As the closing minutes wound down in regulation, Lil' Boilerdowd assured me, "They're gonna win...they won't lose two in a row." The wisdom of a four year old proved correct as he and JJ seemingly willed them to victory in a hostile environment in the BT/ACC challenge. This was only Painter's second victory in overtime while at Purdue.
Once the clock hit 0:00 for the third time of the night, the Big Ten had a commanding 6-3 lead with only the Duke/MSU game left on the docket. Northwestern, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, aOSU and Purdue are all victors, at this point. For those keeping score at home (disregard this, EsPN), the BT has won two-straight of these made for TV extravaganzas.
But Purdue's portion of the pie was made difficult by lousy shooting. JJ made more field goals than the rest of the entire team...and shot at a higher percentage as well. He went 11/24...everybody else, 10/34.
T. Johnson and Smooge both fed the beast and finished with four assists. Moore finished with 14 points as well, but was struggling all night to find rhythm. VaTech's guard-heavy line-up and zone defense proved difficult for Purdue to counter...and the fact that Purdue players who weren't wearing #25 simply couldn't shoot only compounded Matty's squad's usual problems v. zone defense.
This game was similar to the Richmond game in the fact that Purdue struggled scoring the basketball. But, it was much different in the way Purdue played defensively. But, our Boilers were once again out-rebounded handily...tonight by 13.
But this game might be easier to figure out than Richmond. While JJ was dominant, finishing with 29 points in 44 minutes, Purdue's other bigs only totaled 6 minutes- Bade and Marcius played 3 each, Carroll didn't play. The good news of course, is that JJ scored at will, especially in the first half when he decided to post up. The bad news is he went away from that for minutes at a time and forced 18-plus footers regularly...he went 1/4 from behind the arc.
Byrd who finished with 8 rebounds, led our Boilers on the glass. He played tough defense and played through a stinger of some sort after taking a moving screen to the shoulder late in the second half. Knight (who was doing color for the game) spoke of how the shoulder injury took Byrd completely out of the offensive flow...but he didn't think that hurt Purdue as DJ was 0-5 from the field.
Barlow played great on defense and helped to hold Delaney, VT's lead scorer 12 points below his average. Jackson had an efficient day offensively going 2/2 and finishing with 5 points. But, unlike in the previous game, he looked sound defensively and made very good decisions with the ball.
This game felt a bit like the Alabama game last season...but, unlike the 'Bama team, VaTech had a crew of clowns on their bench that acted like they were playing their way into the Final Four tonight...on multiple occasions, the ref had to get them in their seats and off of the court. Atop of the exuberant bench, the crowd was lathered up. In fact, it felt like a fight might break out in the second half and VaTech really wanted it and things got a bit chippy a couple of times. The Hokies needed to avoid their third loss of the season, but couldn't because JJ was so dominant.
While I was glad Johnson was back to playing with a purpose, I'm still bothered by Moore's lack of production...but even moreso, at this point, the overall lack of shot-making ability by the rest of Matty's squad is just painful. Purdue's offense versus zone defenses has been shaky even going back to Keady's era...but these Boilers seem to settle for the three pointer waaaaay too often. And that's especially bad since they don't shoot it well.
This win was important for a number of reasons, but this team is clearly a work in progress and needed it. The depth we saw in the early seasons has all but evaporated- Painter doesn't seem to have enough faith in the big men to play them except in tiny spurts. And the backcourt, outside of Moore, can't score when they face solid defense.
Terone Johnson, John Hart and DJ Byrd have to score for Purdue to have a chance to stay near the top of the league. And more than just one guy has to rebound with a purpose. Let's Hope Purdue doesn't keep listening to the media's perpetual reminders that Hummel is the only person on the roster capable of doing these things...but it kinda seems like that's exactly what they believe. By the way, unlike scoring, rebounding is a choice...the scoring will come, in my opinion, if Purdue starts banging a bit more.
Next up, Alabama comes to Mackey on Saturday afternoon.