People seem to have a short memory...but mine is differently. Whereas many Purdue fans saw this game as a slam dunk, all I could think of was how Evanston was a house of horrors for Matty's teams...and this year would be no different. Hell, even when the forces of good prevail in their shortest roadtrip in the conference, it's never easy...and shocker, this one wasn't easy.
The preparation for the Wildcats must be torture for Painter...it forces him to put Purdue defenders in *gasp* a zone...and I'm sure it's a pretty crappy one. Painter seems as opposed to zone defenses as I am to diets formal attire.
So as Purdue came off of a few days of practice versus what is surely one of the worst zone defenses in America, they had to play Northwestern's extended 1-3-1...and their confusion and lack of ability to attack it showed.
Let me take that back, LewJack and TJohn did a pretty good job at attacking the gut of the defense, but the opportunities were few...and Purdue, predictably, shot like rubber dog doo for much of the contest. The half time score was a painful 22-26, with the good guys holding the lead because of AJ's last-second three. But Hummel, Smith, Byrd and pretty much everyone was struggling to put the ball into the orange ring.
Before I get into any details any further, lemme say a few things about some unimportant things.
First, I've heard people call the Welch-Ryan Arena a glorified high school arena. Let's be honest, there's nothing glorified about that place. The site lines are bad, it's got some sort of black pipe hanging across the court, it's tiny and their recently stain job to the court is nasty-bad. I liked it in renderings...and throw up a bit in my mouth each time I see it on the television now. It makes a HD picture look like bleached out video from the 80s or before. None of this changes the fact that it's a tough place to win. It's a lot like Cameron Indoor Stadium...without any of that pesky history to get in the way of outsider's opinion of it.
|"Another Bang-up job, B1G officials!"|
Next up, the fact that Davide (David-ay) Curletti was still in the game when the clock hit triple-zero is a huge indictment on the crappy job the B1G officials do. Sure, Curletti got sick of spelling and pronouncing his name during his childhood over and over...so he developed a chip on his shoulder, but he was flat-out playing like a douche today. He threw a high elboy into Smith's chin, threw elbows at Hummel and Carroll and grabbed Hummel, TJohn and others over and over. I always gave the guy a pass since I figured he didn't speak English...he looks European, his name is Euro...but no, he's from Michigan...and his jerk style of play has everything to do with him being a punk on the court and nothing to do with his pseudo-Euroness. I'm sure he's the salt of the earth when he leaves the violet-stained court, but he's unlikable when in purple...and will make it easier for me to root against NU as they continue their tourney 0-fer this season.
Not everyone on that squad is a jackface though...I kind of like Crawford; and the dude just killed Purdue today. And Shurna looks like a 7th grader, but can fill it up...but this team, with its lack of depth and un-Big Ten-like athleticism, should be beaten a lot in the conference...and it turns out they are.
They had a running start coming into conference play- 10-2...but since they entered their own house of horrors, the B1G, they're 2-6...but they almost stole one today. Carmody called this a must-win for the 'Cats...and Curletti, Shurna, Crawford and Marcitullio all played like it was. At the same time Purdue played drowsy and struggled.
One of the tri-captains in particular, Hummel continued to grind and struggle to score. But for the second-straight game, he was the center of a small line-up. The end result is he's not getting the opportunity to get after as many loose balls as usual...he finished with only 3 rebounds. Marcius and Lawson didn't take off their warm-ups...and Carroll only played 11 minutes; so this was a small Purdue team. Byrd is back to playing the power forward role on defense- which I think is a pretty natural place for him. But the story on the day was TJohn's ability to get to the middle of the zone and stay under control.
|Boilers Hold on to victory -58-56, in Evanston.
(serious question- is back part of the ball?)
TJohn finished with 14 points on 60% shooting (only 25% from the stripe, of course). He also had 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks and just one turnover. He continues to raise his level of play...and make ignorant Purdue fans eat their words- bite by tasty bite. For some reason, many thought he should've come into God's Country and averaged 10-15 pts/gm...but like almost everyone, it's taken him time to get comfortable. And also, he WASN'T HEALTHY AT THE BEGINNING OF THIS SEASON! He looks healthy and nearly in shape now.
LewJack gutted out 8 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds and 2 steals...Byrd had 12 & 4...and both Barlow and AJ were pretty productive in limited minutes. Smith had an un-Smith like day, not only shooting poorly, but not getting many rebounds (2) and only registerring 1 assist. Hummel's play was tough to watch at times...but his sizable shot in the closing seconds over Curletti was the dagger, possibly on the Wildcats NCAA tourney-seeking heart.
It wasn't pretty...in fact, it was damned ugly...but a digit in the left column is something this team desperately needed. And Big Shot Rob returning right before a bye week might be exactly what this team needed to see to remind them that they belong in the NCAA tournament this spring.
I hope this game can be viewed as a turning point of sorts for a team that still has no defensive identity...but we won't know that for at least another month. What we do know is that the shiny tan Forehead and his minions will be bringing their
stench squad to Mackey one week from today. After that, they travel to Columbus for a tough one, then back to Mackey to play these Wildcats once again.