Mackey was the most-empty that I remember in years last night...and hardly anyone tuned into the game's tele-webcast on EsPN3...and it's a good thing. This game wasn't for fans of college basketball, per se...but that didn't stop H&R's Travis and I to stay for the entire contest- we sat near each other up in the vast expanse that was upper Mackey Arena on Tuesday night.
It started out promising as Purdue raced out to a 6-0 lead in the first three minutes...but quickly, Purdue's sloppy defense and inability to consistently shoot caught up with them and the game became a back-and-fourth contest. Purdue kind of kept the Cardinals at an arm's length for much of the game, but with just eight minutes left, Purdue had lost the lead as Ball State's guards hit three after three to change the complexion of the game.
As BSU sunk threes, Purdue refused to shoot from the outside. In fact, Byrd's three 3-pointers were the only shots hit by the Boilers from long distance all game...and Purdue only shot eight of them. While it was great to see Byrd with a mini-streak of made shots from distance, it was very easy to see that Purdue had no intention, or ability for that matter, to shoot from the outside.
Purdue ran early, but seemed to be unable to stick with that idea...and what ended up winning the game for the Boilers was Ball State's porous defense that allowed Purdue to drive and score from around 5-7 feet time and again. In fact, I'm convinced that had BSU simply played a tightly-packed zone, Purdue would have been in serious trouble...but one thing BSU didn't seem to do is think the game well. They didn't react to Purdue's unwillingness to shoot outside...and they weren't any smarter on offense.
Time and again BSU's bigs would make a move to get around their defender only to lose the ball on the way to the basket or throw it against the bottom of the rim.
The repeated mistakes in the lane and sloppy turnovers away from the basket by Ball State coupled with Purdue's offense, that probably set college basketball back 30 years, made this one tough to watch.
|It was uglier than this photo.
Sarcastic cheering throughout the small crowd was the norm during the game. Plus an odd disagreement between the officials on a charge/block call led to a dead ball, all three on-court officials and the table official to discuss the matter made this game even uglier.
Hammons took advantage of the Cardinals very un-skilled bigs, scoring 15, and adding five rebounds and three blocks. RonJohn had 11 points, two rebounds, five assists and two steals...but added three TOs. His defense was what was most-noteworthy for me though- he made life pretty difficult for whoever ran the point for Ball State, especially as the game was close around the 7/8 minute mark of the second half. TJohn had 14 points, three rebounds, four assists and a steal...and while he struggled from outside the lane, he willed in a few shots in traffic, with contact, that were important. Byrd's 11 points and three rebounds were solid- he didn't force the issue. Lawson cleaned and shined the glass to the tune of 11 boards to go along with a couple rebounds and blocks.
The Davis magic wasn't there as he went 0-3 from the court...badly missing a three from the corner to start his game...playing only nine minutes in the game. Hale came back from injury and looked rusty, missing shots on three-straight possessions. AJ's 18 minutes were extremely quiet...and Carroll was steady in the 10 minutes he played.
On message boards and Twitter, some Purdue fans hoped/wished that the second half of the UND game was a turning point of sorts for this Purdue team. Davis would become the key cog for the Boilers, the tempo would be up and Purdue would get back to its roots of playing hard defense and simply winning. Well, our Boilers beat BSU...but after that, there's not a ton of evidence that this team took a big step forward.
By the way- that generally doesn't happen in sports...especially for really young teams. They grow up slowly and sometimes painfully. But, Matty had his pups take what was given to them Tuesday night as they forced the issue in the lane ad nauseaum and Ball State just refused to do anything about.
This game had all of the MACtion I could take for a season...mercifully, there will be no more. When Purdue lost the lead, I wondered aloud when the last time a Purdue team had lost twice to MAC foes in one season...thankfully, I didn't have to look that up before posting this.
And after Purdue's third six day or longer break of the season, the Boilers will welcome the Tribe of William and Mary to Mackey on December 29th. Despite what some are saying, William and Mary isn't very good...they have no quality wins and a really bad loss. So Purdue should be able to pull back to .500 before welcoming the new-look (read as very good) Illini to Mackey to start conference play.