The Boilers took down Wake Forest tonight in WestLaf by 11, 69-58, though the score got wider than that before a late Demon Deacons run made it a bit closer. Nevertheless, Purdue exorcised some demons tonight.
Tonight's game was a terrific example of what I was talking about earlier today. Good teams win games like this. Lesser teams (and past Purdue teams) let a horrid shooting start like that demoralize them and get in their heads. Sure, there's still a lot that can improve, but aren't most teams saying that on December 1?
Purdue has had trouble in high profile games early in the year of late. Well, they've had trouble in lots of early-season games, period. High-profile or otherwise. A loss to Wofford not too long ago. 0-2 to begin conference play last year. That terrible showing against Duke. But this season -- as we hoped it would be -- is different.
Solid, methodical dismantlings of lesser opponents is a good first step. And then quality showings and the ability to overcome obstacles against good-to-very-good teams (Tenn, Wake) is a very promising second step. 6-0 feels good, and it should. It's a nice position to be in, worrying about getting more offense. But how nice is it also that the boys can start 0-11 from behind the arc and finish 1-15 from out there (yeah, that's less than 7%), and yet still never fall behind by more than six?
Rob Hummel, while shooting under 30% from the field (including 0-6 beyond the arc), still managed to have another 11/11 double-double, and JJ led the way with 21 points and over 50% shooting, as well as 7-10 from the line. On that subject, the Boilermakers cashed in at a 77% clip from the line, versus just 52% for Wake Forest. We say this all the time -- games can and will be won and lost at the line. Pressure defense and guys who get under the other teams' skin leads to foul trouble and bonus time.
You know what else pressure defense leads to? Turnovers. 26 Purdue points were scored off of 25 Wake turnovers. (Mmmmm, turnovers.) Wake Forest players were yelling at each other at a few points in the game. Fun to see... when you're on this side.
Weird number of the night: DJ Byrd had four fouls in just six minutes of play. Better nights are ahead for DJ.
Speaking of froshs, Kelsey Barlow continues to improve, playing 14 minutes and, though he didn't score from the field, he was perfect (6-6) from the line and tweaks the Deacs a few times, drawing fouls and committing a few, before Coach Matty pulled him late to ensure things stayed under control. I like it.
I love this team and they never seem to be overly bothered if things aren't going their way. This is not the first time they've had a mediocre first half (going back to last season, when they always seemed to start slow). Maybe it's just time to admit this team is a second-half team. Tonight they clamped down in the second half and simply wore Wake out. Once they took the lead back and weren't allowing Wake to score, you knew it was over. And it turned out to be one of those games where a few minutes later, you look at the score and are almost surprised it's gotten so comfortable.
On T-Mill's Cover It Live chatfest tonight, a few guys were commenting how the offense would have to improve in order to beat West Virginia. While I can see the concern, let's remember that's a month away and there are games to play between now and then.
Beyond that, this is a nice problem to have, isn't it? Wishing for more offense when you have Smooge pouring in 22 and JJ netting 21, plus Hummel (on an off night shooting) putting up a double-double? Yes, Keaton's 1-point performance and o-fer from the floor is, um, a concern. But we continue to have faith that the Keaton of two years ago is still on his way back. We shall see, I guess.
Quite honestly, the next few should be "gimmes" for a top 5 team. The toughest expected game would be at Alabama next Saturday night, but that should be a win as well if Purdue is who they're supposed to be. 12-0 and heading to the New Year's Day showdown with West Virginia -- at home -- would be fun, right?
But let's take 'em one at a time. Next up is Buffalo this Saturday and Boilerdowd will be observing our boys in action live.
Robbie Hummel tried to slow down Wake with solid D, great rebounding and a dizzying array of bricks.