Reports of Purdue's Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated
This might sound absolutely crazy, but sometimes I feel like our fan base can overreact when things don't go Purdue's way. Just a little... For once, we can be thankful the AD doesn't listen to fan sentiment and refused to fire coach Matt Painter, despite the fact that his #20 Boilermakers (then 13-2) entered Thursday's against Michigan with an inexcusable one-game losing streak and the NCAA's top defense.
After Purdue’s worst half of basketball this season, the Boilermakers welcomed back its student body with an emphatic 87-70 win against the Caris Levertless Wolverines. Michigan rode in to West Lafayette riding on wave of confidence and a six-game winning streak . Purdue entered the game as a giant question mark following a huge emotional loss (that I will refrain from mentioning again). Nonetheless, it was an interesting storyline of two teams on seemingly opposite ends of the confidence spectrum. But the game ended up being a telling glimpse of the intestinal fortitude this team possesses.
Offensively, the game showed us what we’ve seen several times already. When its shots are falling, Purdue’s balance makes it one of the most dangerous teams in the nation. However, its inconsistency from the outside is still a major achilles tendon and will take more than just one good outing to give me any type of confidence that things are improving.
But there is a glimmer of hope that Purdue can get use the upcoming softer portion of its schedule to get its confidence back and reestablish itself as more than just a dominating front court. Time will certainly tell...
- Painter used the loss on Saturday as an opportunity to make the lineup change that we all knew were inevitable. Hard to say Hammons played a better game than he did coming off the bench, but he did his thing and played like the dominating center we know he is. It's about time Painter starts the best 3 point shooter in the nation! Johnny Hill also got his crack as a starter and passed the first test. While he poses no threat on the perimeter, his ability to slash lane and decisively move the ball gives the offense a dynamic that it’s desperately lacking.
- It was nice to see Rapheal Davis put together his most complete game of the season. In my humble opinion, Ray’s ability to rally the troops and take over games when things aren’t going well is what has been missing this season. Maybe it’s because of the increased talent around him, but he’s seemed to take a backseat offensively. But when Ray D is engaged offensively, the rest of the team seems to play better.
- Vince played okay on Thursday night, giving his usual box score stuffing game. It’s difficult to criticize VE as he’s averaging 9 pts, 5 rebs, 3 assists on the season, but I think he’s capable of higher productivity. Early in the year we saw glimpses of Vince offensive arsenal, but he has seemed to have retired that ambition in early pre-conference. Lately, he's disappeared a lot. Considering Purdue’s lack of mid-range game, I’d like to see Vince become more of a driving/spot up threat. With his vision and new found athleticism he could add a lot when the offense gets stagnant.
- It’s encouraging to see some success from Mathias and Stephens. Considering how they have been playing, I’m more encouraged by their efficiency rather than their made shots. KS tends to be a polarizing player on the message boards, but he’s slowly showing that he has more to his game than just 3 pt shooting...
- It’s even more encouraging to see the rest of the supporting cast find their shots on the perimeter. Vince, PJT, and Ray D all need to be a threat for our offense to have any type of credibility. All found their stroke against Michigan.
- Haas played only 10 minutes due to the game strategy, but played with energy and decisiveness. I look forward to see how he responds to coming off the bench.
- This wasn’t Biggie’s finest game as he’s having some difficulty adjusting to Big Ten style of play. Letting the game come to him goes against every bone in his body, but it’s likely in his best interest. He’s still our best rebounder even in his worst games.
- Interesting but unrelated Biggie fact: He’s averaging only 2.2 fouls a game and has only committed 4 fouls twice. That’s impressive for such a bull in a china shop.
I’m not going to read too much into a win, but it’s encouraging Purdue turned it’s momentum around heading into 3 winnable games (U of I, PSU, Rutgers). They are in a good position to build some momentum before the schedule gets tougher and NCAA seeding stakes are higher.