Santa Clara Withstands Pounding From Pair of Johnsons; Ends Boilers' Season, 86-83

You can finally (and mercifully, some might say) put the 2012-2013 Boilermaker basketball season in the done column, as the Boilers fell to the Santa Clara Broncos tonight, 86-83. Some might argue the season was done quite some time ago, but our Boilers showed heart at varying points throughout this trying campaign and tonight's game had so many familiar sights that reminded us of the season as a whole. Maybe they should have played One Shining Moment over it all game. Or not. You know, just an idea.

The Boilers did not make a jump shot in this game until almost midway through the second half. For those of you new to the game of basketball, that's hardly ever a good thing. It's exceedingly rare to make layups from beyond the three-point line, for example.

Purdue did somehow manage to overcome a first half deficit to storm (storm being a relative term) ahead at the break, 37-34. Was there defense played in the first half, or were both teams just not very good? It's the CBI, so I think we know which way to lean.

The second half was a 53-46 barnburner that almost equaled the total score of the Purdue-Iowa game mere weeks ago. Do I have a point in sharing that? I do not.

The Boilers -- who again, couldn't hit a jump shot for 30 minutes of game action -- somehow came to life late in the game. With about 1:46 to go in the contest, it was 76-66, Santa Clara. (Little known fact: Santa Clara is actually named for the lesser-known sibling of Santa Claus.) Suddenly, Purdue realized they were a Big Ten team playing a school from (*checks*) the WCC, which like most WCC teams, spent the season helping prop up Gonzaga's bid to be the first 1-seed to lose to a 16.

The Boilers began playing aggressive defense and making circus-like shots -- and I'm including free throws in there because with this Purdue team, free throws have been a circus. See what I did there? But tonight, the Boilers made (and you might want to sit down for this) 22/28, which is 79%, which I would be thrilled with on an ongoing basis. Of course, maybe it was Santa Clara's weak, WCC-level free throw defense that is to blame. I'm no expert.

But it was not to be tonight, as the Broncos' Kevin Foster channeled his inner MJ and went bananas on the Boilermakers voyeur defense (jusssst watching), ringing up 34 points on 11/24 shooting, including 9/13 from the line. He only made three treys, but if you were listening to Cliz, apparently the line was blurry tonight because Larry thought everything Foster shot was a three. He did make some insanely clutch buckets down the stretch to hold off the furious Boilermaker rally. While many questioned (rightfully) the Purdue defensive effort throughout this season and this game, they did attempt to lock Foster down late and he honestly couldn't miss in the final minutes. That's tough to overcome...and the Boilers didn't.

All that said, though, they kept chipping away and Terone had an open look at the three to tie the game and send it to overtime. If you were watching the online stream of the game, it must have just been the feed from the video board, because for a while I thought it was pretty good -- right up until the final couple of possessions where the feed of the game was replaced by a 1980s "MAKE SOME NOISE" graphic. It's almost like there's a cosmic force out there driving me (and other Purdue fans) to drink hard liquor on Monday nights.

Random note from this game: Brandon Clarke, sophomore guard for Santa Clara, was said to be the "godbrother of E'Twaun Moore." The what now? Never mind, carry on.

As for the individual Boiler player efforts of note, Sandi played his Croatian ass off once again, showing effort, emotion and downright talent. He had nine points, four rebounds, two steals and an assist, to go along with zero turnovers and 1/1 from the FT line. You could almost say he has soft hands now; you could not have said this in the past, so that's a very nice development out of this abysmal-feeling season.

The star of the game for Purdue tonight, though, was Ronnie Johnson, who took an utterly asinine 21 shots from the field, making 11 of them and scoring a career-high 27 points. He also hit 5/7 from the line (say what?) snagged three steals, dished six dimes and grabbed a pair of rebounds. No matter what you may think of this team, this season or Ronnie himself, this is a hell of a stat line for a freshman.

Terone almost kept up with his baby brother, scoring 22 points on 8/22 shooting (and 6/7 from the line).

DJ Byrd played his last game at Mackey (and second since Senior Night, which must feel odd) and scored nine points, including the only three of the game made by Purdue. DJ also went 6/6 from the line.

Hopefully AJ Hammons will wake up and stop what appears to be out-and-out regression when the '13-'14 season begins. AJ was 1/5 from the field today and 1/3 from the line for 3 points in 16 minutes.

As for the dearth of threes, that was certainly the differentiator in this one. The Broncos shot 41% from three (9/22) while the Boilers show a frigid 9% (that's not a typo) on 1/11 shooting. As I mentioned earlier, there's another familiar issue from the season -- shooting going cold. The Boilers had their games when things were falling and DJ and Terone were filling it up, but they also had games where absolutely nothing would fall. I guess it's actually quite impressive that with such poor jump shooting, the Boilers still managed 83 points. The team FG% was actually pretty respectable at 44%, though I guess that just means they made their layups when they had the chance.

The Boilers outrebounded their opponent once again and had a double-digit percentage advantage on FTs (interestingly, the FT attempts were absolutely even at 28 each). So again, make some of your threes and even with Foster's game, this one is in the win column.

Going back to the defensive effort (and the effort overall), I can see why some of the fans I connected with were pissed. Giving up 86 to a WCC foe on your home floor is kind of irritating. Scoring 83 should be enough to walk away with a victory. That said, watching this game I felt like the Boilers never quit and were hustling to the end. Down ten with under two minutes to go is often a time when a sub-.500 team might be expected to fold the ol' tent, but it didn't feel to me like Purdue did that. So while I respect all of your opinions, those of you who've had enough of this season and are glad to see it gone, I also note that many of you were either in the building or were making the effort to track down the live stream. All I'm saying is... I wish I could quit them, too.

The Boilers next game will be in November. Let's hope the 34 games guys like Ronnie got to play will serve them well. I think it will, but time will tell. And now, for a change around the halls of Boiled Sports, we anxiously await football season.

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