Boilers Find 7th Heaven in Paradise...Finally
(photo credit jconline)
After two listless efforts in which Purdue waited to the closing minutes to care about the outcome, Purdue came out versus Arizona with some fire.
Sure, it was waaaaaaaaaay too late for this Senior-lead team to wake up from their holiday weekend slumber...but better late than never, I guess. Tonight, this looked like the Purdue team that we saw in the first four games of this young season. Effort level was high, passion was notable, defense finally arrived in the Bahamas, and the Forces of Good Shot their way out of the slump.
Purdue beat Sean Miller's Cats 89-64 last night. That squad started this tournament ranked #2 in America...They have one of the nation's best players, tons of blue chips on the roster and one of the media's favorite coaches on the bench. And Purdue dismantled them.
Sure, the timing was fortunate for Purdue as Arizona simply gave up in the closing minutes. BUT, 'Zona took a few swings at Purdue...and tonight, unlike the last few games, Purdue responded with force. In a two minute span midway through the second half, Arizona cut Purdue's lead from 20 points down to 12. It would get no closer. A few FTs from Boogie, a few stops by the defense, then some buckets by Haas...and it was all but over. Haas fouled out Zona's Ayton by continually getting deep in the post and notching out his space...Ayton looked much better early, Haas finished stronger. He finished with 12 points in 18 minutes.
But that's not the whole story.
Matt Haarms showed up Arizona's big men...and his tutor, Haas. In 20 minutes, Haarms officially had five blocks (deserved credit for a sixth), a pair of nifty assists, four rebounds and six points. More important than the stats, his energy was infectious...and unlike his game versus Tennessee, he played tougher.
Along with Haarms, Vince Edwards reappeared at key junctures, especially early, in this game. Disappearing Vince Edwards is one of the most maddening players to watch. I don't know if we've seen many smoother, more skilled shooting forwards at Purdue, and yet, he's had the propensity to simply fade away at times. He didn't do that tonight. He scored 17 points, grabbed eight boards and added four assists. He attacked both the glass and Arizona's bigs...and it mattered.
The MWC led all Boilers with 24 points...added six assists and five boards. Not only did he shoot well for the first time in this tournament, he simply played smart and patient. Oh yeah, defensively? The old Dakota returned as he held Arizona's Pre-season All-American, Trier, to just eight points. Damn right.
PJ managed the game, but played quietly. But his most noteworthy contribution was his three steals. I don't think most Purdue fans think of PJ as a stopper...he was tonight.
There's someone that I'm forgetting...hmmmmmmm
Kidding. Boogie played hard, wasn't forcing shots and was playing within the system. He moved well without the ball, didn't jack any fastbreak threes without anyone there for a rebound...and in doing so, turned the tide early, in favor of our Boilers. He hit three straight three pointers that were killers...and they were deep. Zona was switching defenders trying to find an answer, but couldn't slow Edwards down.
What about Matty? His substitutions made more sense. He kept guys fresh by trusting his subs. That was really good to see. But he did pull Haarms out of the game in the first half after a few blocks...that was a head scratcher. No matter...He was pulling the right strings tonight.
Purdue played better from the jump. They played with energy, they played physically and the Seniors lead by example. THEN, the young guys fed off of it, and good things happened.
I don't know which Purdue team is the real Boiler squad this season...and I get pretty frustrated when I compare tonight's effort to the last two games. The good news is this team has time in the young season to define itself and get much, much better. The next three games are pretty important for this squad, as they attempt to re-establish their identity. They'll play a ranked L'Ville team, followed by two out of rhythm B1G games. Opportunity abounds.
Good things happen when Painter teams play with a chip on their collective shoulder...but when complacency sets in, we witness what we saw v. Tennessee and WKU. It's good to see the Boilers playing hard again. Purdue's effort earned them out of the cellar of this tourney field, and by the way, Purdue outrebounded the Wildcats by 10.
Next up, Louisville in the B1G/ACC Challenge.