Heartbroken; Purdue Loses in OT, 80-75
Listen, you can’t expect to be able to do your thing against Virginia, not against Tony Bennett, son of Dick Bennett, a man who once won two Big Ten games in a row by the exact score of 51-41. You just can’t flagellate yourself at the sight of all those cool, effective things that make you, you, falling by the wayside as you are dragged through the mud by a Virginia team that wears that mud with pride.
What’s that saying about arguing with a moron? About how they’ll bring you down to their level and beat you with experience? Well, welcome to suiting up opposite of Virginia in a basketball game. They will make the game ugly and gross and weird and you will hate yourself every second of the way. They do not care. They were born in this mud, they live in this mud, and they will die in this mud.
And they have hidden some rocks in that mud that they drag you through. Rocks in the form of Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy, De’Andre Hunter, and Mamadi Diakite. Some teams slow it down because they know they are at a talent mismatch, and only by grinding things to a halt do they even have a chance of winning. Virginia is not one of those teams. Kyle Guy just gets buckets. Ty Jerome is a slippery as a frog once he gets to the second level. De’Andre Hunter is simply terrifying, and Mamadi Diakite just does everything at 100%. This is a carefully constructed team, designed to kill your spirit, ruin your day, and beat the hell out of you for good measure just in case you started thinking thoughts about not lying down.
So yeah, maybe the story of this game is Virginia doing to Purdue what they’ve done to everyone not in a Duke uniform this year. Maybe what we write is about how they turned Ryan Cline into a spectator, or neutralized Matt Haarms on the glass, or how they just made the right play at the right time, every time, the sign of a strong and mature team that is still washing the taste of 2018 out of their mouths.
But I don’t think that’s it. The story isn’t about what Virginia did to Purdue. The story is what Purdue did, with each other, with their coach, to their opponents. Yeah, Virginia will take away everything and leave you a shell. But the story of this game, this season, is and has been since December, been about what Purdue does when it’s kicked in the teeth. What this team has done when it’s been reduced to nothing. How it builds itself back up, and comes back harder, stronger, and smarter. This season was never about avoiding adversity. It was about running head first into adversity, getting knocked on their asses and bouncing right back up.
It’s about starting the season 6-5 and then winning the toughest conference in college basketball. It’s about frittering away a lead because of a 19-5 run that spanned the halves and taking the lead back over. About having a three point lead with mere seconds left on the clock disappear, having to head to overtime due to an insane effort play, good luck and good timing by their opponents, and then coming out ready to win in extra team.
This team never shrunk from the moment, never failed to punch back. Maybe that is what they are; maybe they were counter-punchers this whole time, needing to taste their own blood before drawing some themselves. Maybe they were always able to hit back harder. Until they weren’t.
This team was Matt Painter’s team through-and-through. Tough, analytical, smart, good defense and good shooting. Painter knows who he is, knows what he wants his teams to be. And he coached his ass off; this was his best coaching job yet. He had his players, his system, and he won.
But this team was also Carsen Edwards’. Carsen, built like a running back, swagger for days, a short memory and a hair trigger. He is what you need to win in March, and with him win they did. You cannot expect to do what you do against a team like Virginia. Unless…
Unless you are Carsen Edwards. Unless you have the guts, the balls, that indescribable je ne c’est pas that allows you to hit three threes in a row and then pull up from 35 feet like it was nothing and miss and not skip a beat. Unless you have that thing in you where you know, deep in your soul, with every fiber of your being, every cell in your body, every molecule flowing through your veins that you cannot be stopped. That they can throw a hand in your face, rent an AirBNB in your jersey, play textbook defense and it won’t matter. You will still stick your thumb in their eye and drop a three like you are warming up in the gym.
You can’t tell me, I’ll never believe, that this team didn’t feed off of that. Ryan Cline throwing up the threes with a smirk on his face against Tennessee, Matt Haarms fist pumping, Aaron Wheeler’s 1,000 Watt smile, these are all fed from Carsen. He was the heart and soul and guts of this team, its life force, its sword, its shield. Purdue has never seen a player like him before.
Virginia doesn’t let you do what you do. They just don’t. Unless you’re Carsen Edwards. Except…the one thing he really wanted to do was win, to have them fumble a rebound, miss one of those off-balance daggers, arrive a second too late on a switch. And they didn’t. Purdue left it all on the court, played with all the heart and chutzpah and skill that you could reasonably hope for and it wasn’t enough. I wanted the win, but I needed the effort. I’m heartbroken at missing out on the former, but I got all of the latter.
So the season is over. Purdue will go home and Virginia will go on. And so it shall be; our hope turns away from Minneapolis and turns towards next season. Who knows what this team will look like, who knows what their ceiling is. But Purdue fans, I am telling you. What this team did tonight, what they could have done had exactly one more bounce gone their way, is possible. Having not felt like it was ever going to be within reach, we can say that it is now. Thank goodness for March, thank goodness for Matt Painter, thank goodness for this team.