Purdue were strangers in an unholy land today, as they took on the 0-4 in the Big Ten – and very hungry to change that – Nittany Lions in Happy Valley. The Boilers emerged from the land that reality forgot with an 84-77 victory. In typical 2014-2015 Purdue fashion, they made nothing easy on themselves but at the same time provided some exciting moments that may prove truly memorable. I think we can all agree that the Swamy produces some great post-games, so I was thinking of modeling mine today after his approach, just to try it out.
Starters: Ike Haas, Aneesh’s best friend Vince Edwards, Ray Davis, Jon Octeus Kid Stephens.
Finishers: AJ Hammons, Vince, Ray, Octeus, Kid, I don’t really know I was too busy smiling and hopping around the living room. Maybe Painter put himself in the game. Who knows.
Purdue played the first half like they’d been off for a week. Oh, wait, they had been. Well, then they played the first half like they’d been off for a week eating pasta and napping. But strangely, I think we’re all beginning to get used to this. Purdue is not a first half team anymore. However, I remember not long ago when Purdue was very much not a second half team and leads would disappear or close games would vaporize – I will say I like having at least some confidence heading into the second half that we’ll see Good Purdue emerge.
The game began astonishingly sloppy, even for two teams that aren’t considered top tier. They wound up combining for 33 turnovers, many of which were of the hideous variety. The game was relatively even throughout the first half, with each team slowly waking up and figuring out ways to cash in against the other’s defense.
PSU learned that Purdue was going to play strikingly lazy perimeter defense (perhaps worried only about DJ Newbill) and began moving the ball pretty well and finding open looks from three which they knocked down with more precision than I would have liked. Purdue (sort of) learned that tossing the ball down low to AJ Hammons would usually yield good things. A lot of us on twitter wondered why Purdue wasn’t tossing it down low to Hammons every single time down the floor. One reason is perhaps because Painter is stubborn and wants this team to be what he wants and doesn’t care who they’re playing at that moment. But more likely, it’s also because AJ had a case of the butterfingers for a while it seemed and seemed unable to hold onto the ball a few times. With him not looking totally in sync and Ike Haas on the bench with early fouls, Purdue began to slip behind late in the first half, culminating in a lousy final possession of the first and a nine-point deficit.
I will say that while I’m never a fan of looking sloppy, not hitting free throws and being behind at the half, it was truly a case of “well, it could be worse.” And hey, this is Penn State we’re talking about. A nine point lead can vanish quickly in that tomb of an arena.
Purdue came out in the second half like they thought it was a 2 PM start instead of 1 PM and PSU came out as though they forgot there were two halves to win. Purdue scored the first eight points of the second half and PSU took almost four minutes to score at all. The Nittany Lions – buoyed by Newbill’s remarkable game – continued to try to keep Purdue at bay. The Boilers kept closing the gap, but to their credit, Penn State would not fold. It was a one point game in the final two minutes and the teams traded punches, with Purdue ultimately getting the chance they wanted – down 65-64 but with the ball and 38 seconds remaining on the clock. A three makes it a tall order for PSU to come back, a single bucket gets you the lead… Purdue dribbled the clock down to 15 seconds and Kendall Stephens missed a not-great shot from the left side and PSU grabbed the rebound. Purdue fouled and Penn State made their free throws. 67-64, Penn State, 15 seconds to play.
Jon Octeus brought the ball upcourt and the Lions followed what Pat Chambers clearly told them in the preceding time out and fouled Octeus just across midcourt. This is where coaching can get too smart for itself – there are those who now feel you should always foul in that situation, up three in the waning seconds. I see that logic but what if the guy gets off a shot and your kids still foul him? Three free throws are nice to have…unless you’re Purdue, of course.
I said to Mrs. Money that I wanted Octeus to make the first and then miss the second intentionally. After he missed the first, I said well, he has to miss now… the ESPNU broadcasters commented that he “needs to make this one” and then Purdue need to foul and “make Penn State earn it at the line.” Octues instead took my advice (or just missed) and the ball found its way to Kendall Stephens, who found his way back into the left corner and with a guy on him drained the three with five seconds on the clock.
You know, it’s weird how simple things like this make me so happy, but there was just something about snatching the victory away from Penn State that just felt so damn good, I can hardly articulate it.
The Lions got a reasonable chance at a game-winning shot but AJ altered it and we went to OT. In OT, it was clear that the haymaker from Kid Stephens had finished the Nittany Kittens. They took nearly three minutes to score at all and Purdue looked better than they had all game in the extra frame. Adrenaline and new life will do that to you. The Boilers wound up scoring 17 in the 5-minute extra frame and winning the game 84-77. Interestingly, it’s the first Big Ten game in which Purdue has allowed 70 points this season and it took overtime for PSU to get there.
