Smooge started off hot from long distance and ended the day the same way. And thanks to his shooting and a couple of big Ryne Smith shots in the second half, Purdue stayed hot and won its eighth-straight game.
Northwestern is like the 1980s Boston Celtics of the BT. No, I don't mean they're a dynastic team that will win championship after championship. What I mean is they have some of the ugliest-looking dudes in the game...but they can ball (they're the 41st team according to the RPI). I used to say that Minnesota had some guys that, as an athlete, I'd make sure didn't beat me. Northwestern is filled with guys like that- Players that are simply awkward looking- from their star (who could start anywhere in the nation), Shurna, to the Paint Crew's favorite Mirkovic to the unlikable (and bush league player) Capocci to Curletti. They've got a ton of guys who make me think that Carmody has outlawed weight lifting and modern razors for anyone who's caucasian. But I digress...
A ton of Purdue fans have asked who would replace Chris Kramer's fire. Well, we saw some fire today from Ryne Smith. He played hard all game, took good shots and ended the day with 13 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists. Plus, he was 7-7 from the stripe...and Purdue needed that as Moore and Johnson had a few uncharacteristic misses in the second half that could have helped create some breathing room.
Against a zone, particularly one that is as good as Northwestern's you've gotta be able to shoot. If you don't you'll leave the contest with an 'L'. So, with NU collapsing on JJ, Moore took advantage (this is becoming a recurring theme). Moore finished with his career high in three pointers (7) and the game-high 31 points to go along with 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and a block. He was a catalyst for a lot of good things on both sides of the court and looked like an All-American.
JJ had another double-double- 19 points & 10 rebounds, and served an important purpose as he forced NU's defense to contract time and time again, simply out of respect. He, like Smith also got pretty fired up a few times in the game, which is always good to see from him.
Byrd and Barlow combined to stifle and frustrate the injured Shurna for stretches of the game before NU's leading scorer pretty much pulled himself from the game due to pain in his ankle. But, I like what I saw from both defensively. But, I really liked some of what Barlow did offensively too, especially late in the first half and early in the second half. In fact, he and Smooge connected for an electrifying alley-oop off of the break that was damned-handsome and macho. But, at the same time, Barlow looked careless with the ball at times and had a few needless behind the back passes that were so low that they nearly careened off of the pass-receiver's hands/shins. He continues to befuddle me as a guy that has limitless potential...if only he could figure out how to keep his head on straight.
Jackson has officially settled into a very nice groove offensively- he's driving and finishing effectively when needed, playing strong on-ball defense and setting up the offense very well. He finished with 8pts, 5ast, and a really fun-to-watch block that ended the half. The one problem he had was he had an inordinate amount of TOs (4) as NUs trap clearly effected him.
TJohn came back down to earth a little bit after his 10point performance v. UM and finished with 4pts, 4reb, but had 4 assists...and once-again, his legs looked fresh once again and...he'll be very important as the BT season progresses. I thought we'd see Bade and Marcius get a few minutes tonight, but I guess the fact that the 'Cats bigs often end up around the three point line, caused Painter to keep them on the bench.
As you know, if you visit here regularly, this game worried me...especially in the wake of the hot-shooting performance by the Forces of Good in Crisler earlier in the week. But, Purdue ends the game with another victory and with each of the recent games, I'm getting the feeling that Matty's squad is really beginning to understand what they need to do, versus different types of teams, to effectively put them away. The defense is creating a faster-paced offense, the out-of-bounds plays look better than they have since Painter returned to campus, and the defense, while still-inconsistent, is becoming a mother yet again.
Next up, the Boilers get a mini-break, then play PSU in five days in front of hundreds in Happy Valley.