There's no doubt that the 2007 Baby Boilers and the 2012 Boilers have some similarities...but they're different teams. This squad is decidedly-bigger than that team, and this one has more offensive firepower with Byrd from the outside and TJohn slashing...but with Agent Zero out due to an ankle he sprained on Wednesday, the similarities become kinda striking.
That team only had a single Senior on the roster...this team has two, but one probably won't see significant minutes this season. In '06/'07, the Boilers lost their two biggest offensive threats; Landry and Teague...and needed to define itself. With LewJack, Hummel and Smith gone, Purdue no longer has much of a three point threat (especially without TJohn) and has no one single player that is a go-to guy like 4 was last season.
I didn't like this game too much before I knew that TJohn was out...but with him out, I thought these Boilers would struggle against the veteran-laiden Bison. Bucknell has all five starters back from last season...but one of them was moved to be a sixth man late last season. Three Seniors and two Juniors do the lion's share of the work for Bucknell...and tonight their experience showed.
Purdue kept them at an arm's length for much of the night; around a 4-5 point lead, but about midway through the second half, the tide turned slowly and Purdue seemed to lose its grip on the game. But, the young Boilers squad didn't completely lose control...and the game wasn't really put away until the closing seconds following a missed three by Byrd that would have tied the game. After two Bucknell defenders ran into each other and ended up on the floor, Byrd was given a wide open look from 22 feet that he didn't knock down. A moment later, he was visibly upset by the miss.
But, Byrd hit a few big shots down the stretch that almost got Purdue over the hump. Prior to that, it was tough to ignore an argument between he and AJ. In fact Byrd was so angry that he had to be held back by Hammons prior to a Bucknell free-throw...and AJ continued to bark at Byrd as they lined up. I kind of would have liked to see Painter bench on or both of them...but it didn't happen. The conflict seemed to light a fire under Byrd as he went on a mini-tear afterward.
But I couldn't help but remember a similar argument last season between Hummel and AJ early in the season in which Hummel looked as angry as I ever saw him in a Purdue uni. I don't know if AJ just pisses people off or likes tries to motivate people this way...regardless, he's drawn the ire of two captains in two seasons...I don't know if I'll ever know why, but it's noteworthy.
Hale led the Boilers with 15 points and four rebounds. RonJohn had 12 and six...and Byrd also had 12 points to go along with three rebounds and 2 assists. AJ had the most-complete game, in my opinion, finishing with 9ast, 8pts, 5reb and 2 steals. He seemed to pick up most of the slack left in TJohn's absence...but I expected more from Byrd. From what I read in Italy, he didn't take charge in Italy, as he wasn't given a ton of chances. And this pre-season, in the exhibition games, he was pretty inconsistent. Tonight, once again, it took him a while to get in rhythm.
Purdue held Bucknell to 27 points in the first half...and much of that had to do with the fact that Bucknell was missing a ton of open shots...but in the second half, Purdue's youth showed as stupid fouls led to free throws and Bucknell capitalized. That said, the officials, who I didn't recognize from the upper ring in Mackey, were pretty damned awful...but they were far from the reason Purdue lost.
Purdue allowed Bucknell's big man to establish himself too many times. His position deep in the paint led to a double-double...and the rebounds were pretty huge. But Purdue went 7-15 from the free throw line...And there is our game, really.
Not only did Purdue not draw enough fouls, especially for a team that drives to the bucket a lot, but when they had chances, they missed way too many freebies. And while TJohn looked better in the exhibition games from the FT line, his little brother picked up where he left off last season...going 0-4 from the line. That's gotta change if Purdue is going to win with regularity this season.
The '07 team was a much better defensive squad right out of the gate...They didn't allow 70 points until the seventh game of the season. And if this Purdue team is going to make noise this season, it'll take consistent, hard-nosed defense, as the offense doesn't yet have an identity.
In the closing minutes Purdue had multiple opportunities to tighten up the game, but seemed very discombobulated. I'm not sure if TJohn would have been the guy to hit the daggers or make a game-changing drive, but he probably wouldn't have panicked as Purdue's guards did as time wound down.
Nothing surprised me tonight except for Hale's ability to consistently find the hoop. I take that back- Lawson's two 19 footers kinda shocked me...but accept for those and a big swat, he was pretty quiet on the night. Hammons looked uncomfortable with the ball- I think he'll settle in. But, he had a 6'11" guy guarding him who many say is an NBA prospect, and there's no denying that his size and strength will create problems for some teams. He fills a lot of space and has soft hands; he'll improve. Simpson's footwork looked very good to me, but following a few nice plays he looked gassed as he stood in the corner as if isolating on an NBA. I think he might be a lot like TJohn the last few seasons...the next month and one half could be hard for him as he struggles to get into game shape.
RonJohn is going to be good. He's very smooth, has good vision, plays great on-ball defense and finishes improbable drives a la LewJack...but without the tremendous amount of contact at the end of each play. Carroll, Marcius and Simpson all played limited minutes as Purdue played a fast-paced offense for much of the game...but when forced into the half court, Purdue struggled to score. Davis didn't play as many minutes as I thought he would...but had a great, athletic finish. I thought he might be the guy to step into 0's minutes, but that wasn't the case.
I'm not sure when TJohn will return, but I don't think he'll be playing in Sunday's game v. Hofstra...But we do know that Matty will need to get his short-handed, youthful Boiler squad ready to play quickly.
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