as focused as we’ve seen in a while and definitely more locked in than the way they started the game vs PSU yesterday. AJ looked energized and truly fired up at several points and he and Vince were playing strong D on Frank Kaminsky, holding him to just four points in the first half. Of course, when you hold Frank down like that, you best have built a lead. Purdue held a steady lead throughout the first half but could never get it to be larger than seven, eventually winding up with a 35-30 lead at the half thanks to a PJ Thompson trey as time expired.

And that was all for the Boilers.

Wisconsin bludgeoned Purdue 41-16 in the second half and for the final 6-8 minutes I dare say it looked like our Boilers had decided they’d had enough and were ready to go home. I can’t entirely blame them, though, as Wisconsin could seemingly do no wrong in the officials’ eyes. And let’s talk for a minute about a losing team’s fans complaining about poor officiating.

Let’s first acknowledge that Wisconsin beat Purdue and it wasn’t because of the officials – Wisconsin is better than Purdue. But I think the frustrating thing is that we already know they’re better, so to see them also get help from bum officials like Gene Steratore is infuriating. Raftery, Hill and Nantz spent a lot of time extolling the virtues of Wisconsin’s defense and how they “just don’t foul” – Raftery went so far as to liken it to the reputation that Ted Williams had, in that if he didn’t swing at it, it must not have been a strike. Yikes. With that kind of narrative going, it’s easy to see why the officials – not very good to begin with – could allow themselves to be swayed in the Badger direction. We didn’t even see many funny faces from Bo Ryan today, because he didn’t need to make them!

All I’m saying is that yes, Wisconsin is good. Yes, Wisconsin plays great defense (Bo Ryan teams always do). But it to let the narrative become “Well, they simply don’t foul” is a bit excessive… because they do. Yet today, they were called for a total of…

…wait for it…

Kaminsky fouling Isaac

…let me check this again…

More Wisconsin non-fouling

…wait, this can’t be right…

Wisconsin foul in the back on PJ

…yes, seven (7) fouls. Seven. For the entire game. Two in the second half.

But let’s back up here and talk about where and how this game really turned, because I don’t think it’s only about this officiating. And while some felt that AJ getting into foul trouble was a huge turning point, I think the game was already sliding downhill by then. I think this game turned in the opening minutes of the second half. Purdue began 0-5 and the first two or three shots were good looks that went halfway down before rattling back out. RayDay missed a layup and a jumper, followed by a rattler miss from AJ and another from Dakota. That does wonders on a team’s psyche, especially when you know you need to play a damn near perfect game to beat the number 6 team in the nation.

Wisconsin went on a 10-0 run to start the second half, yet Vince’s trey for Purdue’s first points of the half about five minutes in meant it was just 40-38. That’s where the good first half is still helping you – allowing you to withstand this kind of awful five minutes of basketball. Alas, the Boilers could never really get it going and Wisconsin did. Eventually, Purdue was back to what’s frustrating Purdue fans at times this year – the lethargic defense, slow rotations and just generally looking like they’re not interested. While I never endorse quitting, I do imagine that as the tide turns on you in a game like this, you must know on some level that you’re simply not coming back on this Wisconsin team.

Purdue had only been beaten like a drum once this year – that 31 point pasting against ND back in December. In fact, the 10-point loss to Vandy (also in Dec) was the only other double digit loss for the Boilers all season. I’m not suggesting you should be okay with this – just that it’s not happened much and it’s reasonable to expect them to shake it off. The problem is, if they wind up a 10 seed and win a game, they’ll have to face another team of this caliber that quickly.

As for the details, AJ led Purdue scorers as the only double digit guy with 10 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. PJ Thompson had a nice game off the bench with nine points, three assists and 2/2 from long range. Kendall Stephens showed signs of being the Kendall we need by going 3/3 from beyond the arc for his nine points. Raphael Davis had a strong start but wound up with just eight points on 4/14 shooting. Jon Octeus had a game he might like to forget, failing to score a point for the first time since December 2 vs. NC State. He did have four assists and three rebounds, but clearly not a strong day for him.

And speaking of not having a strong day, Isaac Haas looked like a freshman today. Which is reasonable, since he is a freshman. And I think it’s been well-documented here how we’re big fans of Ike, but man he just looked out of sorts today. It doesn’t help to go against the Badgers D and Gene Steratore’s vision, but Isaac just didn’t seem to be himself today at all. And naturally, AJ was in foul trouble and some solid minutes from Haas could have definitely helped. I don’t think it would have stemmed the tide and, again, we really like Haas, so this is just me being honest – he looked off today.

Wisconsin continues to play five guys almost all game with only Duje Dukan getting any regular minutes off the bench. It’s been working for them but you have to wonder what they’ll do if they ever run into foul troub---ahhahahaa, sorry, I couldn’t even say it.

Worth Noting:

As for overall shooting, Purdue shot 100% (whoohoo!) from the line today, going 6/6 (oh). They shot 50% (7/14) from deep, which I definitely like. Shoot well from deep and from the line (if you can get there) and advancing in the tourney will happen.

The game was over when…

…Purdue stopped scoring. With under ten minutes to go in the game, it was a two point contest. So in one quarter of basketball, Wisconsin turned a tight game into a twenty point blowout. It was 46-44 with 9:57 to go… after a 25-7 Wisconsin run to finish their dominant half, it was a laugher.

Overreaction Tweet of the Day

Okay, let’s just pump the brakes here. I saw a number of downtrodden, Purdue-like tweets this afternoon. The whole “I knew this would happen” meme. And sure, I know it’s in our nature to be sort of miserable and to expect the worst, but what were you expecting? Purdue to run over Wisconsin? The officials not to pander to Bo Ryan? Let’s go to Juan Crespo for a more measured opinion:

Now, sure, he said a lot after that, too, but let’s just go with that sentiment. This is a program that missed the tourney – badly – the past two seasons and in December was 8-5 with painful losses to Vandy, ND, North Florida and Gardner Webb in a 16-day span. They’ve since not had a single bad loss for their resume and have had a number of good wins. They also swept IU and got a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament, winding up in the semifinals against a Final Four team from last year that very well could (should?) go again this year. All I’m saying is, let’s all try to keep it in perspective. The next two weeks could make you fall in love all over again with this team.

What’s Next?

For the first time all year, we don’t know when Purdue’s next game will be or have any idea who it will be against. The Boilers are surely in the tourney field and it also seems to be a sure thing that they’ve played themselves in beyond the Dayton play-in games on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. As I type this, Wiggy McHairpiece has the Boilers as a 10-seed facing Oregon in Charlotte, NC.  SI has the Boilers and Ducks matching up, too, but as an 8/9 game. Of course, earlier this morning, SI had Indiana and Utah in the tournament twice in the same region. So who the hell knows?

What I do know is that Purdue is back in the Tournament and as we all know, anything can happen. Especially if a team with a dominant center, a senior PG and the BT defensive player of the year comes ready to play.

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