Boilers Survive Up and Down Senior Day
RayDay Leads the way Davis gets back to doing it all while leading the Forces of Good to victory.
Stephens passing is a fail
Kendall Stephens, following a great game in East Lansing, had three big turnovers in just 12 minutes of play...and 0pts.
Is the glass half empty?
Was Purdue's poor shooting (first 9 mins), mental toughness (next 28 mins), or awful handling of the press (final two mins) what stuck out to you?
The metallic beige and black-clad Boiler faithful were set to honor Neal Beshears and Jon Octeus (Prime)...and the energy was palpable in Mackey Arena...but Matty's boys were simply offensive on the offensive side of the court to start. So with a deplorably-slow start to the game, much of the energy was gone early in the contest.
With just under 11.5 minutes left in the first half, the score was 15-2...in favor of the bad guys. Honestly, it kind of felt worse than a 13 point deficit at that juncture. For the next nine minutes, Purdue merely hung around as the Chief held a double digit lead...That's when PJ Thompson reintroduced himself to us in dramatic fashion.
Thompson pressured Illinois' point guard 90 feet away from the basket; ripped the ball on a tie-up and laid it in...the crowd reacted...and Purdue suddenly had a pulse. A few Hammons FTs, a Davis bucket and another Thompson steal later, Purdue was officially back in the game as they headed up the tunnel; the score was 26-21, in favor of Illinois.
In the second half, it took Purdue under four minutes to take the lead...and they wouldn't lose it for the rest of the game...Sounds nice when it's said that way, huh? Sounds kinda great when you know Purdue extended their lead to double-digits with seven minutes left. And when I tell you that Thompson hit a big three to put our Boilers up by FOURTEEN POINTS with just 2:57 left, you're probably thinking- all was right with the world and the Boilers cruised to victory.
Illinois threw the press at Purdue (shockingly?)...and Purdue kinda peed down their collective leg. With Edwards fouled out, their second half Ravonte Rice stopper was gone...with Octeus fouled out shortly after, Purdue's court general and best ball handler was gone...and Yackety Sax played in the Boiler faithful heads/ears as Purdue tried its best to simply get the ball across the timeline.
Kendall Stephens and AJ Hammons, who looked to be in a deep state of sleep walking at this point, made a couple bone-headed plays...and the game nearly got interesting...but not really.
Purdue still won by five points, 63-58 in a weird Senior Day game that showed a bit of what we've seen this season that's made us laugh and cry.
Poor shooting and laissez fair attitudes on offense were maddening. The gritty defense, hard play on the glass (38 rebs) and unselfish play (13 ast) were inspiring. And finally, the inability to close out was frustrating.
RayDay got back to leading Purdue with his solid offensive play and tough defense and ended the game with 18pts, 5rebs and 4ast. His most important stat, in many wins this season was FT shooting. Today was no different as he went 8-9 from the line and led Purdue by example.
Hammons had 16pts and 10rebs...but just didn't seem to be into the game during a few stretches. The problem that has bridled him often this season, turnovers, got him again tonight as he coughed it up 5 times. Hammons was 6-8 from the free throw line...those points were pretty critical as well.
If I was giving out a game ball, PJ Thompson would have gotten it. Just 7pts and 2ast, but his 3 steals were large...and he was just near by a lot of good stuff as it happened. Another guy that didn't really fill the stat sheet was Vince Edwards, but he was important. His 3pts, 4rebs and 4ast in 23 minutes (due to foul trouble), while playing tough defense, reminded me how good he is at so many things. I've done it before, and will do it again- I love comparing him to Robbie Hummel. I know he doesn't score like Hummel did as a Freshman, but he makes everybody better just like #4 used to.
No Bubble Talk Here
A 12-win Big Ten team has never not made it into the NCAA tournament in the 64/68 team era...and generally, 20 win B1G teams get into the dance. Tournament guessers don't think Purdue's a lock...but I believe they punched their ticket to the dance earlier this evening. The computer rankings aren't strong due to that awful December we've all tried to forget...but their resume is solid.
There are four tiers to the B1G as I look ahead to the tournament: Wisconsin, Maryland, aOSU and MSU are in. Purdue and Iowa both look like they should be in. IU is trying their best to play their way out of what looked to be a lock just a few weeks ago, and Illinois has done nothing to get itself off of the bubble in the late season. One of those two are not going to get in, I believe...and everyone else is out (unless someone shocks the nation with a BT tourney championship form the lower level).
If Purdue wants to not be squirming at all on Selection Sunday, the Forces of Good need to win a game in the tournament. The likelihood is that the game would be against Iowa (who would be the 5 seed due to Purdue's tie-breaking win at Mackey earlier in the BT season).
Not Much to Complain About, Honestly
Had Purdue not rolled over v. Minny for that 10 minute stretch, Purdue's status would be solid with all of the tournament guessers. But all things considered...and the way Matty and his boys looked in December, this conference season was an amazing success...It was important for a lot of reasons.
It showed that Painter might have righted the ship that's been violently listing side to side for the last few seasons...It made basketball fun again for Purdue faithful and (from what it looks like) the players. And maybe most gratifying, it made Purdue a bit important to the college basketball world in March.
Purdue finishes 20-11 (12-6) as they head up to Chicago for the lil' dance and will play on Thursday or Friday (at the least).