Purdue Clinches Record 23rd Big Ten Championship On Senior Night Vs IU, 86-75

Purdue Clinches Record 23rd Big Ten Championship On Senior Night Vs IU, 86-75

Starters: PJ Thompson, Ryan Cline, Dakota Mathias, Vince Edwards, Caleb Swanigan
Finishers: PJ Thompson, Jon McKeeman, Carsen Edwards, Dakota Mathias, Vince Edwards

Feature image from the perfect @CharlesJischke

What happened?

Didn’t you read the title? Purdue clinched their league-leading 23rd Big Ten regular season championship with a senior night win over IU, 86-75.

Listen, I know. The sweet, sweet season sweep of IU only clinched a share of the Big Ten title in a down year for the conference. Purdue needs to win at Northwestern (pretty tough), or needs Wisconsin to lose one of their remaining games (vs Iowa, vs Minnesota) to win its first outright conference title since the 1994-1995-1996 triumvirate.

But Purdue’s first piece of team hardware since 2010 (a three-way conference title tie) (no, the Cancun Classic or whateveritsname doesn't count) is absolutely worth celebrating. Remember, Purdue (as a result of several years of flat-out awful Matt Painter recruiting cycles) finished 7th in 2013 and 12th (dead last) in 2014. Winning the Big Ten title, with a chance to clinch it outright, three years later is a fantastic achievement.

Oh, and Biggie Swanigan is going to win 2017 Big Ten Player of the Year (Purdue’s last: JaJuan Johnson in 2011), so go ahead and blast Queen as loud as you can. A conference championship is an awesome legacy for this team.

The actual game, you ask? Well…there were bright spots, but plenty of room for worry as March is around the corner.

That being said, the Paint Crew was on point:

Within the first two minutes of the game, Vince(nt) Edwards was looking for blood in the paint, and Dakota Mathias showcased a nifty post move I’ve never seen before. With IU living up to their astronomical turnover rate, it looked like Purdue was ready for a blowout.

But IU would capitalize on a pair of missed early shot clock, contested three pointers from Mathais and PJ Thompson. After squandering a chance to open the game with a double digit lead, IU kept the game within an uncomfortably-manageable distance, with Purdue’s blistering offense missing in action for the fifth time in seven games. Carsen Edwards, coming off the bench for a third straight game, got a couple of great looks that didn’t go in, and Swanigan seemed a little off (4 points, 4 rebounds in 17 first half minutes)

The half was saved, though, by Mathias. Yung Midwestern Cowboy was unconscious in 19 first half minutes, pouring in 17 points on 7/9 shooting and containing James Blackmon Jr to 4 points. Purdue ended with only a 40-32 lead, after the Hoosiers went on a 7-0 run in the final three minutes of the half.

Purdue got lucky that Tom Crean’s Hoosier squad inexplicably refused to get the ball to Thomas Bryant in the flow of the offense. Bryant, early in the game, was beasting Swanigan on the block, yet he only touched the ball after grabbing offensive rebounds or on hasty dump-offs. The difference in this team, and Bryant’s performance, without Yogi Ferrell’s vision and leadership is monumental. Bryant could walk away with a First Team All-American 2017-2018 season, but why would he return to this team? With Crean on the hotseat and no selfless point guard in sight, there’s absolutely no reason to even consider another year in Bloomington. It’s truly a sad way for a great player’s college career to wind down (barring a miracle Big Ten Tournament victory).

Purdue and IU traded threes to start the second half, and things could have got interesting, except...


The game was over when…

…De’Ron Davis committed his 2nd, 3rd, and 4th fouls within the first 5 minutes of the half. With Bryant already in foul trouble. Davis would foul out with 12 minutes left, Bryant was out with 6 minutes left, and that left the full-of-gust-but-unfortunately-not-full-of-basketball-talent Tom Priller to fill the big man minutes.

Needless to say, Caleb Swanigan somehow found his groove again.

Though the game got a little close for comfort (on the back of Blackmon Jr), Carsen/Vince/Biggie put the game out of reach, and the championship confetti rained from Mackey’s tin roof.


Player of the Game:

I wrote this paragraph after Purdue’s win vs Wisconsin (January 8, 2017):

Dakota Mathias is a metronome. He’s never the star, he’s never the primary ballhandler, he’s never below average, he’s never a no-show. Dakota Mathias does *exactly* what Purdue needs, whether it’s a smooth jumper to stop a Wisconsin run or a key steal in the post or a wonderful high-low pass to Swanigan for a dunk or a “screw it” three that swishes in after 30 seconds of bad offense. Mathias’ consistency is beautiful.

Well, Dakota Mathias was a star tonight. 19 points (17 in the first half) on 7/11 shooting (3/5 from three), 7 rebounds, and wonderful defense in 39 minutes. We mentioned it on our early December podcast, and it’s stayed true throughout the year: Dakota Mathias’ consistency is what keeps Purdue’s offense alive, and his defensive growth over the 2016 offseason was exponential. Dakota Mathias is Purdue’s second best player, and it’s not very close.

