Purdue Outduels Wisconsin in Overtime, 84-80
Feature image from @PurdueOnBTN
Purdue got it’s most valuable win of the season, beating Wisconsin on the road 84-80 in overtime on the shoulders of tremendous performances from Carsen Edwards and Trevion Williams. Losses to Western Kentucky and Minnesota dropped Wisconsin from the rankings, but this will be a memorable win Purdue will be able to parade if they’re on the bubble in March.
Trevion got his first collegiate start, with Evan Boudreaux out with a groin strain and Matt Haarms looking better as a ball of energy off the bench. And, well, skip straight to “The Good” section if you want to find out whether he rose to the occasion at the Kohl Center. (Spoiler: I was resistant to the December calls for Trevion to become Purdue’s starter, and I’m not anymore, he’s ready and he’s perfect in every way.)
Purdue opened the game on a tear, opening an 11-point lead in the first 12 minutes of the game and silencing the Wisconsin crowd. Carsen Edwards led the way with 11 quick points and a pair of “how did he do that” threes, and Trevion added four points with one beastly baseline slam that I’m pretty sure sent half the crowd immediately to the concessions.
And then, the trademark Purdue shooting slump and an Ethan Happ earthquake happened.
Nobody has squeezed more out of elite footwork than Happ. Nobody in the history of human basketball. Hakeem was an athlete with unbelievable agility and every tool in the toolbelt, and his footwork put him over the top. Bill Walton had great vision, beautiful coordination, and a selfless attitude on the court, and his footwork made him a legend. Happ has…average athleticism. He can’t shoot outside 8 feet. He’s forced himself to pass a little more this year and still tends to telegraph his passes, but averages a very respectable 5 assists per game. He’s adequate defensively. But his footwork gives him consistently clear looks at the rim, gets him great rebounding positioning, gives him great balance while defending a big ol’ hoss like Trevion, and somehow makes him an unstoppable and perfectly on-brand Wisconsin Badger.
As Purdue went 6 minutes without a field goal, Wisconsin kept getting to the line, and Happ somehow racked up 18 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists. Yeah, in the first half. Williams and Purdue went on a short run to cut Wisconsin’s lead down to 37-36 at the half, but Purdue had already lost the footing from its strong start.
As expected, the second half boiled down to Carsen and Ryan Cline exchanging three after three with Wisconsin’s historically strong band of sharpshooters.
Wisconsin apparently recently discovered that players other than Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky are allowed to hit threes, shooting over 38% from the field on the season. D’Mitrik Trice, Brad Davidson, and Aleem Ford combined for 7 of Wisconsin’s 8 second half threes, which was not a thing I was expecting to happen and caught me by extreme surprise, but Purdue was ready to gun.
Trevion continued to be spectacular in the second half, jumping passing lanes on defense and being unafraid to put the ball on the floor and attack the rim from the elbow. Cline’s shot was rediscovered, drilling 4/7 threes (3 in the second half) to keep point-for-point with Wisconsin as the second half wound down.
Carsen’s ice-cold three with 45 seconds left gave Purdue a 4 point lead, but of course Trice was still in inferno mode. A clutch corner three with 21 seconds left, assisted after a Happ rebound, and a wish-upon-a-shooting-star banked in three with 14 seconds left tied it up, giving Purdue the ball with a chance to win the game.
This is where you put the ball in the hands of your All-American bucket-getting guard, and let the magic happen.
…this was also where Carsen launched a contested 30 foot three with 5 seconds left on the clock. Listen, you can’t win ‘em all. Wisconsin missed the final heave, but not before a missed travel on the inbounds:
Kohl Center whistles, what can you do?
Overtime was much closer to stereotypical #B1G basketball, with points at a premium and physicality dialed all the way up. Cline came up with two huge loose balls, Trevion and Haarms held Happ to one overtime field goal, and the play of the game: Carsen driving on the wing, a defender on his back and two closing in. Carsen rose…and launched a bullet-pass to an open Grady Eifert under the basket, whose sure-hands held the ball and drew the foul. Eifert’s two free throws gave Purdue the lead for good, and gave Purdue its first road win of the season.
Advanced statistical analyses love Purdue, ranking #17 in Kenpom before the Wisconsin win with only the Notre Dame loss ranked poorly. Eventually, we needed to see that lack of luck translate into statement wins, and this one surely qualifies. The Boilermakers need a few more of these on the way to 20+ wins to feel good about its place in the tournament, and with a guard like Carsen carrying Purdue, who knows what could happen then.
Player of the Game
I could write a thousand more words about Trevion Williams, who finished with 9 points, 11 rebounds (7 offensive boards), and 2 steals in 28 minutes. But thankfully I’ll have a couple more years to write all of the Trevion words, so I’ll just say that he’s absolutely perfect and lives up to the gold and black #50 jersey and is extremely handsome and seems like he can bake a delicious pie and is going to be the #1 pick whenever he decides to leave Purdue.
Trevion Williams. Dunking on fools, bullying with his size, footwork way ahead of his experience. I came into the season thinking he’d need a redshirt year to get in shape and catch up with the pace of major conference basketball, and I couldn’t have been more wrong. Trevion successfully combines brute force with a ballerina’s footwork, the high-post passing ability and rebounding tenacity of a recent Purdue basketball #50, and was able to play 28 minutes without losing his effectiveness. The finger-roll that broke Purdue’s score-less stretch at the end of the first half was something I never thought I’d see from a player with his frame, which makes me think Trevion hasn’t even begun to discover how great he can become.
What if Ethan Happ is just a 6’8” pair of feet? Really makes you think.
Carsen, lol he’s so good. Finished with 36 points on 10/26 shooting, 6/14 from three, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal in 43 minutes, and still goes underappreciated by certain corners of the fanbase. We can’t take Carsen’s excellence for granted…a guard like him comes around maybe once per season, and it’s so rare to have that assassin in your corner. He’s not beyond criticism, as his shot with 3 seconds left in regulation was incredibly bad. But the offensive load he shoulders night in and night out is incredible, and that’s what you get with his lack of conscience. Be proud to root for this dude, because we’ll miss him a lot next year.
The Carsen/Nojel/Hunter/Wheeler/Trevion lineup. Athleticism, strength, size are on display with this lineup. Unfortunately, it’s weak on shooting, so Purdue can’t deploy it for too long of a stretch, but it’s a great lineup to spur some energy. I hope we see it more often, especially as Hunter improves.
Nojel Eastern rebounding as a guard. His positioning, length, and athleticism overwhelms most collegiate guards that try to box him out. Guards who can crash the offensive glass and recover on defense quickly are a boon for a coaching staff, because they can send Nojel to crash the glass hard without worrying about getting too far out of position against a transition offense. I really like watching Nojel, who finished with 10 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block tonight.
Big Ten refs who love being the center of attention. Haarms got called for a bogus early goaltend, they couldn’t have been more inconsistent with fouls in the paint, and blew whistles randomly in the final minutes of regulation and overtime.
Giving up a 16-1 run towards the end the first half. Purdue matched every Wisconsin three in the second half (except, maybe, for that Trice banked in prayer), and would have run away with the game if they didn’t go into a shell midway through the first half. Can’t let runs like that happen, especially on the road.
Free throws. 17/30. C’mon. YGTMYFTs. Except you, Grady, you’re good.
Nojel’s jumper. For all his incredible skill as a defender, rebounder, and on tip-ins the offensive glass, his lack of any range (outside a nifty floater) really hurts Purdue’s spacing at times. But this can improve.
Tweet of the Night