|Best shot of the night: Three Purdue legends, GRob, Cardinal and Keady
enjoying the game together
As a fan, I wondered if Purdue would take any of the momentum from the Wisconsin game into tonight's game...one guy did...but the rest...not so much. Sandi started Purdue off right by scoring our Boilers' first 7 points...but in that same period, TJohn and RonJohn seemed to be sleep walking. The good guys had an astounding amount of turnovers in the first four minutes. Lazy passing and head down dribbling gave Michigan gift after gift...and UM jumped out to an early lead.
Purdue was down by 12 at the half way point of the first half and UM was in control. But after a lil' time on the pine, TJohn's head got screwed on straight, Chooch continued to spark the Boilers and RayDay showed again what might be next season. Within four minutes of gametime, it was a four point deficit...in four more minutes, Matty's boys had the lead.
Purdue was playing a higher level of basketball for the second-straight half versus one of the nation's best...with a lot left to play for. Wisconsin was a better match-up for Purdue; kinda always have been, the way they slug teams into submission, but UM's horses; at least two NBA players on the current roster, seemed shocked by Purdue's effort, active hands and tight defense; something that had been lacking for much of the season.
After the four point halftime lead became 12 at nearly the midway point of the second half, UM gained composure and calmly started chipping away.
Marcius' ability to get difficult rebounds and come up with loose balls, Davis' big play capability, RonJohn's vision and quickness and TJohn's will tonight were noteworthy. But when Marcius rolled his ankle badly, Purdue lost steam...and as UM's athletes started making plays and big shots, you could feel the air go out of the building a bit. Much like in the first UM game, Michigan took it at Purdue and started getting calls...specifically, Burke drew a ton of fouls in the closing minutes; some legit, some simply protecting the All-American. But Purdue wasn't helping itself and just couldn't keep up with Burke's quickness.
Much like Purdue's first half, Michigan fought back and took the lead in the closing minutes; around the 4:00 mark in fact...Purdue got it back seconds after. But one minute later, Michigan took a lead that they didn't relinquish. TJohn did everything humanly possible to keep it close, and unlike the game in Crisler, poor officiating and general adversity didn't cause Purdue to fold like one of J Money's fine Italian made suits. Instead, it was at least interesting until the closing moments, but UM's Burke did what he did v. MSU earlier in the week and simply closed the game out by making plays.
Final score: 80-75
I'll be honest, seeing and hearing a raucous Mackey Arena and a Purdue team that fights is good for my soul. My son's basketball team's schedule forced me to give up my tickets to tonight's game...but as Purdue played yet another good game, I bargained with the basketball gods- I'd sacrifice being there if these guys played like this each game. Sure, my attendance, or lack there of had nothing to do with it, but it felt like it did (I also couldn't make the Illinois game).
Hammons continued to struggle. A few weeks ago, if I told you that Marcius rolling his ankle would be a killer for this team, you'd call me as crazy as Tom Crean after a Red Bull. But Marcius' injury was huge because Hammons had that same look in his eyes that he had v. Wisconsin; distant, tired, passionless. The dude has more talent and God-given gifts than anyone on the team, but can't put together a five minute run of solid effort right now; tough to watch. His sub finished with 13 points and 5 rebounds...in the same amount of time (18 mins) that he got 5 points, 4 rebounds.
Byrd's up and down season continued- after his most-complete game and definitely his best half of the season, he went 1-7 from the field and finished with just 3 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists. UM double teamed him a lot and made shutting him down a focus of their defense...and it almost killed them. As they sagged off of 21, TJohn was going crazy: Game high, career high, 32 points on 12 of 17 shooting (3/5 from deep), and he added 7 rebounds and 3 assists.
His brother played pretty damned well too and matched one of the nation's best PGs' quickness at times. He had 7 assists and just one turnover...but the TO came in the closing minutes as he looked for his brother on the left wing in an attempt to tie the game. I really wanted to see Byrd get a shot as UM had started focusing on TJohnson, especially since Byrd had just hit his first three, but it didn't happen. Te'Ron's assist:TO ratio the last two games has been 5:1...definitely showing growth.
|RayDay doing the little things...|
RayDay had a great closing 10 minutes of the first half and was one of the catalysts of the comeback. He finished with 15 points, 9 rebounds, a steal and a block.
I asked, wished actually, for Purdue to give themselves something to build on for next season...and they've done that the last few games. They've shown that the scrappiness is still alive in the program, that there is talent in the stable and that there is a reason to be, at minimum, cautiously optimistic for what's coming late next fall.
With this loss, Purdue drops to two games below .500...so an NIT birth is a bit of a pipe dream. Purdue is now locked into playing the 11:00 am game next Thursday versus either Minny or Illinois...their second round opponent is still very much up in the air depending on what happens this weekend (I believe*).
Next up, Minnesota at high noon on Saturday. Hopefully Byrd can get back on track and go out with a big game on Senior Day.
|TJohn's Herculean effort not enough|
*Read Z's post from earlier for more info
Credit AP's AJ Mast and Getty Images for all photos