It's tough to beat MSU when you've got a full roster...it's tougher when a starter and sixth man aren't available. The effects of this week's suspension and dismissal seemed pretty obvious, especially in the second half, but the guys who could play fought hard.
In the first half, the Spartans were having their way with the Boilers underneath. Granted, it's a bit easier to dominate the offensive end when your bigs are allowed to throw high elbows and travel to get position. After the second or third time Payne and Nix had mauled their way to the basket, Painter got very animated with this lousy officiating crew...I was pretty sure he'd earn himself a tech...but never did. I think a tech would have been in order and might have been a good way to make the team understand he was doing everything he could do as they fought to overcome the long odds. But it didn't happen, and it might not have mattered anyway.
After Hummel had a Hurculean first half, scoring 18 points, the Boilers led by three- 38-35. Much of the first half the good guys were down by 3-5 points...but fought and clawed and scratched were on top after the first 20 minutes were complete, but the second half was a different story.
Purdue's ability to make the extra pass to set up the open shot, that we've seen the last few games, was gone. Then, as our Boilers languished for around 7 minutes without a made shot from the floor, some old crap crept back in...missed layups and bunnies and a few missed free throws for good measure. Not Hummel nor Smith, Jackson nor either Johnson was hitting shots...partially because of MSU's defense, but also because of poor shooting and shot selection. Finally, Painter brought AJ in and he kind of went off.
A three, followed by another three and a drive that finished with a teardrop got MSU's lead down to single digits, but that was it. After that, Purdue couldn't seem to get inside of ten points and MSU salted it away.
Hummel's game was a monster, in spite of awful shooting from three (1-9). He finished with 24pts, 15rebs, 3ast and 3blks. He was moving well, following his shot and fearless in the big
fat trees. Along with Hummel, AJ showed some why I had been so excited about the guy prior to the season- He finished with 10pts, a rebound, assist and steal.
Jackson played as tough as Hummel at times...selling out (as usual) and closing down passing lanes on the other end. He finished with 15pts, 5ast, 2reb and 2stl. Fellow Senior, Ryne Smith shot well at times and finished with 10 points...but had a couple forced threes during that drought in the second half...but in the first half he drove a few times like I've never seen and was effective in doing so. Following the game, Smith, Jackson and Hummel were all asked about the suspensions and dismissal. The most noteworthy response by far was Smiths-
"I think we're gonna come together as a team better...Honestly, I think it's addition by subtraction. DJ's gonna come back in full force, he's a great player for us. Tell you one thing, when he comes back on Wednesday night, he's gonna come back full force...I'll tell you that much."
First off, I'm pretty sure Byrd is one of Smith's best friends on the team. You could tell before the game by Byrd's body language that he was pretty pissed to be in the situation he had put himself in- Good. He messed up, regardless of the reason or intention (which I don't fully know or understand), and he deserved to be suspended. His suspension hurt his team. I hope he comes back looking to make up for lost time on the court.
I like Byrd a lot...I think he's a pretty good guy, and I think his punishment fit crime. Now he can move on and hopefully help his teammates by earning a spot in the tournament and doing a bit of damage.
On the other hand, Smith also referenced Barlow's dismissal as "addition by subtraction." This pissed a lot of people off on the message boards and on Twitter. I don't have a problem with it. Barlow is no longer his teammate and has clearly been a massive distraction for at least two seasons. I'm saddened for his family...but he also got what he deserved...in fact, I think he was given too much grace the more I hear about what he had done in the past year off the court. I have no reason to believe he can't go on to do something noteworthy for another program as he is very talented...but I hope he doesn't just go someplace that doesn't care about his insurrections. Instead, I hope he actually sees that his dumb decisions have consequences...He surely hasn't gotten to that understanding yet.
Now, is Smith's assessment that this team will be better without Barlow accurate? If I had to judge by what I saw today, I'd say no. Barlow had been playing great basketball and was a key cog to the team's brief resurgence. But, the season is not over and there are at least four more games left. I think there's a lot to be said about team chemistry- who knows what Barlow's departure will do for the team.
Guys like LewJack, TJohn and Hart were all pretty good friends with Barlow, from what I understand...so while some might feel better about Barlow's antics no longer being a part of the team, others still might just miss their friend. We'll have to see how it plays out.
What we did see today, once again, is that when this team is playing well, they can play with anyone...in spite of glaring weaknesses. Carroll, Hummel, Marcius and Lawson all struggled with the size and strength of MSU. The good news is, in the next three games, our Boilers won't play anyone with a frontcourt like that again. But the up and down Wolverines at home on Senior night will be a bit of a mother, I'm sure.
Next up though, Matty welcomes back Byrd to the team as the Boilers host Nebraska at 6:30 on Wednesday. Nothing's a gimme, but Purdue must win the games they should and maybe beat someone they're not supposed to in order to get into the dance.
Quick note to the Paint Crew- First off, those of you that were there today were great, as usual. BUT, there seemed to be a ton of PCers that were AWOL. That kind of stinks...and I expect more from you guys. Rally the troops and fill the section for the last two games- Rob, Ryne and Lew deserve it. Next, I hear the B1G told you guys not to single out specific players (i.e. Dawson). Screw that. Dawson singled himself out the last time Purdue played them as well as during his recruiting process and deserves what he gets.
If Delany and co. want players not to be called out, they should make sure there's a deterrent for players not to do as he did in E Lansing. Instead, they rely on you guys to do that. Bull crap.