Boilers Earn Pivotal Win over Northwestern: 87-77

Mackey was pretty dead tonight...but the telecast just didn't really tell the story; or should I say, the Paint Crew makes it seem like Mackey is the madhouse, even when it's not.  There were a few hundred empty seats...and a few thousand seats occupied by human-shaped lumps of mashed potatoes.  The three home losses have clearly taken their toll on Purdue's fanbase...but that doesn't make the lack of enthusiasm right, in my opinion.  I generally like my fellow sec. 102 patrons...but man, getting this crowd excited tonight was too difficult; and the game gave the fans plenty to cheer for...or against.  Let's start with the positives, shall we.

Coming off of an 84 point offensive explosion versus one of the nation's-best teams, The Forces of Good played a first 15 minutes that looked a lot like the first 15 minutes of the IU game- tons of missed lay-ups and short jumpers...but Hummel, Smith and Byrd pulled the struggling Boiler offense out of the crapper with some sharp shooting off of crisp ball movement to end the first half.

In the second half, we saw David Jonathan Byrd (goes by DJ) go batty on the Wildcats as he continued the trend of kicking ass in the blocks on defense while filling it up on offense.  He finished with 20 points, hit all of his free throws (5/5), and added three rebounds and 4 assists. He also used four of his fouls wisely without fouling out in spite of spending most of the game in the painted area.  For the second-straight game, Byrd's so-called Dad was on TV...but I'm pretty sure that DJ is really just a clone of his "father" as his Mom seems to be pretty darned good looking...and I can't see any resemblance to her, honestly. While DJ's Mom is pretty, his game might be prettier right now.

Look Who's back!

His pal, Robert John Hummel (goes by Rob or Robbie) looked like the guy we fell in love with a few years ago- he finished with 27 points (while shooting 50% from the field and from three), went 12/14 from the stripe as he helped salt away the game, added a healthy 9 rebounds and a couple blocks on the night. When he's missing his shot, he's clearly jumping or leaning to the left...but when he's knocking it down, it's pure.

Friend of BS, Handsome Ryne Smith (some people call him Ryno) also helped rekindle our love for him...but not in the way you might think he did.  Sure, shooting 4/7 from three is nice...real nice actually...and adding a career high 7 rebounds along with three assists isn't too shabby either.  But Smith stuck his nose into a conflict at the end of the first half that I'll talk about in a bit.

Lewis Jackson IV (known around West Lafantastica and elsewhere as simply LewJack) didn't start the game and seemed to be struggling with on-ball defense a bit...but he fought through injuries to deal out 8 assists along with 4 rebounds and 5 points.  His fellow point guard, Barlow played stifling defense (at times), and asserted his will again; something that Purdue fans have grown to love to see.  If this guy could figure out how to do it game-in, game-out, he'd be all B1G, or better.  He finished with a near-double-double...10 points, 8 rebounds.  Terone Johnson had 11 points and four rebounds on a few of the patented tear drops and an important three...but had my favorite play of the day as he dove into the crowd to save the ball...tweaked his backa  bit...popped out of the crowd and scored moments later.  This was one of the few moments of the night in which all of Mackey showed its appreciation.

The effort in the closing three minutes was solid as Purdue put the game away- Our Boilers showed moxy and a bit of a chip on their shoulder at times; something they simply must do in the coming games if they have any chance of making it to the dance.  They hit 72.7% of their free throws...and out-rebounded Northwestern by 13 in spite of using a small line-up most of the night. The only true PF that played in the game was Carroll...for only three minutes.  Let's remember that NU had 14 more rebounds that the small line-up Boilers in Evanston a few weeks ago.

Now let me talk about a few things that aren't as positive as the above.

We all know that referee Mike Kitts has been known to make bone-headed mistakes, but he and his crews are quickly becoming some of my least-favorite, stripe shirt-clad blokes on the circuit. Kitts, like many of his counterparts have the perverted idea that people are there to see them.  We're fact, I'd love to see a B1G game in which I don't even notice the officials; it doesn't happen.

