Purdue Dominates OSU: Basketball Edition, 86-51
Feature image from @Boilerball
After a sluggish start for both teams, Purdue rode a first half surge put away Ohio State, 86-51. The win also meant Purdue went unbeaten in Mackey for the third time ever (1969 and 2011 being the others), an unbelievable season by an unlikely team of winners.
If you would have told me in December that Purdue was shaping up to be one of the country’s more formidable 3-seeds, I’d assume you were talking about the NIT. This year (post-Christmas) has been so weird and very fun.
The reasons for that turnaround were on full display in Mackey, and today’s win against OSU (especially in this fashion) might be the most crucial win of the year. Purdue has been waning a bit of late, with Carsen looking mortal since the mid-February Maryland loss. The Boilermakers needed a statement win as the regular season wound down, and a vulnerable OSU in front of a ravenous Mackey Arena crowd did just the trick.
I could write a bunch of words and statistics, summarizing each wonderful possession that gave Purdue the victory. Hell, I might watch that game two or three more times this weekend. Or, I could just tell you this:
At the first TV timeout, just over 4 minutes into the first half, the score was 4-4.
With 4 minutes left to play in the first half, Purdue was up 44-18.
Everything was going in for the Boilers. Seniors Grady Eifert and Ryan Cline drilled shot clock-beating threes, Evan Boudreaux and Aaron Wheeler joined the party with a pair of their own, Nojel Eastern and Matt Haarms were terrorizing OSU at the rim on both ends of the floor, and Carsen added 19 first half points of his own as Purdue took control of the game.
Ohio State looked entirely out of sorts without Kaleb Wesson, who was suspended for a violation of team rules (read, in an extremely Stephen A Smith voice: weeeeeeeeduh). Andre Wesson, who put up 22 points on near-perfect shooting the last time Purdue and OSU played, only scored 6 points on 2/8 shooting as Purdue collapsed every time he drove into the lane. Nobody but freshman Jaedon LeDee broke double-digit points, an equal-parts result of Purdue’s suffocating defense and OSU’s lack of cohesion.
Meanwhile, the Boilers unexpectedly successful season marches on, and it’s time to honor the two (and a half) seniors that have been crucial to this season’s turnaround.
It’s been an incredible four years for Ryan Cline and Grady Eifert, who have been part of a special run for Purdue basketball:
Their era was undoubtedly defined by Hammons and Davis, by Biggie, by Vince and PJ and Dakota and Isaac, and by Carsen. But if we buy into the romantic idea that role players lay the foundation for stars to thrive, Cline and Eifert deserve our praise.
Ryan Cline was recruited as a three-point specialist right after Purdue basketball’s two down years, when a selfish locker room combined with a lack of shooting that drove the Matt Painter era to its most miserable nadir. Painter established a steadfast recruiting rule that each class needed a deadeye shooter, and thus Cline followed in the footsteps of Kendall Stephens and Dakota Mathias (and preceded Carsen and Sasha Stefanovic) to fill that much-needed gap.
Purdue’s transformation into a high-octane offensive built on its three-point shooting was largely due to this shift in mentality, and Cline has played his part well. And despite a really bad off-the-court decision made during his sophomore year, Cline has seemingly been a tremendous teammate to a rotating cast of talented wings. Cline’s shooting ability could have easily led to a starring role on a sub-Power 5 team, but he never allowed any frustration or discontent at his minutes to erode the locker room. His minutes actually decreased last year, playing the sixth-man role as Purdue’s wing rotation of Carsen-Dakota-Vince was clearly too talented to crack. Previous Purdue wings have been frustrated and transferred out because of this role reduction, so shoutout to Cline for his patience paying off this year.
Grady Eifert is a coach on the floor, a glue guy, entirely composed of grit, makes all the hustle plays, is a grinder in the weight room, does the little things that don’t show up in the box score, has a great motor, and has a famous older brother. I’ve learned all this by listening to lazy announcers and am contractually obliged to use all those phrases if I bring him up.
But for real, it’s amazing that an uncelebrated walk-on crafted such a large role for one of the better teams in the country. Grady averages the fourth-most minutes on the team, and I’d absolutely list him as one of the three engines behind Purdue’s post-Christmas turnaround (along with Trevion’s emergence and Carsen’s continued excellence). Shoutout Grady forever.
Player of the Game
As much as I’d like to give this to one of the ‘official’ seniors, Carsen Edwards scored an effortless 19 of his 25 points in the first half and ripped OSU’s hearts out early.
And it also might be Carsen’s last game in front of the adoring Mackey Arena crowd before possibly leaving to make many monies to play basketball, and he gave them a first-half show. It’s not quite time to gush about how special Carsen is, and how much joy I feel watching Carsen carve up opposing defenses…but I know it’ll be a while until Mackey sees a Boilermaker guard as electric as Carsen. I hope Purdue fans savor these (possibly) last few games.
Senior night magic. Mackey is a nightmare if you’re not wearing old gold and black, and that holds especially true on Senior Night. Purdue has only lost three Senior Night games under Painter: 2014 vs Northwestern (Nemanja Calasan/Marcus Green/Bobby Buckets/Chris Reid), 2009 vs Northwestern (Terone Johnson/Errick Peck/Sterling Carter/Travis Carroll), and 2006 vs IU (Carl Landry/Matt Kiefer/Gary Ware/Bryant Dillon/Matt Carroll). Never doubt Mackey.
Throwback jerseys. Man I love these.
Nojel attacking the rim. A byproduct of Nojel’s newfound free throw shooting consistency has been his willingness to drive (left) and attack smaller defenders with his size and athleticism. Nojel’s growth has been really fun to watch this year, and if he keeps improving he’ll be a menace next year. Next step: dribbling with his right hand.
Wheeler’s intensity on both sides of the ball. Speaking of menaces, when Wheeler gets going he’s seemingly everywhere on both sides of the ball. His athleticism allows him to aggressively play passing lanes without giving up driving lanes, it’s an automatic two points if he’s leading a fast break, and his three point stroke is starting to become reliable.
Watching the Nojel-Hunter-Sasha-Wheeler-Trevion (and Haarms) lineup for a few second half minutes. The Wheeler/Nojel/Haarms defensive core might make a significant number of opposing star wings and guards openly cry next year. Combine Nojel’s full-court point guard press, Wheeler playing passing lanes, and Haarms at the rim is one hell of a defensive combination.
“We want Tommy” chants with 8 minutes to play. *chef’s kiss*
IU beat Michigan State, which keeps alive Purdue’s dreams of the most unlikely outright Big Ten regular season championship.
OSU’s offense without Kaleb Wesson. Woo buddy, they looked like a group of random dudes that showed up to a gym for some impromptu pick-up on a chilly Saturday morning. Despite being a foul magnet, Wesson was the focal point of their inside-out offense. After a really great 12-1 start, OSU’s Big Ten performance (8-10 after today) has been less-than-ideal.
Nojel’s missed breakaway dunk with 6 minutes left. Listen, can’t win ‘em all. (He also smashed his hand on the rim, and will willingly sacrifice my hand if his is dinged up going into the tournament.)
Trevion’s last handful of games. The freshman wall was inevitable after Trevion’s December/January/February, and Haarms is rolling into form just in time. But Purdue might need a few more moments out of Trevion for a possible dream March run. Let’s hope that late-game made three kickstarts another good run.
Tweet of the Night