Word was that the players were saying going into it that this was the biggest game of the season, which is a mentality I generally like. Now it feels like at Illinois on Wednesday night replaces it. This team and this season now become one of those there the train can careen off the tracks at any time – or it can really get fun as they grow up. Win at Illinois and suddenly next Saturday vs Iowa is the biggest game. As Boilerdowd said in one of his posts, Purdue plays ten games now where they have a legitimate chance to win any of them. No, nobody is calling for or predicting ten wins in a row – but the chance to make this season much better than it looked like it would be after Gardner Webb is right there for the taking.
The game was over when…
…Kid Stephens tore out Penn State’s heart and showed it to them. They were not able to recover and you could feel things tilting Purdue’s way from the opening possession of overtime.
- Kid Stephens with a shot we’ll remember for a while:
- AJ with 21 and 12 in 33 minutes off the bench. I don’t know, but that youngster may have earned a start. He was 7/11 from the field, 7/9 from the line and also had three blocks.
- DJ Newbill with 37. Dude deserves a mention here. Another talented guy who came to PSU to maybe get that program over some kind of hump, only to waste away. Hell of a scorer.
- Winning on the road. Purdue hadn’t won a road game in just a shade over a calendar year. Winning road games in conference is something you absolutely must do if you’re going to go anywhere. Hold serve as much as possible at home and take the ones you can on the road. This was one they needed if they want to play beyond the Big Ten tourney.
- Doc Oc. Jon Octeus, where would we be without you? 13 points, seven assists, four rebounds, four steals and two big threes (which were from almost identical spots less than a minute apart – one here and two here) to keep Purdue in this game. Honestly, his game was huge for the Boilers and is only overshadowed because of AJ’s big game and Kendall’s ginormous, onions-shot. But don’t discount Octeus – they don’t win this without him.
- Dakota pointing North. Mathias has had some moments where he just looked, as the boys put it on the Basketball Beat podcast, not ready. But I really liked his game today. He played 23 minutes off the bench, scored seven points, had four assists (including a dandy to AJ), plus a block and a steal. He also hit a key trey in the second half to halt a PSU 8-0 run that had put them up 48-40 after Purdue had clawed back from their 9-point halftime deficit to tie it at 40. There are moments in games where you absolutely need a big shot and this was one of them.
- Vince taking a pass from Mathias after a nice outlet from Octeus for the slam with Painter shouting “Hold it! Hold it!” Vince knew, though. He always knows. Why give up the sure two for Purdue’s carnival act at the free throw line?
- Purdue not feeding AJ more in the first half. It took a while for them to catch on – even while it was obvious to everyone watching that giving to AJ down low would work endlessly, Purdue hoisted several three attempts in the first half that didn’t even draw iron.
- AJ leading the team with seven turnovers. So he probably won't get to start on Wednesday.
- Purdue’s defense in general today. Late in the game and especially in OT, the defensive pressure was there and made a difference, but the team seemed sleepy early and was not doing enough to knock PSU off their game. The Lions were in rhythm in the first half and Purdue was doing nothing to stop it. If not for a generous amount of PSU turnovers, that halftime deficit would have been a lot worse.
- Speaking of turnovers, Purdue wound up with 16, many of them ugly. A couple over and backs, some passes simply thrown to where nobody was… just ugly, rusty, clunky stuff. They got through it, though, and still won on the road.
- Can I put free throws in both the bad and ugly categories? I don’t know, need to speak to the Swamy for a ruling. I’ll go with ugly and not “bad” because Purdue wound up at 62% (18/29), though it felt a lot worse. I believe the % was closer to 50 for much of the game. As everyone knows, FTs often are the difference. Good teams knock them down and do not allow a team back into a game. Penn State converted 81% of theirs, but never were quite able to step on Purdue’s throat.
- Speaking of which, the killer instinct of another opponent of Purdue’s just wasn’t there. Either that or Purdue is fast becoming the best second half team in the nation. They were down nine at the half and outscored PSU 59-43 the rest of the way.
- Maybe not “ugly” so much as “odd”: In Purdue’s three Big Ten victories, they’ve been down 11, 8 and 9 at the halves. In their two losses, they were down 1 vs Wisconsin and 0 (tied) versus Maryland. Yeah, figure that out.
- Penn State attendance. Listed at under 9,000. Goodness, Lions fans, where are you? I know they’re not good (ever), but they did start the year 12-1, you have DJ Newbill who deserves your support (hell, they all do, they’re your classmates) and it’s not winter break or something. I know it’s not your precious football program, but still. Act like your pride is in Penn State and not only wrapped up in a phony, lousy old man.
- Flava Flav was not only at the game, he was prominently featured several times by ESPNU.How that dope found his way to Happy Valley, I’ll never know. Strangely, he wasn’t shown at all after Kid Stephens’ clutch three in the waning seconds.
Gifs of the day:
I’m nowhere near as good as the Swamy with the gifs, so these will have to do.
- Kendall with a three followed by an AJ slam:
- Vince Edwards owning a defender and putting home the slam:
Tweets of the Day: