Boilermakers Squander Opportunity, Lose in Evanston 63-60
The Purdue Boilermakers played a basketball game tonight, mere hours after a fellow Boilermaker was senselessly murdered on Purdue’s campus this afternoon and actually during an impressive candlelight vigil on campus. Our hearts and thoughts remain with Andrew Boldt’s family and friends and the entire Purdue University community. Now onto the far-less-important topic of basketball.
“Bad Loss. Tourney crushing loss.”
That was a text from the Swamy as the game clock expired (mercifully) at Northwestern tonight and the Boilers found themselves on the wrong side of a 63-60 score. Basketball is a hard game when you make no baskets. Travis was tracking the actual statistic, but I believe it was an astonishing 22+ minutes with two field goals made. One by Ronnie at the start of the first overtime and then one three pointer by Terone late in the second OT. That was it in the final 22 minutes of the game. That, my friends, is beyond dreadful.
Of course, when that sort of thing is happening, you feed you big man down low. In fact, you do it until the guy guarding him fouls out. And then the next guy fouls out. And…then the….next guy fouls out. AJ did go to the FT line 17 times, hitting 11 of them. However, he only went 3/10 from the field. And for some reason, when Northwestern was literally about to put in a skinny walk-on kid wearing a yarmulke on the bench (not kidding) to guard AJ, Purdue just stopped feeding the Hammonster. Maybe because he wasn’t playing like a Hammonster? Even if that was why, I don’t really care. He was their best option when absolutely nothing else was falling, and Purdue just veered away from it.
Of course, Northwestern was collapsing in on AJ because, hey, nobody else was going to hit anything. Purdue shot a frightful 27.6% from the floor. Guh. Interestingly, they hit at a 38% clip from beyond the arc, versus NU’s 16.7% from deep. Yet somehow, at the end, there was Northwestern pulling ahead in OT.
Let’s make no mistake here. This is a terrible loss. I get that NU is playing relatively well right now. I get that it was in their house. But if you’re going to win road games in the Big Ten, winning at the JV facility that is Welsh-Ryan against a 9-10 squad is where it’s got to happen. It simply has got to happen if you think your team has any hope of the NCAA tournament. Sure, this doesn’t officially end their hopes – there are lots of games left to play. But winning a winnable game that they led by seven (43-36) in the second half would have made the Boilermakers 4-2 in conference heading into a tougher stretch. It would have been a second consecutive road win and a fourth straight overall victory. So in short, it felt very pivotal. And Purdue pivoted the wrong way… much like AJ and his travel dance.
I mean, honestly, why couldn’t AJ just be the Hammonster and do this all game?
Was he tired? Sleepy? Suffering from a pizza hangover? We may never know.
AJ did lead the Boilermakers in scoring with his 17 points, followed by Terone’s 16 on 4/17 shooting and then Ronnie Johnson’s 12. Kid Stephens had seven points on 2/8 shooting from the field (and 1/2 from the line) but couldn’t seem to get into a rhythm. Like everyone, really.
I commented early in the second half that while the game had not been pretty, I had liked what I’d seen so far. Purdue seemed to be rotating better, moving without the ball and while they weren’t shooting tremendously well even at that point, they were keeping the ‘Cats at arm’s length. They were doing what a team that is learning how to win does. I could see 4-2 in my sights and while it could still be chalked up as a win over a team you’re “supposed” to beat, increasing this groups confidence will go a long way towards eliminating the bad body language and soft mentality we’ve sometimes seen from them.
Alas, the lead did not remain (Northwestern’s first lead of the night was in overtime) and after getting foul after foul on guy’s attempting to guard AJ, Purdue stopped throwing him the ball and seemed intent on having Terone re-create his magic from the PSU victory. TJohn tried but just didn’t have it in him.
We would be remiss if we did not pause here to thank the fans and students of Northwestern University for their hospitality and thoughtfulness this evening. At the start of the game, Northwestern – as well as BTN’s Dave Revsine – handled the dark topic of the day’s tragedy at Purdue with grace.
And shortly thereafter, we saw a group of Wildcat students who went even further:
So I’d like to say on behalf of many of us, thanks for your compassion and kindness this evening, Northwestern. We’re proud to stand with you as well.
The Boilers have Wisconsin up next at Mackey this Saturday at 5 PM.