If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a sound?
If a B1G team beats a MEAC team and nearly-no one comes to watch, does it matter?
The answer to both, of course, is yes. Because if Purdue would have lost...everyone would have made note of it. EsPN tells me that nearly 10,000 people were at the game...my eyes tell me that about 7,000 butts were in the seats as the students enjoyed their break and alums headed south to watch the good guys in white rescue an old oaken vessel.
This one was tough to get up for...for everybody. The limited crowd tried to show interest, the players were playful and loose before the game as Barlow led the team through the bowels of Mackey with an out-of-sorts dance...but this one didn't feel or look like a big time game.
Coppin State's warm-ups looked like a jacket you'd wear to a fall bar-b-q...and you could tell this was a small school in other ways too. The biggest guy that played for the Eagles looked to be a shade under 6'6" as Marcius towered over him. In spite of the height discrepancy, the scouting report aided Coppin State in this one- Matty's team struggles against the zone...and on Saturday afternoon, it was the same story.
Coppin State stayed very packed to begin the game and Ryne Smith and TJohn made them pay by hitting long range shots. After they figured out the Boilers weren't going to test the zone by driving or attempting to dump it low, the loosened the zone a bit, and Purdue shooting cooled. After the lead swelled to the low teens, then shrunk down to five or six on a few occasions, Smith's shooting kept Purdue at an arm's length.
Purdue out-rebounded CSU by 6 (34-28), but it should have been more as the Boilers seemed to lack intensity for the middle 15-20 minutes. Perhaps it was a turkey and egg nog hangover or that the Forces of Good were looking ahead to the B1G/ACC challenge...but whatever the case, Purdue was far-from-crisp, and didn't really resemble a good team for much of this one.
All that said, this opponent just came off of a game in which they played the top-5 UConn Huskies somewhat-tough, so the Eagles were battle-tested. But this year's Boiler squad isn't last season's and coasting will not earn them a sizable victory.
So after much cajoling, tweaking and prodding, Purdue decided to try to penetrate the zone...and it worked. Hummel would flash in the lane, get the ball and score. LewJack and AJ would drive and cause a collapse and find a fellow Boiler wide open on the wing for an easy two.
After the game seemed too-close for comfort as the lead hovered around 6 points for minutes, Purdue sneakily pushed it out to 20-plus points, and the game was all but over. Hummel was quiet in a lot of ways too as he exceeded his season average finishing with 24 points and had 8 rebounds to go along. But the best number in his line was the 4 blocks...he clearly took advantage of his size and savvy advantage v. the MEAC opponent.
LewJack only shot three times...making just a single circus drive in the not-so-tall trees. BUT, the Illinois product had an important 10 assists along with a couple rebounds, 3 steals and 0 turnovers. I got to move down to the high-back high-priced seats for the second half and could really appreciate the quickness-differential between Jackson and the opponent's guards...23 cruised in this game.
Smith finished with 14 points, but struggled to find his rhythm after shooting well in the first half...he seemed to force very long-range threes at times. TJohn had 11 points and 3 assists, but still looks slower than he did last season...but in the early first half, made some key buckets as he seemed fresh at that point. AJ had an efficient 10 points and 4 rebounds and used his length advantage making a couple tough buckets in the lane. Byrd, Barlow, Marcius and Carroll were all very quiet in the game.
Lawson showed a bit in this one though. He had his first dunk as a Boiler while in traffic in the second half...and finished with 6 points, 2 blocks and 8 rebounds. What I learned about Lawson as I kind of focused in on his play on the defensive side is that he seems to have never played man-to-man in the blocks before. He was out of position time and time again...but his quick feet and hands made up for it a few times. His timing, especially when defending driving shooters is great though...that's something that he clearly worked on during high school. Once Matty and the other coaches get the idea of using his formidable frame to defend players in the block to stick, I think he'll be starting...especially against more-athletic teams. His minutes are increasing while his counterparts at PF seem to lack gumption and confidence.
Next up, Purdue welcomes Miami of Florida to Mackey at 9:00pm on Tuesday. This one will actually be watched by humans since it's on EsPN2. Have I told you how much I resent BTN for continually not airing Purdue this season?
*Addendum- I forgot to mention that the game was delayed by 20 minutes because the officials were late. When Ted Valentine entered the floor he bowed and the crew was cheered...that would be their high point. He had a taunting traveling call on a Purdue player in which he kind of high-step jogged 3/4 of the court while making the traveling motion. He was his typical demonstrative self on his made up foul hand signals...and really got into Painter's face on a few occasions. In other words, he was his typical, un-professional self.