Hammons, Packed House, Cookie Crisis: Christmas in Mackey
The honorable B. Dowd pointed out that I can actually post longer thoughts here - in fact, it's how I got the job in the first place, by request from you, the readers - and threatened me with death by square donut* if I do not do so immediately. Here then is my Journey Into Mackey, from the drive up to the drive home. *this is a lie - it would be a waste of good donuts
- The game was sold out, and this was an actualfacts sellout, not a Ross-Ade "announced crowd of 40,000" or whatever. Ushers were even booting people in the wrong seats. Good to see turnout like this over Christmas, even if it meant we basically parked on Grant. I knew this was going to happen as soon as I turned off 52 onto Salisbury and saw basically every car in front of me heading toward Mackey. (Protip: parking is actually worse over break, because students who could walk to the game are replaced by people like me who drive.)
- The announcer introduced Kevin Stallings as a member of the 1980 Final Four team - he got a long round of applause for that. (Yes, kids, once upon a time Purdue actually made it to the Final Four. They then lost to cheaters and beat Iowa in the third-place game.)
- WHY GRAY WHY. It's bad enough that apparel companies think it's cool to give every team nearly-identical warmups with tiny logos; it's worse when you're playing a team with basically the same colors and your uniforms are entirely a third color. You would think a school focusing so much on branding would create a consistent brand instead of rolling out new combinations every year, but then you'd think a school focused on social media would provide service that would enable you to post during games. #lol4g
- The commenters who pointed out in the Butler post-game thread that continuing to shoot threes when they're not falling should maybe be replaced by feeding the bigs - yes, this. Vanderbilt's defense deserves credit for making some of those perimeter shots more difficult and for denying post entry, particularly to Haas, but there were several first-half possessions where Purdue simply passed around the perimeter and jacked up a three. When the Hammonster entered, that was fixed a bit, and in the second half it was no longer an issue.
- Holy hell was the striped clown show bad in this game. I think college basketball needs to go the NHL route and add another referee so that there's a chance they can be in position more often to make good calls, but with these guys sometimes I think it wouldn't matter at all. (I should add that as indicated below, they started calling stuff in the second half, but in the first ... as my friend pointed out, when Haas stops his post move and starts wincing, it's not because someone gently touched his face - he got whacked.)
- On that note, I wonder if maybe Purdue needs to do the things you do when you play New England or someone similar - your receivers can't just go out on routes, they have to work to create separation in such a way as to make the DPI obvious so it gets called. Something changed at halftime, and suddenly Purdue was at the foul line seemingly every other trip. There were also a couple of substitutions where it seemed like Painter yanked a guy for passively shooting and inserted a guy who was willing to drive or feed the bigs - Purdue's screens were much less effective than Vanderbilt's, so waiting for an open 3 was not going to work.
- HAMMONSTER. 28 minutes, 21 points, 10 boards, 7 blocks. No assists because no one was getting open, so there was no reason for him to kick the ball back out. Plus his interior defense, along with Haas and Swanigan, meant that Vanderbilt frequently threw up garbage shots inside - they shot .362 from two, which I'd guess was .240 plus some dunks. Yes, the defense got caught on rotations a few times, but I think they allow that sometimes because they know the bigs usually clean it up anyway.
- On that note, I think one of the things Vanderbilt quit doing was interfering on screens. They got a couple quick second-half fouls and then didn't do that anymore, so their outside shots were not nearly as available. Again, Purdue's D deserves some credit, but the guy who stole carnival rims and installed them in Mackey gets most of it. Both teams had a lot of open looks that just didn't fall.
This looked very similar to the Pitt game (which I did not watch): in the second half, Purdue hit the gas, and that was that. If you look at the win probability graph, from roughly 12:00 to 9:00, the Good Guys moved the game from "why did we get these tickets?" to "BOOM". As troubling as it is to see an ineffective half of basketball, it's great to see the ability to push a quality team into a double-digit deficit. (Vanderbilt does have four losses, but this was their biggest, and I suspect they will look better as they mow through the SEC.)
The second-half surge was huge - Purdue scored 33 points in the final "quarter", and it got them up to 0.99 PPP in a game where they were shooting 29% from the field at one point. I know that shooters like to shoot their way out of slumps, and sometimes that makes sense, but with a team like this one, I'd rather see them work on entry passes and wait for the shots to come to them. One part of their game that was notably absent was in-out passing: all too often, Hammons was forced to create a shot because he'd get an entry pass and none of the guards were available on the perimeter, so the double would come and he'd have nowhere to go. That happened so often I assume it was by design, just like the guards falling back instead of hitting the boards on all those first-half misses. (Does Vanderbilt have a lethal transition game? Asking for a friend.)
It was noteworthy that 3 Vanderbilt players fouled out and just one Purdue player was in foul trouble ... and at that, when AJ picked up his fourth foul, Painter left him in anyway (!!). I wish basketball did something like soccer does, counting successful crosses vs. crossing attempts, because I suspect Purdue's percentage of successful entry passes in the second half soared. One reason no one fouled out (Haas had just one foul in 11 minutes) is that the bigs established good position and got the ball in places where their defenders couldn't draw charges. For all the trouble the Boilers had feeding the post in the first half, they did it like pros in the second. MOAR HAMMONSTER PLZ
OH. Cookie crisis. right. So after the game, like with volleyball and WBB, we head to Insomnia for cookies. I couldn't use the app because the squirrels running the cell towers around Mackey had Christmas break off as well - this would prove to be a problem. We got there and noticed a line to the door, which means about three orders (their half of the remodeled duplex is really not set up for high-demand days). No big deal, except there's only three people working.
Well, actually only one of them is. The other two are delivery drivers, and apparently they're not allowed to help out with anything, which was obvious because a) they weren't and b) by the time there were about 10 people in line, one of the drivers spoke up. (I mean, we all figured it out anyway.) The dude doing all the work did an excellent job, and of course there's a limit to what you can do to handle a small rush during a break when most of your employees are students, but surely someone in management is both local and available for an hour to help out? LET US BUY YOUR COOKIES FASTER.
*Feature image courtesy Purdue Sports