Today's theme for Kitts' braintrust was pointless meetings.

After Drew Crawford swung a high elbow at Barlow, Crawford and Barlow got into eachother's faces.  Predictably, NU's resident D-bag, David-ay Curletti* jumped in...because that's what goons do.  Ryne Smith, probably feeling like I do about the psuedo-Euro, Curletti, quickly came in to level the uneven conflict.

All of this happened within feet of an official and directly in front of Purdue's bench.  After a long meeting, they ruled the elbow wasn't a big deal, gave Barlow the reach-in...and double (cop-out) techs to Barlow and Crawford.

I like Crawford...the son of an NBA official, by the way...but he was whiny and clearly frustrated tonight. His antics should have had him disqualified in the first half.  Instead, he wasn't ruled out of the game until his second tech at the 1:25 mark.  This play was another doozy.

The baseline official called a charge on Crawford as Byrd was set in his path.  Crawford reacted by spiking the ball down...which got him automatically ejected from the game (coincidentally, it was his fifth foul).  Crawford was allowed to stay on NU's bench after the ejection (that's against NCAA rulebook sec. 23, articles 1 and 2**).

Another meeting came at this point.  The final ruling after the meeting was that the official at the top of the key over-ruled the charge and made it a block...and the tech stood.  While the officials met and had their tea party, NU got their third un-charged timeout of the game as this crew seemed to encourage the Wildcats to take two-to-three minute TOs during their meetings...oddly enough, Purdue's coaches didn't get the same advantage.

I don't like officials...and I'm not a big fan of Curletti either...but you guys already knew that.

Alright, back to the important stuff.

-John Shurna is a good and ugly ball the line of ugly and effective players like the 80s Boston Celtics.  His off-balanced shot is very effective and his length makes him a tough match-up.

But, Shurna's 30 points seem to be another example of Purdue's defense struggling to shut down good long-range shooters.

-Northwestern had won three-straight games and climbed into the #36 position in the RPI poll.  Their 15-8 record made them a nearly-mirror image of Purdue on paper. So Purdue's second win over the Cats was very important for Purdue's NCAA tourney chances.  That said, there's a lot of work left to do.

9 B1G teams are candidates for at-large bids...and it looks to me like 7 will make the tourney.  Illinois, Purdue, and Northwestern have 9 losses...Minnesota has 8...Michigan has 7.  Purdue is now 4-1 versus this group.  And on Wednesday, Matty's squad goes to Champaign...and the other four teams will all play another team in the group at least once each before the B1G tournament...a lot can still happen.

Coming together?

-Ryne Smith having Barlow's back might be a bigger deal than it seemed to be when it happened.  Rumors have swirled about a dust-up between the two last Spring...and while NO ONE I know can confirm if there was any conflict, Smith might have put to rest an idea that this team lacks continuity and chemistry...and in the process helped to galvanize a team that seems to need to take a step forward together.  This play was an example of why I like this year's fiery Senior class...Hopefully the fight we've seen in the last two games is a sign of a new trend not a mere exception to the sometime-heartless efforts we've seen far too often this season.

*It looks like I'm not the only one who is annoyed by Curletti.  He's no longer a starter, his minutes have been reduced and Carmody and Co. were chewing on him a lot today.  Good for Carmody and his assistants.

**Section 23. Ejection
Art. 1. Ejection is the act of dismissing an individual from participation in 
a game because of a specific infraction of the rules.
a. In addition to being disqualified, an individual who is ejected shall 
leave the playing court and floor area and report to his or her team’s 
locker room until the game is over.
Art. 2. The following shall result in automatic ejection:Rule 4 / definitions 69
a. Committing a flagrant personal foul or flagrant technical foul;
b. Incurring the maximum number or combination of technical fouls

Yay NCAA!! (A Look at uniform stupidity)

Boilers Come Up Short in Fight in Columbus: 87-84