Boilers Win Fifth Straight; Handle Sparty with Ease
If you're one of the Purdue fans who was a bit nervous about this afternoon's game versus Izzo's Spartan's, you're not the only one. It's not difficult to slip back into visions of Dawson, Green, or another MSU forward making quick work of our Boilers. I can honestly tell you that after watching the Forces of Good beat MSU in East Lansing, I knew that not only are the Spartans different, but so are these Boilers.
A raucous Mackey Arena greeted the Spartans and the universally-loved Coach Izzo...and MSU looked ready to play, and the first 12 minutes of the game looked like it would be a dogfight. But between the eight and six minute mark of the first half, Purdue took a two point lead and turned it into an 11 point lead...at the half it was just a nine point lead, but in the second half, Purdue played the bully and simply pushed MSU around, hit shots and made stops before winning, 80-63.
MSU's Freshman phenom, Nick Ward was battling foul trouble most of the game as he tried to contain Biggie and Big Drago...Swanigan made Sparty pay at the stripe, going 9-10. He finished with yet another POY type of game on a relatively large stage. 24 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists and just one, measly turnover. Swanigan, after a week of national publicity delivered yet again versus the team that finished second in his sweepstakes. Kinda nice to see that sort of thing happen to the Good Guys.
As Swanigan had the quietest 24/15 game of the college basketball season, Haas made noise. From entry passes via Mathias, double-post plays from Swani and a few touch passes from Thompson, Haas muscled his way into the paint versus MSU's talented underclassmen, and finished strong when he needed to. Oh yeah, he also showed some touch that reminded me why it still is a possibility for Purdue's mountain-of-a-niceguy to enter the draft if a few things line up in the next 45 days. He had his second straight game in which he set the tone in the lane for the Boilers and finished with 18 points and five rebounds on 8/11 shooting.
While the big dogs ate, Vincent added 12 points and the backcourt quietly hummed along. Mathias led the group with seven points and four assists, PJ had six points, two assists (no turnovers) and two steals. Albrecht played solid in a slightly-increased role with seven points and two assists. As many of us have already thought, if Purdue is to make any noise in the second weekend of the dance, Spike might be a key cog in the machine. One more note- Boogie Edwards was quiet on the night; just three points, three assists on only four shots.
MSU lost Eron Harris to injury late in the second half...it put a bit of a pall over the building to see him go down on a routine drive. He left on a stretcher, sadly...early indicators is a sprained knee, although it looked much worse when it happened.
The formula is simple- keep winning, you win at least a share of the B1G title. I don't see Purdue going unscathed in the remaining games, but if they can't go undefeated, they must beat teams they should beat to get a sniff at a top-4 seed. Next up, a plucky PSU team in the cavernous, and oft-empty Bryce Jordan Center. Gotta win that one, but it'll test Purdue's newfound road maturity. After that, a test versus Michigan might define just how high these Boilers will rise in the polls and in their tourney seed.
As J talked about a day ago, success breeds optimism...and optimism breeds expectations. Expectations might be produce undue pressure on some teams....but it kinda feels like this team wants us to expect something big. I'm beginning to believe we can have a lil' fun in March.