BIGGIE WATCH: Swanigan, in his probable farewell to Mackey Arena, had 21 points (11/12 from the free throw line), 10 rebounds, and 3 assists in 36 minutes. Because he only went 5/14 from the field, it felt like a down game for the likely B10 Player of the Year.

That’s how good Swanigan is, 21/10/3 against a premier NBA draft prospect, in a rivalry game, to clinch the B10 title, was a “down” game. Caleb Swanigan’s closest comparison, after spending far too many hours agonizing over this, is a controversial cross-race combination of Tyler Hansbrough and Jared Sullinger. Relentless motor, *ahem* wide base, unstoppable. Glenn Robinson in 1994 was the last Purdue player to leave fans feeling like this, like Joe Barry Carroll (1980) and Rick Mount (1970) before him. And that’s just on the court…I might burst into tears if I summarize his life story again.

I got to experience Big Dog’s reign as a kid, but they’re fuzzy memories. So don’t forget this, fellow young’uns. Players like Caleb Swanigan are shooting stars for Purdue: dominant every single night, graded on an impossible curve, works harder than anyone on the court, terrorizing the low post with brute strength and finessing you to death on the perimeter (or with tip-ins on the offensive glass).

Caleb Swanigan is setting a new bar for Purdue athletic excellence. Cheers to him cementing his Purdue legacy right as March begins.


The Good:

  • Dakota Mathias’ emergence this year, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. I can’t wait to see the player he’ll be next year.
  • I will always love you, Biggie Swanigan. Listen, he didn’t have his greatest game. He got bullied in the post defensively by Bryant in the first half, “only” grabbed four rebounds while IU bigs weren’t in foul trouble, and only got things going when Priller and Juwan Morgan were defending him. But the last stat he recorded in Mackey? A defensive rebound, with 56 seconds left. I’ll irrationally defend his perfection until the end.
  • 28-33 from the free throw line is an underappreciated part of this year’s offensive improvement.
  • Spike Albrecht and Jon McKeeman had their senior nights. I’ve been rough on Spike since he came back from the early season injury, but stepped in and instantly gave this team locker room leadership and 10 minutes per game of backcourt depth. And remember that one time ESPN was convinced Purdue learned how to clone players, and decided to clone Jon McKeeman for an entire season? Good tiiiimes, good times.


The Bad:

  • Keep getting them checks, Big Ten officials.
  • The magical offense we all fell in love with was missing yet again. The fast paced offense, with precise ball movement, fearlessly breaking presses, decisive interior passes, and dead-eye shooters who launch with supreme confidence and not a moment’s hesitation…it was all stifled yet again. IU isn’t a great defensive team, so this loss of soul seems self-imposed. I’m not sure if it was moving Carsen to the bench, or Swanigan getting gassed as the season progresses, but (as J Money pointed out behind the scenes) I really hope Purdue isn’t doing the “peak in February, slowly decline through March” thing.
  • IU’s offense. They settled for jumpers, avoided contact, didn’t feed Thomas Bryant until he was already in foul trouble, and seem to lack a leader. Crean seems to be going through what Painter was post-Hummel/LewJack/Ryno, and it might cost him his gig in Bloomington.
  • This might’ve been the finale of the Painter/Crean era. More on this during the offseason, but they are perfect for each other in this Purdue/IU rivalry. If he’s gone, I’ll miss rooting against that oddly compelling weirdo.


The Ugly:

  • Ryan Cline finished with 8 points (3/5 shooting, 2/4 on threes), 1 rebound, and 0 assists in 23 minutes as a starter. He’s a great shooter, there’s no doubt about that. He even got some great looks in the first half that didn’t go down, and might have put the game away early. I even think (though this is slightly disputed by my fellow BS companions) he’s a great fit alongside the Vince Edwards/Caleb Swanigan frontline. But…woah boy is he a defensive liability. With no interior defensive presence, there’s no saving Cline from embarrassment; every single wing that gets by him scores an easy layup. Painter can start him alongside Vince/Biggie, whatever. But to let him play consistently more minutes than Carsen Edwards is absolutely foolish.
  • Vince(nt) Edwards. Ok, hear me out. He has a very good 15 points/7 rebounds/7 assists statline, on 4/8 shooting from the field and a perfect 6/6 from the line. But it really looks like he’s floating sometimes. He came out of the gates with domination in his eyes…then he floated into the ether for the next 15 minutes of gameplay…then he descended back to the hardwood and put the game on ice for Purdue. By the numbers, Vince(nt) has had a solid season. But watching him with my Vince-bias and oversized expectations, he seems largely similar to the player he was two years ago. I was honestly expecting a Mathias-like leap from him this year, and thus far…it’s just not all the way there.


Moving Picture Thingy of the Night:

Swanigan’s (probable) last block in Mackey:

Runner up: Pete air-humping behind Danny boy.


Tweet(s) of the night:

When in doubt, keep it simple:

Purdue Basketball Beat #47: Big Ten Champs Edition, w/GBI's Brian Neubert

Purdue Basketball Beat #47: Big Ten Champs Edition, w/GBI's Brian Neubert

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