Following a stolen win at Northwestern, Purdue welcomed Iowa to Mackey...and for a lot of reasons needed a strong showing. This team has been an enigma this season...but if you think about the offensive woes, it kind of makes sense. Coming into the season, everyone expected big things from Hummel and Moore...on top of that Grant was expected to be a threat, offensively. So, as Moore languishes through a painful slump, Grant tries to get his confidence back and Hummel nurses an aching back up to speed, this offense has struggled. It doesn't help anything that Nemmy and Kramer have both had injuries this season. As we've awaited the re-emergence of the offense that looked very effecient in the early pre-conference schedule, JJ has gotten progrssively better...which has kept our Boilers alive.
Well, the game versus Iowa started, once again, with little offensive flow and poor shooting...not to mention lousy offensive rebounding. But, the defense was stellar...with 6 block shots in the first half alone. Because of the sub-par offense, the lead was never huge in the first half, and it wasn't too comfortable as Iowa would chip away at Purdue's lead, shrinking it down to 3 or 4 points late in the first half.
But the second half was different- the streaky-shooting Boilers, got on a hot streak...Hummel, Grant, Jackson, and Nemmy all hit consecutive threes...at the same time, the defensive dominance continued and Iowa didn't score. On top of the great perimeter shooting, Calasan also added in a nifty fall-away shot in the lane, Kramer finished a fast break with a nifty cut then dunk and Moore crashed the glass for a few second-chance points. Once the dust settled, Purdue had gone on an 18-2 run, was up by nearly 30 and the game was all but on ice, with about 9:00 remaining. The game was so out of hand that we saw a line-up of Reid, Green, Wofford, Riddell, Smith...for about 3:00. It was very good to see that this team could still be explosive. Granted, they were playing one of the worst teams in the league, but that didn't mean anything earlier in the week.
Perhaps this is the boost this team needed to remind itself that it belongs high in the conference...we know their defense is sound, and will continue to get better as Kramer gets healthier and Hummel does the same. But Grant's shooting today, coupled with LewJack's heady play (6 ast. 3 stl.) along with the what we've seen from Johnson and Hummel this season might transform this team into the one we thought they could be...but then again, the competition needs to be kept in mind. Regardless, it was good to see.
So, Purdue has kinda dug itself out of the hole it created after an 0-2 start by winning three in a row...But two of those three reside in the basement of the conference. Now, our Boilers are only a half game out of second at 3-2...but MSU is running away from the conference as they are 5-0. Purdue can help itself in conference this week as they head to the barn to play a young, hungry Gophers team coming off of a disappointing loss to Northwestern. To me, this game is pivotal as it can return Purdue to a strong, upper-third of the conference team...and it starts, arguably, the toughest 5-game stretch of the Boilers's season (@ Minn, @ Wis, Mich, @ aOSU, @ Ill). This stretch will define Purdue's season, in my opinion, positive or negative.