THIS is Special (A Look Back at Last Night)
Photo Credit: BS Staff
Purdue grinding out a win versus ODU was kinda expected. Afterall, Matt Painter, save two games, has been Mr. Automatic, in regards to the first round of the tournament.
Boogie going off for 42 in the second round raised the bar of expectation and morale among Purdue fans. Knocking our the defending national champs, just a few hours from their campus mattered. But still, the naysayers reminded us that this ‘Nova team wasn’t really the squad that won two championships in three seasons. Graduations and early exits to the league changed that team. Still, beating Jay Wright in March is something.
But beating Tennessee last night ratcheted enthusiasm, in the fashion in which they did it, grabbed a few more sets of eyeballs across the college basketball landscape, AND, more importantly, it captured the imagination of the Purdue family.
Up 18 in the second half…lead slips to nine points…Purdue flexes its muscle, pushes the lead back out to 14. It felt a bit like UT’s first big swing had fallen short. But when the hot-handed Cline earned his fourth foul, as Edwards got a bit chilly from deep, it got scarier. UT got white hot from deep, turned up the on-ball pressure and started absolutely decimating Purdue’s bigs around the basket.
If it wasn’t a three pointer that was falling, UT was shaking the rim as their All-American power forward and his bruisingly-strong cohorts tested the engineering of the hoop over and over.
In our nosebleed seats in section 328, I whispered to my son…”they gotta stay calm…can’t panic.” But the panic became palpable as the massive lead turned over to a deficit.
A healthy Purdue team had taken its best shot at a former #1 team in the nation FILLED with future pros. They led a chunk of the game, but didn’t look like they’d finish. Then Ryan Cline happened.
If you look closely on the DVR today, you can see the cape peaking out from under his black jersey. “Gimme the damned ball.” He must have been saying to himself between possessions. He was feeling it and no one on UT could guard him.
Think about that.
No one on that athlete-laden Volunteer team could guard Purdue’s Ryan Cline. Unreal. The step-back three over UT’s chosen defender after a switch couldn’t stop him…only the officials could derail that train.
Carsen absolutely carried the Boilers for about 25 minutes. Then Cline shouldered the load…then the little things kicked in…and as Cline requested upon fouling out, his teammates went out and won it for themselves; won it as a team.
Purdue hit a few free throws…barely enough to create space on the scoreboard. Purdue’s defense once again made it difficult for UT to score (after a 15 minute break of the blanket smothering style of play). An altered shot, a defensive board, another tough-fought rebound by Eifert…and a magnificent finish in overtime.
That kinda feels like the magic that we’ve watched other programs enjoy from our TVs…this time, it was our squad waving the wand. This unlikely team helped Matt Painter shatter his Sweet 16 ceiling…and undoubtedly, he led them in a less-nervous fashion in March than we’ve seen from him.
A beautiful thing…a special night. And it feels like they haven’t reached their goal yet.
If you’re on the fence, go get tickets and make the drive to Louisville and get there early…let’s soak up this atmosphere together, Purdue pals.
What it’s all about
Back in 1975, right after birth, my parents started brainwashing me. Putting me in black and gold clothing, taking me to games and events in God’s Country…Their ploy worked too well. I even decided to attend the school when I made ‘my’ choice of where to attend college.
My Dad, a Boilermaker in the class of ‘70 had a pal with which he went to grade school, high school and college. He also had a son who was born in 1975…he decided to go to Purdue as well. When we were Freshmen, in the Spring of 1994, we took a road trip with a group down to Knoxville. On that trip, we had our hearts ripped out of our chests by Coach K and company.
We’ve watched a ton of painful losses together in the last twenty-something years…you can blame us, I guess. But we felt like the tide took a bit of a turn for the better back in October when we watched Purdue beat aOSU at Ross-Ade.
Along with LBD, we took another trip yesterday. Before the game, we got to soak up the black and gold-soaked sidewalks and even ran into some fans of this very site. It was fun, but without the backdrop of the win later that night, I’m not sure I’d be smiling about it quite as much today.
After the game, my oldest friend (referenced above), my son and I connected with fellow Boilers in the palatial concourse of the Yum! Center (AKA the house that Adidas built). We talked about what we had just witnessed…from where we sat, mere minutes before.
We yelled out at random Purdue fans within the throngs of Boilers passing by…we high-fived and fist bumped. We smiled and quite a few UT fans were damned-good sports about the gut-wrenching loss. The atmosphere was great…it was memorable.
THIS was special. This was fun.
One more win, and my favorite team, my fair Alma Mater will do something she hasn’t done since I was five years old. Hammer down you unlikely, likable bunch of Boilermakers. I can assure you’ll make at least one grown man cry in the process.
Ed addendum: An impromptu BS Summit will occur in Louisville on Saturday…Look for your handsome pals at the Yum! Center!