It's pretty simple- if this team plays two halves of basketball, they either win or are in the position to win at the end. The Forces of Good did just that today and held on for the five point victory in The Assembly Hall.
I never like watching Purdue go into a game in which a team has been backed into a corner...and Illinois was flat-out trapped coming in. Like Painter said about his squad a few weeks ago, Illinois needed to fight to change its situation...and they did. But, by the time they figured out the importance of the game, Purdue was up big.
Illinois fought their way out of a 13 point hole that they had put themselves in...but couldn't get over the hump. The closest they got to the Boilers was a two-point deficit...twice...in the final five minutes. But Purdue finished. Perhaps Illinois just tired themselves out while coming back...or maybe this Purdue team has figured out how to finish again.
This was a game that the Boilers would have surely lost earlier in the season...Big lead cut down to a slim margin...high pressure environment...we've seen it before; but it felt differently.
Unlike the other games that put Purdue in this situation, the defensive intensity was there...the effort was there...the smart passing on offense was there...and at the end there was another game in the left column. As a team, Purdue out-rebounded the taller, more-talented Illini 31-26, and the team that deserved the win got it.
Bruce Weber came out in his orange jacket and the game started out with a thunderous dunk by Illinois' resident headcase, Myers Leonard. But the Boilers showed that substance over style almost always wins.
Hummel worked like a rented mule on the defensive end, guarding the 7'1", soon-to-be professional basketball player, Leonard...and frustrated him pretty soundly. During more than one deadball, you could see Leonard chirping like a baby bird...but it didn't matter. Not only did Leonard not score a whole bunch, he didn't even get the chance to shoot very often. But it wasn't just Hummel that was playing big on defense, but Travis Carroll was sound as well. His box score doesn't tell a fair story for what he did today for Purdue...but the fact that Carroll can clamp down Leonard the way he did today and in Mackey earlier in the season must drive Leonard nuts...gotta love that. Big. Ugly, Effective.
Let's get back to Big Shot Rob for a moment. He and Jackson's two-man game helped Purdue put this one away...and he made big, difficult shots, pulled down key rebounds and looked like #4 from yesteryear. He let the game come to him...and it did. He finished with 19 and 11 in another high-minute game (37).
Jackson was back in the starting line-up today...and had an up and down game. He had two of the best stop-and-go drives I've seen this season as he toyed with Illini defenders to get to the rack. On both cases, he finished the play and didn't even end up hammered to the ground. He finished with 13 points, 5 assists and 3 rebounds. His fellow Senior class member, Smith, started on the bench for this one as Painter continued to play with the starting line-ups based on what he thought might work instead of a formulaic starting five.
|Who wants it more?|
TJohn had an efficient night- 12 points, 6 assists in just 23 minutes while shooting 50%. His teardrop proved to be difficult for Illinois to stop. DJ Byrd hit a few more big shots, as we've become accustomed to, while going 3/6 from three, and earning 13 and 5 in just 25 minutes.
I don't know if a ton of Purdue fans expected victory tonight in spite of Purdue coming into this one with a 6-game winning streak over the Illini...but it seemed that Painter and Co. fully expected it. I said it after the loss to aOSU- This team will be defined by its work ethic and effort at the end of the season...Tonight's victory showed just that. Next up, Purdue gets to welcome
Class A Asshat talented Freshman Branden Dawson and co. to Mackey Arena.
I'm looking forward to being part of the crowd for this one...and I'm pretty sure Matty and the boys are excited about this one as well. Time to protect Mackey again, gentlemen.
Gus Johnson sucks at his job. People who don't see that he's an attention whore from the same mold as Dick Vitale, Ed Hightower, and Kim Kardashian need to look at when and why he gets excited during games. Teenage girls are exempt from this criticism...everyone else has no excuse. He used to be better at calling games; at this point, he is a caricature of himself.