It doesn't feel any less lousy this morning. The Boilermakers still lost a game that they led nearly wire-to-wire. They lost a game where they shot a better percentage -- albeit with a serious dropoff in the second half -- than a presumably much better team. They lost a game where, perhaps most frustratingly for me, they didn't force Kansas to make a play, to win it. Kansas simply took Purdue's turnovers and long rebounds and won the game with breakaways. Sure, they count just as much and the Jayhawks won and move on, but it doesn't feel like it was supposed to end like this.
We all knew there was a good chance that this would be the seniors' final game. But after 38 minutes of basketball, it just felt like it couldn't end now. When you lead a game the entire time and -- to their credit -- find ways to edge the lead back up each time the powerhouse Jayhawks cut into it. In fact, the lead did get to double digits in the second half. And in most years, with a Matt Painter coached team, if I said you had a double digit lead anytime in the second half against pretty much anybody, I think you'd take it.
So many odd things happen in the tournament. Rob goes for 22 in the first half but just 4 in the second. However, that can be credited to Kansas, who while they were outcoached by the Purdue staff, clearly is good enough to go into the locker room and say, "Let's guard Hummel and not let him beat us... let's make someone else beat us." It was a smart approach and it worked.
In other games recently, it might have been Terone Johnson who beat them, and Zero showed with 10 points in the second half, but his teardrop was just not splashing like it has of late. In other games, it might have been the little man, Lewis Jackson, who has gone for 18 (vs St. Mary's), 17 (vs IU), 20 (vs Minn) this season, for example. But Lew's patented high-speed, running layup was just refusing to fall, slowly rolling off the rim at least three separate times. Lew shot 2/11 for the game. How often does that happen? (Not often.)
It could have been Ryne, another favorite of BS. But Ryno was only 1/2 from the floor last night, hitting his only real shot and just missing the last-second prayer that, quite frankly, as about as good a look as Purdue could expect in the situation they were in. Who could have expected that Ryne would have just three points in two tourney games? It's unusual and not something you could have predicted.
Purdue had trouble on the glass all year. Yet here, against two of the better big men in the nation, the Boilers were only outrebounded 35-32 -- damn near a wash. And when you look at the starting five's rebounds for the Boilermakers you see this column of numbers: 9-6-3-8-4. Guys were gutting it out and doing everything they could.
Sandi Marcius, for all the abuse he's taken from Purdue fans, played hard and did what he was asked. Sandi had 11 DNPs in the Boilers' final 21 games. Yet when he was asked to be a body, use his fouls and grab rebounds, Sandi didn't sulk, pout or give a lackadaisical effort. He gave an effort to be proud of, because that's what Boilermakers do.
The effort was recognized on the other side, too, as Bill Self clearly had loads of respect for the Boilers. Interestingly to me also was the way Self's players quite obviously respected Purdue's effort and Rob Hummel in particular. Those guys didn't seem like a great group of dudes but in the handshake line, Jayhawk after Jayhawk stopped Rob to do more than give the typical "good game." He scared them and almost beat them single-handedly and those guys wanted to let him know they respected it.
I saw some raw emotions after the game last night on the instantaneous medium that is Twitter. I stopped looking after a few trolling IU losers did their usual sad-life, antagonism routine, but before I did -- immediately after the game -- I saw some harsh criticisms directed at a couple guys in particular that I'd like to address here.
Lewis Jackson -- For anyone who wants to batter Lew for those final two possesstions, especially the second to last one where he ended it with a turnover, I guess you're entitled. But the isolation play was called for Lew, a senior who has been as much a part of Purdue's successes over the past four years as anyone. Lew, a senior who has repeatedly shown an ability to use his quickness to get a layup even when, as Steve Kerr put it during the broadcast, the other team knows it's coming.
Purdue had been shooting cold in the second half and the Jayhawks defense had, as mentioned, bottled up Rob. So why not keep it in the hands of your senior leader? No, Lewis didn't come through in that particular moment. But do not let that cloud your memories of all the times Lew has come through and all the games Purdue won in large part due to his contribution.
He's one of ours and he sold out and risked his future back health for the old gold and black. Do not forget that.
Matt Painter -- I don't quite understand this, but there are those out there who seem to think Painter isn't a good coach. Maybe it's the drama we saw last year and the resulting bigger contract dollars. Regardless, if you think Matt Painter "cost" Purdue that game, then I don't think you know a whole lot about basketball. Throughout this game, I kept thinking that if Purdue was indeed able to pull this win off, that I'd be writing about this game as Matt Painter's best performance as Purdue head coach. And you know what? I still kind of think it is.
Matt even got the Jayhawks to change their game. Withey, the 7-foot center, played well below his averages in minutes, points and rebounds, largely because Coach Self and company decided to go with a smaller, guard-heavy lineup at times -- something that we as Purdue fans were fine with.
Coach Matty took the parts that he had at his disposal -- parts that did not match up in any way to the bigger, skilled Jayhawks -- and found a way to make it work. He found a way to get this team to rebound with Kansas. He found a way to get contributions from guys who -- as mentioned -- were no-shows or one-minute players for the past couple of months. If that's not good coaching, I don't know what is.