The adage is, you live by the three, you die by the three. And tonight, our Boilers were resurrected by the the three ball. Following (arguably) the worst game for a Purdue team under Painter since his first year coaching at his alma mater, Purdue needed a road win...and got it.
Early on, Purdue jumped out on the wings of Byrd. In the first half alone, the Junior had his career high of three pointers- five...he finished 5-of-6 from long distance. And when I say long distance, it's not an exaggeration. The Byrd Man was bombing from NBA range...and doing so with confidence and without hesitation. He set the tone for Purdue, and Smith followed suit going 3-of-4 from three...Hummel had a couple of threes as well. Byrd's hot shooting helped push Purdue to a 15 point halftime lead as the Boilers exceeded their PSU final tally by two points...in the first half alone. It was 47-32 at the break.
But as the team followed Byrd from deep, they also emulated him from the free throw line...as the ugly free throws returned. Purdue went 9-of-19 from the stripe, pushing the season average lower, yet again. LewJack was an OK 4-of-6 from the line...everyone else shot it pretty badly. But if you can shoot 67% from three, it'll cover up a lot of blemishes...and 55% from field ain't bad either.
In the second half, Minnesota made a conscious effort to keep Purdue, and specifically Byrd from shooting the trey. They played an extended man, pressed and played match up zone that left gaping holes in the lane. Jackson took advantage by driving time and again and slicing up Goldy. He ended with 20 (16 of those coming in the second) points, 4 assists and 0 turnovers. His ball handling was poised under pressure as he avoided and stepped through attempted traps and made Tubby pay for his zealousness on the defensive side of the ball.
But in spite of Jackson sacrificing his body as he was knocked down time and again on the drive, the Boilers let an 18 point lead shrink down to as few as 7...and Purdue fans everywhere felt that familiar feeling creep in again. A couple of cheap turnovers led to quick buckets by Minnesota and fouls mounted quickly by Purdue.
In spite of Minnesota playing an extended man-to-man or trapping zone press, Purdue had 8 fouls to Minny's 1 before the 10:00 mark in the second half. Sure, Purdue's prone to too many fouls, but the officials were doing their part to make it interesting.
Following a few minutes of hap hazard play, the last few minutes exhibited Barlow and Jackson's poise keeping Minny at more than an arm's length, and helped Purdue earn its second B1G road win of the season. Winning at the barn isn't easy- JJ and Smooge didn't do it last year and the Gophers were 10-1 this year before tonight at home. But their other loss came at the hands of Iowa just days ago in a close loss...and the B1G schedule has been rough on Tubby's Mbakwe-less squad; they're now 0-4 in conference.
But Purdue needed this one for a bunch of reasons. Obviously a 3-1 record in the conference doesn't sound too shabby...four other teams in the conference are knotted there with the Boilers in second chasing after the white-hot, undefeated Spartans. But, a ton of superstitious Purdue fans didn't like Hummel getting even close to Minneapolis as Minnesota was involved the last two times he blew out his knee. In a heart-breaking win two seasons ago, Hummel tore his ACL the first time. And with Minnesota in town for football Homecoming of the 2010 season, Hummel tore the same ligament again.
Hummel admitted it'd be "weird" to play there for him, but he wasn't worried. He played a typical Hummel game in a lot of ways- solid. He scored 13, rebounded the ball 7 times, had 2 steals and a block. But, he probably left the old gym with more confidence as another hurdle had been cleared in his final season for Purdue.
Along with Hummel, Barlow did a lot very well- he had 7 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists...but turned the ball over too many times. TJohn had a good rebound game following the egg he laid in Happy Valley- he finished with 10pts, 6reb, 2stl and a block...while only turning it over once.
AJ, Lawson and Carroll were all pretty quiet...Carroll started based on a solid effort at PSU.
The 13-4 Boilers get to come home to host the suddenly-struggling Wisconsin Badgers. Their lone win came versus Nebraska who looks to be the worst team in the conference. The bad news for Purdue is that Wisconsin will not be ranked, so even if Purdue can beat them, it won't be viewed by the polls as all-that-noteworthy.
All that said, any Bo Ryan coached team is dangerous in the B1G...and a wounded Badger is pretty scary. The Paint Crew will be back in full force for the first time in a while; I'm looking for big things out of the best student section in the land...This one will be televised on EsPN at 7:00 on Thursday evening.