The forces of good wore black this evening in East Lansing while MSU's crowd matched the blanket of snow that seems to be covering a third of the nation right now. But 10,000 plus white T-shirts couldn't help defeat the motivated and well-prepared Boilers, as Purdue earned its first game in the left column at MSU since the late 90s.
We all knew this game was for a significant amount of smooth, shiny glass balls...but man is the conference race different now than it was this afternoon, thanks to the road dog Boilers (not to mention the Illini).
Van Pelt, who's one of the few EsPN employees who still has his own thoughts, has started calling Purdue's Junior class the Big Three. I like it. Back in '88, Lewis, Stephens and Mitchell were the Three Amigos...and that's no longer timely, so for now, the moniker will stick.
In the first half JJ flexed his muscle time and time again. On the shoulders of tremendous passing, Johnson was given some amazingly-easy looks at the basket. Whether it was Barlow, Jackson, Moore or Hummel, JJ was fed enough to keep him very full in the first twenty minutes. The second half started out much different as he had the ball knocked loose by smaller players quite a few times. After the blood sugar regulated, Johnson finished with 19 points, 7 rebounds and three blocks.
The second of the Big Three, did what he does- hit shots when he had to, made a ton of plays with and without the ball and finished with 15 points, 5 reb. & 5 ast. When he was out of the game with foul trouble midway through the second half, it was felt as the lead shrank to 3...after re-entering, the match-ups became much more difficult for Izzo's squad and Purdue's lead quickly got back to double-digits.
Smooge was huge...the hugest of the Large Trio...He finished with 25 points, 3 rebounds and 6 assists. He started off quickly and ended the game the same way as he hit a massive three pointer and then a signature teardrop to put the game out of reach for the green.
Atop of the Junior class, the rest of the team seemed to understand its role. Patrick Bade played a quiet few minutes to end the first half that helped keep any Boiler from fouling out. John Hart's energy was once-again tremendous and he was 1-1 behind 20.9. Lewis Jackson played valuable minutes and had a couple crossovers that made MSU defenders look perplexed, disjointed and tottering...but was once again quiet on the stat sheet. Keaton Grant played a solid 19 minutes as he hit a pair of big free throws down the stretch and was steady defensively. Kelsey Barlow showed some flashes of brilliance and nearly posterized a few MSU defenders...but settled for a few free throws instead. Kramer was hampered by foul trouble nearly the entire game, but had a key drive and finish in the second half that silenced the Spartan, yet capacity, Breslin Center crowd...and in the 17 minutes he played, seemed to be matched up with a 6'8" player for much of that time. I don't know of too many other wings that have to defend guys that are 6 inches taller than them on a regular basis, but Kramer does it well.
As predicted, Lucas played well on his bum ankle...but not well enough. I'm sure he'll be healthy in 18 days when MSU heads to God's Country.
Purdue did a lot very well this evening. For starters, they out-rebounded Izzo's squad played with purpose for most of the game and withstood a great run by Sparty in the second half as Erin Andrews and the Izzone watched from near by. They also had to endure what seemed to be an NBA officiating crew as these schmoes called at least three continuation fouls on Purdue that allowed, what should have been fouls on the floor, turn into 3-point plays. But no matter, crappy officiating is part of the deal, not just in the BT, but nationwide...Purdue's got to continue to keep the officials out of the equation by taking care of leads and closing teams out. The finished extremely-strong tonight, and won by 12, 76-64. Part of the reason Purdue looked so sound in the closing three minutes, in my opinion, is the rotation that had been up-in-the-air for most of the season, but is now clearly taking shape.
Next up, the Paint Crew gets to welcome home their road-hardened brethren and give them a pick-me-up before they head on to Columbus. Every game's important as we watch Matty attempt to do what Keady did so well- own February.