Mackey Thanks Seniors; Seniors Give #100 Back
(photo credit: BTN)
Mackey Arena was electric.
Without a ton left to play for, these Boilers were locked into a #3 seed in the B1G tourney coming into this evening's game with Minnesota. The Paint Crew, the old people and most importantly, their Boilers were geared up to say goodbye. The opponent, Minnesota, was a mere formality...and the fact that these Boilers wouldn't get a piece of a back-to-back B1G championship didn't seem to matter much either.
After scratching out a couple of wins without Vincent in the line-up, the Senior Edwards, the trainers and the coaches decided to give it a go. His ankle wasn't 100%, but I don't think he was missing the chance to go one more time in front of the house that he and his mates helped rebuild.
Packed house. Four Seniors...Gametime. The Forces of Good led by Haas, Edwards, Mathias and Thompson, would ride together one last time on Keady Court.
Purdue wasn't great offensively to start this one. Granted, we've seen worse starts, but they weren't imposing their will on that end of the floor. BUT, they were making up for it on defense 7 blocks and 5 steals...in a half isn't too shabby. But as Purdue fans, we know that this team is capable of big things on offense. One of the Seniors, The Midwest Cowboy, Elida Ohio's own, Mathias went out with an absolute bang.
Dakota Mathias started by hitting threes...and on top of hitting shots from deep, he did everything well. 25 points (7/9 from three), 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, zero turnovers. Before the game he said he felt odd...I get it. It's not every day that a chapter like this ends; but he ended it in style. Minnesota had no answer for him, as Mathias was the catalyst for 84-60 drubbing.
Isaac Haas added 13 points and 4 rebounds...he also pulverized the emotions of the Mackey faithful by completely breaking down in tears following the game. Haas' steadiness has been his greatest strength outside of his strong back that had to carry these Boilers at times. Today, with his Mom, Dad and Sister there, one of Purdue's team comedians, the great stone mountain Hokes Bluff, Big Drago, let it all out. Not only does Purdue's family appreciate their favorite son from Alabama, he appreciates them as well.
Vincent Edwards played a solid game in his final offering on Keady Court. 10 points, a pair of boards and a pair of assists for The Good Guys' 5-tool players. He does it all. His versatility has helped gloss over roster problems that earlier rosters had, that this one doesn't. Middletown, Ohio's own has a few days to heel his sore ankle before he gets to shoot for one more B1G title in NYC.
LaSalle "PJ" Thompson IV, the Indy native...perhaps the most unlikely member of this Senior class didn't set the world ablaze on his Senior Night. He only shot the ball twice; made one of them. 3 points, a rebound an assist and a steal. Indianapolis Brebeuf's own flowed with gratitude to Coach Paint, his family, his teammates and you, fellow Boiler fan. This guy might not be playing his best ball right now, but he's still impossible for me not to like, cheer for and be a fan of.
Although today was about the Senior Class, the game wasn't all about them. Carsen Edwards cooled off of his sizzling 40 point effort with an effortless 18 point, 7 assist, 4 rebound, 3 steal and 2 blocked shot game. He was 6/12 from the field.
Off of the bench, Big Matty (Haarms) added 8 points, 5 rebounds and a pair of blocks in 17 solid minutes. Eastern added 4 points, 3 boards, a steal and a block, as his defensive presence and his presence on the glass becomes more and more evident.
Purdue cruised (as you should) in a Senior Day Game. That'll happen when a team is already a better squad, but also out-rebounds their opponent, and has ten more assists. Tommy Luce played in the game, and scored a point...he also dealt out an assist to Taylor (who came to Purdue along with this class) who emphatically finished with a dunk. Purdue's reserves played for around four minutes, and the lead only decreased by one point, even though many of Minny's starters remained in the game. This was a fun one.
Before these guys were part of the first Purdue Senior class to win 100 games in Purdue uniforms, they were the class that decided to grind. Long before Mackey Arena stayed packed just to hear them say goodbye to the Purdue faithful, this journey began. Back when a 19 game winning streak, a #3 ranking, a B1G championship or even a second weekend appearance in the dance was a bit of a pipe dream, the young pups from the class of 2018, were kicking ass during 6:00am pre-season workouts while no one was watching. Their workouts set a precedent, their work ethic set a tone. Without them, Matty might not be Purdue's coach right now. This group reversed awful trends within the program and helped Painter re-install a philosophy that was all but lost by a few players that never should have been recruited to West Lafayette.
This is a throw-back bunch...A large basketball class that made immediate impact as Freshman, then did something super-old-fashioned...stayed together for four whole years. An undersized point guard, a gigantic center, and a pair of players who are technicians of the game. The class of 2018, perhaps Painter's favorite graduating class, has done some big things. As Matty said after the game, he believes their best basketball might be in front of them. After today's thrashing, it's easier to believe that might be a possibility.
The number one seed in the dance is still a possibility, but that seeding really doesn't matter. What they do with the match-ups, how motivated they play, and how well they stay together might, once again, be their defining trait. This time, it will be in their last dance.