This game was kind of weird for Purdue fans, as the Boilers seemed to go into a phone booth and come out as a superhero team. These weren't the same guys we've been seeing the last two to three weeks. They looked energetic, they shot the lights out and they played a game that, frankly, isn't their game.
Baylor got Purdue to play their game -- up-tempo, end-to-end, run-n-gun action. Only the Bears didn't shoot well, the Boilers did and when it came to defense... well, let's just say there was a difference in defensive philosophies between these two squads -- that is to say, the Boilers played defense and the Bears did not.
How about we leave the suggestions that the Big 12 can play D with the Big 10 aside, folks. This game showed that that was not the case, at least not in this example. The Big 12 is known for offense -- not for rough-and-tumble play and certainly not for defense. And the Baylor Bears employed the Voyeur Defense (just watching) all afternoon. Which is great for us.
What's even more great is the way Purdue came out of the gate, shooting and rebounding while running the floor efficiently and energetically. And when Ostrich had zero points at halftime? No problem, because the other guys were all stepping it up for him. At one point early in the second half, this game was 50-27.
Purdue continues playing well in the first round. In fact, I can't remember the last first-round exit we had. ESPN helpfully points out that this is ten straight first-round wins for Purdue. I wonder how that ranks against other current streaks. (I'm too lazy to look it up so the first person to correctly tell me wins a cookie.)
Keaton Grant and Smooge were men among boys out there, looking poised and solid the entire game. The Boilers shot 49% from the field and 41% from three (against 41%/29% for the Bears).
Perhaps my favorite quote from the above-linked ESPN recap:
"It was 46-27 at halftime, and at that point it was painfully apparent that the Big Ten second-place finishers were simply too quick and talented to be overtaken."
Followed closely by:
"It didn't matter that the Boilermakers didn't shoot a single free throw in the opening 20 minutes. It was, however, indicative of the fact that they were simply too efficient from the outside and too skilled underneath."
Damn! We sound like world-beating national championship contenders!! When did this happen? "Too skilled underneath"?? We don't even have a center! No matter....
It's also always fun to look at pre-game thoughts and, hey, I know this is like shooting fish in a barrell, but it's our site so deal with it. From a Baylor message board, in response to Off The Track's pre-game analysis of the matchup (where he predicted a 75-67 Purdue win):
Good analysis, but we are going to score more than 67.
Yep, and we torched you for 90.
I personally love this comment, though:
People seem to overlook the fact that we played decent defense in the non-conference. The quality of offense in the Big 12 is so superior to the Big 10, it's ridiculous.
Wow, if that's an example of "decent defense," I want to change the Big Ten-ACC Challenge to the Big Ten-Big Twelve Curb Stomping Event.
Okay, okay, that's enough of that. There's some more nonsense that would be fun to take down, but I shouldn't be piling on because Baylor's come a long way in the past few years and they deserve credit for being there.
What's next? Well, Xavier's what's next. The Musketeers had a very good season... but they had it in the A-10. So what does that mean? Well, like a team like Memphis, it means they're very hard to handicap because it's hard to say what blazing through a second-rate conference really means. It could mean they're as good as their record indicates. It could also not mean that...
My initial feeling is somewhat obvious -- if Purdue continues to shoot, rebound and defend the way they did against Baylor, they should easily beat Xavier and by that logic could certainly hang with or beat their next opponent. Thing is, though, will this next game be like the games during the 11-game win streak, or will it be more like a letdown game? Always hard to predict with such a young -- and perhaps tiring -- group.
Xavier, interestingly, also had an 11-game streak right around the same time Purdue was reeling off theirs. Among their victims in the A-10 were URI, LaSalle, St. Bonaventure, Fordham, Duquesne and Richmond. Who? Yeah, exactly.
That said, I don't want that to sound like I'm taking the Muskys lightly. I'm not. But I want to put their 14-2 conference record in perspective. In short, they're good (no 3-seed isn't) but they're also beatable.
I think the Baby Boilers are having fun now and we all know how things look when they're having fun. When they're feeling it and everything's working, the steals come easier, the defense is solid and the fast breaks are efficient. We saw it today against Baylor. I think we'll see it again on Saturday.