Barnburning Boilers

You like that headline? See, you come here, you get quality. We're not just gorgeous window dressing -- we've got the smrts, too. I mean, S-M-A-R-T.

Last night, as you no doubt are aware if you're reading this, our Boilers played a rather complete game in the Barn up in Minny, defeating the Gophers 70-62.

There's still plenty to work on, as anyone who watched with a critical eye can admit. But let's talk about the good first.

Team defense. The Boilers hustled out there and, despite some ticky-tack foul calls by the horsesh-t officiating crew (on both sides), the Boilers defense was stout. Chris Kramer led the charge as usual, playing smothering defense and hustling to loose balls in a way that reminds me very much of Brian Cardinal but in a far more controlled way. I don't watch the game thinking Kramer is going to break his own neck, in other words. You know you've won the battle when you get a quote from the other team like this:

"Their defense really took a toll on us," [Al] Nolen said. "We couldn't get the ball in the basket to save our lives."

Indeed, the Gophers shot a putrid 28% from the floor, including 16% from three-land. Hey, as a fan of a school that has gone through awful 3-pt shooting spells in the past, I can lend some advice here: When you're shooting under 20% but the game is still within reach, maybe you try to work for some easier buckets. Goodness.

Shooting. Simple as it sounds, the Boilers are shooting well again. Sure, in a lot of cases, you're either a good shooter (Hummel) or you're not (cough, Calasan). But we have all seen this team go inexplicably cold and had that sinking feeling... We're not coming back. Well, last night was not one of those nights. The Boilermakers took controlled, smart shots for the most part. The passing was crisp (even getting Coach Knight to say "This is a good passing basketball team") and generally smart. At the half, the Boilers were shooting 54% from the field and wound up shooting 47% for the game (including 55% from three-land). Solid.

Adjustments. Minny adjusted to a zone defense partway through the first half and for a couple minutes it definitely slowed the Boilers down. The passing was still good, but it just rotated around the perimeter. However, before long, the Boilers adjusted and starting driving and cutting to create shots and open looks. Very well done. And at the start of the second half, the Gophers got on a bit of a run to open things up and, while they didn't catch up, they definitely got the momentum going their way a bit. But like a good team, Purdue managed to withstand it and hold off the Gopher attack.

Rebounding. I continue to be impressed with the Purdue rebounding, even though I know that this, too, has been hit or miss at times. There are still improvements to be made (Calasan having them tipped away at times, etc.) but overall I thought the Boilers rebounded very well. JJ led the team with 8 but Robbie was right there with him, despite a balky back that was clearly bothering him at times. Just imagine if this squad was fully healthy. (Minnesota's leading rebounder was Ralph Sampson III, by the way. And in case you forgot he was the THIRD, you just need only look at his jersey to see "SAMPSON III" on the back. Well, someone needs to tell young Ralph that he looks like a bozo. His last name is Sampson, not Sampson III.)

As for what I'd like to see us work on a bit more....

Chris Kramer's Fear of Shooting. Maybe we can get Chris into a support group or something. I realize he's not the best shooter on the team, but he's only got 57 field goal attempts on the entire season. He's averaging just over 3 FGA per game. Maybe we could inch it up to 5-6 per game? Kramer had wide open looks a few times as the result of sloppy zone play or double teams and yet still chose to look for the pass. I like pass-first guys as much as the next person, but there are definitely times when you need to shoot the rock.

Calasan Decision-Making. Maybe it's not "decision" making so much as he just does whatever his body feels like doing. He had at least two dumb traveling calls and he continues to think he's Larry Bird from the top of the 3-point arc. I know he sank a big one and we had a significant lead and so that's fine... but he's not out there to shoot long shots like that. Rebound and work on not shuffling your feet, there, Darko.

LewJack. I still love the kid and the energy he brings and the positives far outweigh the negatives right now, but he still needs to continue working on his control. He had a few turnovers that were very avoidable and sometimes he still seems out of control. I realize he's amped and he's just a freshman, but if we can continue shaving off the silly mistakes as we get deeper into conference play, that would be huge. This guy is going to be fantastic in subsequent years.

Miscellaneous Thoughts.

JJ had another awesome emphatic dunk. It seems like sometimes he just decides enough is enough and rams one home over everyone. Do this more often, JJ!

It pains me to admit this, but Bob Knight was really good as an analyst. He didn't annoy me at all -- and I hate this guy! His insights were solid and he truly sounded like a coach. I think this is good for him to have America see a smiling, laughing, joking version of Bob Knights, and one who also sounds like he's coaching the players and showing all of us what made him successful. If he could just control his anger and how he treats people, I might actually like him. (Though it was hilarious that he took off his headset to shout at the officials during the game -- they deserve it.)

MattyWatch. It almost seemed like Brent Musburger was aware of it, because I didn't hear a "Matty" for much of the night. Then at the end, during postgame handshakes, Brent just couldn't contain himself and out it came.... Matty Painter.

As Dowd said, this was just one of four big ones. Thanks to Northwestern, our Boilers are just a game back of Michigan State and still has the chance to control how things play out. That's really all you can ask for.

Keaton Grant can't help but laugh at Minnesota's 27% shooting.

I Have A Better Solution For Not Getting Beaten 100-0: Don't Suck So Badly

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