**Post updated at 10:45 PM ET**
The Boilers put on an impressive performance today to move to 2-0 in conference with a 75-60 victory over Illinois in a game that honestly wasn't even that close.
The Boilers trailed 23-15 with five minutes to go in the first half and I was definitely getting a bit concerned. However, a 37-6 howitzer blast of a run by the good guys swelled the lead to 23 (52-29) and that, coupled with the Illini's body language, showed this one was over.
I personally was pleased with this one for a number of reasons. Purdue lost two of the best players they've had in their stable in many years -- two of them -- and have still come out of the gate strong, to the tune of a 12-3 (2-0) start. And we also must remember -- not like you could forget -- that the Boilers' losses have all been games they had every right to win, if only they could have closed them out. It's not like this team has been outclassed in any contest.
In this game, Purdue only had two guys get into double digits, with Barlow netting a tidy 14, including 5/7 from the line, and Ryne Smith tallying 12, all from beyond the arc on 80% three-point shooting (4/5). Ryne also had four rebounds, an assist and two steals. I also loved Smith's hustle in this game, as he gave up his body a number of times and played some strong help defense under the basket, committing a foul to stop a slam -- I like that.
Elsewhere, LewJack had a quiet but important eight points on 67% FG shooting (2/3) and 80% FT shooting (4/5), as well as six rebounds and two dimes. He also only played 19 minutes and I think this was part of the concerted effort b-dowd mentioned in his last write-up to keep Jackson fresh. Once the Boilers were up big, why not give the younger guys some heavy minutes? It's never too early to think about next year, when convenient.
To that end, Terone and Travis Carroll both had 21 minutes off the bench, and scored nine and seven, respectively. AJ and DJ both played 18 minutes in relief and had seven and nine points, respectively.
|Electric slide tonight for NYE?|
Rob Hummel had his quietest game of the season, finishing with only five points in 22 minutes, but also with five rebounds and three assists. Lawson was incredibly quiet in another start, but on the plus side, he did commit only two fouls rather than his customary four.
John Hart only played nine minutes but most came in the first half and I liked what I saw out of John. I also liked seeing him get important, first half minutes. I'm not sure if that will continue, obviously, but as I said, I thought it was good to see as John continues to try to find his role within this team.
The reason I liked this win was because Purdue showed moxie. Just like the downhill direction can be contagious for a basketball team (like looking over your shoulder expecting to blow big leads when it happens a few times), I also think confidence can be just as, if not more, contagious. The Boilers, as mentioned, were down late in the first half before using a mini-surge to take a narrow halftime lead. They then came out and ballooned the lead into the 20s -- but with 12 minutes remaining. More than enough time to blow it, if you were worried they were inclined to do that.
But the boys in black and gold (and white and whatever gold that was) didn't fold and kept the Illini at a comfortable distance the rest of the way. I'll admit, the earlier flops this season make me a little gunshy as the lead went back under 20 and then down to 17.... but the Boilers held firm and looked confident doing so.
Hey, the best our boys could be right now in Big Ten play is 2-0 and they are just that -- which is a lot better than 0-2.
The alums who comprised the Paint Crew tonight while the students are on break did a good job and included the handsome Travis from H&R.Well done, old people.