The Boilers went into a tough environment tonight and put together another win that was close for a while, but then at the end you look up and the walk-ons are in and the margin is about 20. I did sense some consternation from the Purdue faithful on Twitter and I guess there are a few things to say here.
First, yes, it was "only" a Horizon League team. Purdue should definitely handle Valpo. And they did -- don't lose sight of that. Also remember, the Horizon League is where the national runner-up came from last season. And also remember that this game was circled on Valpo's calendar. This was by far the biggest game on their schedule. This isn't me being cocky or obnoxious (no more than usual, anyway) -- it's just a fact. Valpo and its fans were amped -- rightfully so -- to get Purdue in their gym. I can understand that and I give them big time props for making that place sound like it was rocking at the start of the night. All true basketball fans can appreciate a raucous atmosphere on a December night in Indiana.
Boilerdowd minimized the Crusaders a bit on last week's Handsome Hour, but I think when he watches the tape of this game he'll feel a little differently. If Purdue did not buckle down and get focused in the second half, this could have been a very different night. Yes, as I said, the Boilers won comfortably, but it's because they adjusted to Valpo and, once again, ground an opponent into submission.
Valpo clearly decided tonight that they were not going to make the mistake some other teams have made and try to play JJ one-on-one. They were doubling him from the start and sometimes tripling the big guy. As a result, other Boilermakers had open shots and, thankfully, guys like Ryne Smith (9 pts on 3/4 shooting, all from 3) and Kelsey Barlow (13 pts on 5/7 shooting) were knocking them down.
Smooge, of course, was his typical dazzling self, shooting over 50%, collecting 23 points and making ESPNU analyst Mark Adams fall in love with him.
Another really encouraging thing I saw tonight was the team play. Purdue had four guys score in double figures, with JJ scoring 13 and LewJack chipping in 11 on 80% (4/5) shooting. I also loved that six different guys had assists.
The Boilers -- shorthanded with John Hart out with a foot injury and Patrick Bade out with his ass stapled to the bench -- came to play tonight and shot 52% as a team. There were, of course, concerns as to who might step up and it was good to see several guys making plays. Terone Johnson was perhaps the only negative tonight, but he's a freshman and games like this are going to happen. He'll be fine.
Purdue fans had a new media target to aim their collective howitzers at tonight....doofus, thy name is Mark Adams.
Adams, who reminded us again and again....and again that Rob Hummel is out for the season, was being called "Coach" by his broadcast partner Jim Barbar. So I decided to look because I didn't know who the hell Mark Adams was... and here's his coaching record. For those too lazy to click the link, he coached at Central Connecticut State from 1991 to '96 and went 40-95, or a sizzling .296 winning percentage. Or an average of eight wins a season. So, definitely, let's listen to Mark. I would say that all Mark Adams knows about basketball is that he wasn't good at coaching it.
Some Adamisms from tonight:
He referred to E'Twaun Moore as "Rob Moore" on more than one occasion.
He said Matt Painter coached at "Eastern Illinois" before Purdue. On more than one occasion.
He said Ryne Smith is "too good a shooter, with too much confidence" to miss that a three that he knocked down. And look, we all love Ryne Smith, but Adams was fooled by Ryne's ability to hit 500 straight threes in practice.
He seemingly predicted an upset at the outset of the telecast. I'm still not sure I heard him right, but I saw others Tweeting about it so I guess I did.
He said Homer Drew designed an "offense" to stop JaJuan Johnson. Interesting.
|Was I the only one whose heart stopped at this sight?|
Worth mentioning was the collision pictured above where JJ stayed down on the court for an extra minute. I think my knees buckled when I saw this and I involuntary started just saying, "No, no, no...."
Fortunately, the big man was just fine and was looking for a contact lens or something.
The Boilers move to 8-1, including 2-0 in true road games. Next up, the Boilers have three games in a 10-day span from 12/11 to 12/21, against North Florida, Indiana State and IPFW. Barring a shocker, Purdue should be 11-1 heading into the conference opener at Michigan on 12/28.