|Lew is clubbed in the head while Smotrycz
acts like he's been clipped by a sniper
Here's a revolutionary formula: Shoot 50% overall, 47% from three, 88% from the line. Rebound well, don't turn the ball over a lot and make smart decisions. Oh, and be confident in your abilities and stick to a game plan.
Yes, the "revolutionary" part of the above paragraph is facetious. When you do those things and you're a talented basketball team, you will win a lot more than you'll lose. The Boilermakers went into Ann Arbor tonight (oh baby) to take on the 13th ranked and 15-0 at home Michigan Wolverines on their senior night. That's not usually a good situation to be heading into, especially when you've struggled against good teams this year, especially ranked teams.
However, one may recall the way Purdue came ready to play against OSU in Columbus not long ago, and the Boilers clearly remembered letting the 66-64 loss slip away at home vs UM on January 24.
The Boilers leaped out to a quick 9-2 start and though Michigan would of course come back -- many times -- tonight definitely looked different. As B-dowd said to me after the game, Purdue would stretch the lead and then Michigan would make a run -- as all good teams do -- and get it back to very close again...and then Purdue would stretch it back out again, with timely buckets, dagger threes and the emergence of Terone Johnson.
Zero went off tonight, with a career-high 22 points on 75% (!) shooting, including 100% (4-4) from the line, to go along with 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. Not a bad night. Plus, the way he scored the points was as important as the points themselves. Time after time, Terone drove to the hole and laid it on, several times drawing a foul in the process. What I loved about it all was the way, as the game wore on, TJohn clearly wanted the ball in his hands. He wanted to make that play and to be the guy. I absolutely loved that and I don't think it can be overstated. Is he going to play this way every night? Of course not, and he doesn't need to. TJohn is a sophomore. Good things are coming.
Rob Hummel also continued looking like his old self as he has in recent games, putting up 17 and 9. It wasn't always pretty, as Rob shot 5-12 from the field, but he warmed up considerably in the second half, winding up shooting 75% from three and the same 100% (4-4) from the line as Terone. Rob's nine rebounds were also huge, as the Boilers managed to outrebound the Wolverines by one, 28-27. To be fair, Michigan's game isn't based on size, either, so let's keep that in mind.
Lewis Jackson also continued his strong play down the stretch, scoring 9 big points, to go with 5 assists and only one turnover.
Purdue was 14-16 from the line, with the only two misses coming from AJohn, who still went 2-4, which, for him, is a banner night. Conversely, the Wolverines only went to the line four times and went 2-4 there. The Boilers committed only 8 fouls on the night to the Wolves 15. That's definitely one of those weird discrepancies that usually doesn't happen because of the way home court affects the below-average officials in the NCAA. However, Valentine, Burr and Hightower weren't in town gesticulating for the crowd, which is the only thing I can think of.
As mentioned, everyone looked confident as they all carried out their assignments. One guy who's usually a culprit when things aren't looking smooth and who take a lot of abuse from the fans is Travis Carroll and Travis was good tonight. He scored six points, didn't miss a shot from the field or the line and even made Michigan pay for laying off him as he was out at around 19 feet and buried a shot from there.
Ryne was fairly quiet, but his hustle was still there and he did shoot 75% from the field (3-4) and grabbed four boards.
Michigan is a very good team, let's make no mistake about that, but they are stubborn. Tim Hardaway, Jr. (and I'm glad he's got the "Jr." on his jersey so I don't mistake him for his papa) decided he was going to shoot and shoot and shoot in the hopes that one of the bricks he was flinging around would crack the block of ice in which he was encased. Zack Novak, long one of our least-favorites here at BS, finishes his career 2-4 against Purdue with a 14 point exclamation point on his senior night. I feel a little bad saying that, but then I just need to look at Novak's face.
That said, Belein has these guys playing pretty well and maybe tonight was partly Purdue but also partly Michigan not staying focused. That can happen on big nights and I can imagine the Wolverines wanting another shot at the Boilers in Indy in a couple of weeks.
Tonight, the Purdue bench remained short as the only guys getting significant minutes were AJ and DJ. Coach Matty is clearly feeling these are his guys for the upcoming March run and they're responding. They look, to me at least, as though they've figured a few things out. They look as though they simply don't care anymore about the bad breaks they may have had, the leads they may have blown, the troublemakers they've had among them. They know who they are now, as you often do by February, and they're rolling with it. The road is coming to an end one way or the other for Rob, Lew and Ryne, and I suspect those guys are ready to give us all everything they've got left in the tanks.
Purdue lacked a "signature" win; they lacked a win over a ranked team in fact, as we discussed last week. Despite those facts, I didn't necessarily look at tonight as a proverbial "must win." With another two games remaining, the Boilers still could finish strong and, honestly, should have wound up no worse than 19-12 (9-9) if you chalked up losses on the road and a win at home versus PSU on senior night. While no games can be taken for granted, I simply cannot see the Boilers being swept by the last place team in the conference or losing on Rob Hummel's senior night. So now they're looking at having 20 wins going into next weekend....and then the guys head to IU for their senior night.
After tonight's win and the composure the Boilers showed in soundly beating a team that is considerably better than IU, I'm starting to think that March 4 in Ass Hall will be a battle royale. And I'm thinking our guys will be more than ready.