Thursday, January 17, 2013

Basketball Recap: Purdue 65 - Nebraska 56

I few things became very clear last night as the Boilers downed the Cornhuskers.

  1. The toughness
    Road games, no matter who they are against, are tough.  Purdue obviously knew this from losing at Eastern Michigan earlier this season... sorry, I just threw up a little on my keyboard out of disgust...but even a 20-point second half lead isn't large enough to get complacent when playing a Big Ten team on the road.  Wisconsin had trouble playing at Nebraska, being tied at halftime and actually trailing with six minutes to go before shutting the Husker offense down in the late stretch.  Michigan State was losing to Iowa on the road at halftime, before a late second-half run.  Indiana also almost lost in Iowa City.  Which made it excellent that...

  2. Purdue has a great deal more talent and skill than the weaker conference teams.  Now if they could just put that together for 40 minutes, it would be something special to watch.  The closest we've seen is the upset over Illinois, which was great, but there's still so much untapped potential with this team.  Do they have more talent than Michigan and Indiana?  No, definitely not, but do they have enough talent to compete for the top spots in the conference next year and beyond.  Certainly, and building 20 point leads on the road is a sure sign of that.  While Purdue will most likely finish the season in the bottom half of the conference (I'd say a 7th place finish is about their ceiling right now without a catastrophic failure for one of the other teams), there is no cause for panic or for comparing the Boilers to the conference dregs. 
  3. Feel the ground quake under their might!
  4. Erik really needs to catch up on his sleep.  His overworked brain completely forgot that Brandon Ubel's elbow was a little too broken for competitive basketball.  In his absence we got to see a lot more of Andre Almeida, who Erik referred to as a "GIANT."  Almeida seems like he'd be a fun guy to have a beer and pizza with (although he's probably not going to share any of that pizza with you), but it was pretty hilarious watching him and Hammons battle in the low post.  You might as well have been watching Godzilla fight Ultraman in slowmo.  Strangely Hammons didn't pick up a single foul.

    1. As the game got closer midway through the second half, I realized that watching a close game was a lot less fun than watching Purdue destroy Nebraska by 20 points, but I actually liked seeing what this team was made of and how the dealt with the added pressure.  They had periods of stupid, young mistakes, but they did enough to keep a safe cushion, and credit Painter with calling some well placed timeouts. 
    What else happened in the game?  AJ Hammons had a great game as expected, approaching a triple double with 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 blocks.  He also dished out three savvy assists and only turned the ball over once.  Every game gets me more excited for the future thanks to AJ.

    Ray Davis got the start again as Painter went small.  While he only had five points in 28 minutes, he pulled down seven rebounds, second on the team to only AJ's eight.  Playing with the starters, Davis likely won't have as many scoring opportunities (he only took two shots), but it was nice seeing him do lots of little things and play strong defense.

    Byrd got a lot of praise for his four second-half three pointers, but he still shot just 4 for 10 on the day.  He missed all five of his first-half attempts, including three misses in less than two minutes.  Purdue needs him to be a three point threat, so consider me happy he's making some, but the cold stretches are still concerning.  If he didn't get hot later in the game, the Nebraska comeback could have gotten really ugly.

    I know Painter is seeing how well the small line up works, but where did Jacob Lawson go?  My favorite energy guy and physical defender only saw five minutes of action.  We'll need him badly against more physical Big Ten teams, so I hope nothing's wrong, be it physically or with his attitude or work ethic in practice.
    My pet peeve: Hale and Carroll on the court at the same time
    Purdue held Nebraska to 33% shooting, which is fantastic (and they didn't miss as many easy layups as Penn State this weekend), but they only forced two turnovers (Purdue gave it away 12 times).  That, coupled with giving up 13 offensive rebounds are the only stats that really concern me.  A lot of that had to with the Boilers having stints where they lost a bit of hustle, either staring at the shot instead of crashing the glass or not making life hard enough for whatever Husker had the ball.  As a result, Purdue only had a single steal on the night.

    While the team missed four straight free throws down the stretch (including one front-end of a 1 and 1), prior to that they were shooting well (9 of 12).  Still, seeing Ronnie, Terone, and DJ all miss opportunities to secure the victory is frustrating, but fortunately the lead was large enough where it wasn't necessary.
    Quit trying to lick Terone!

    Purdue now stands at 3-2 in conference play, having played three "top-tier" teams (Michigan State, Ohio State, and Illinois) and two lower teams (Penn State and Nebraska), so their record isn't improperly weighted like some).  I'm pretty satisfied with that result so far and think there are going to be some fun surprises in conference play over the next few weeks.  If the Boilers can stay poised to take advantage, a chance at post-season play seems more feasible.

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