Hammons carries Boilers past 'Huskers
The up and down rhythm of AJ Hammons' season, and subsequently, this Purdue season, continued Sunday afternoon versus Nebraska. This time on the positive side of the graph, Purdue outlasted Nebraska in a back and fourth, close-for-the duration game, 70-64. Each time (with exception of the final minutes of the game) that Purdue would get a five or six point lead, they would give it back in a matter of seconds. This Purdue team continues to hate success...and is stuck in permanent learning mode as it tries to figure out how to become a consistent winner.
Nebraska, to this point in the season, is one of Purdue's best wins (only EMU is respected more by man and computer alike). They were ranked #77 according to the RPI coming into this afternoon's contest, in spite of being just one game above .500 prior to tip-off. The Cornhuskers had just lost a heartbreaker to Michigan, and looked motivated from the get-go in front of a less-than-motivated Mackey crowd...but the Boilers on the court didn't reflect that apathy.
Two minutes of terribleness
Purdue played with a ton of energy and intensity (which was great to see), but not a lot of smarts, especially in the second half. The Forces of Good had four turnovers early in the second half...then had 8 TOs in a period of about 14 minutes. During the error-prone period, Purdue lost the lead and was forced to scrap their way back. But today, when Purdue needed a play to be made, Hammons was generally the guy. in one three possession stretch, he blocked a shot, had a spin move and scored, and made a big defensive rebound. On top of making plays in traffic, he hit free throws; going 6 for 7.
Hammons demonstrates how Nebraska had now answer for him (even with 3 defenders near by)
Hammons finished with 18 points, just 3 rebounds, but added 4 blocks...and was perpetually working against double teams. RonJohn added 14 points, 2 ast, and 2 rebounds...but missed too many free throws (4-10), in spite of being generally strong with the ball in his hands. Sterling Carter played smart and kinda huge- he pulled down a team high 7 rebounds (one at an extremely-important juncture) and had 8 points. His fellow Sr. transfer, Peck had 6 rebounds.
Simpson pops out for a three
Simpson played better on the offensive side of the ball (7 & 2)and made some solid plays down the stretch as Painter tried to make sure Hammons wouldn't foul out. The Kid was 2-3 from three...both of the made bombs were from around NBA range.
The Kid's range now extends to the halls of Cary Quad
Sadly, If Nebraska continues to struggle, this home win won't look too impressive, but it was needed as it's imperative that Purdue builds confidence in any way it can get it.
Next up, the #23 Illini (13-3) welcome our Boilers (11-5) to The Assembly Hall in Champaign for a Wednesday night BTN winter's nightcap. Even though the chief might not be ranked anymore come Monday afternoon, they've been rock-solid, even in losses, until their last game...one in which
The Bird Man Bo Ryan's Badgers bludgeoned Illinois in Madison. As in every Purdue season, the next game presents yet another opportunity in which Purdue has a chance to change the trajectory of the season. A road win versus a nearly-ranked opponent in the B1G could go a long way in making the Boilers a legit threat to make the tournament.
Just because he played well and we haven't done it for a while, here's an AJ-O-Meter...Doesn't get the best-possible rating because he wasn't too active on the glass. BUT, he was solid offensively and defensively and very acive end-to-end.
(Thanks to Swamy for the clips.)