As I parked the minivan and raced inside to catch the start of the game, I knew that I had missed the first few minutes of action, but my jaw literally dropped when I saw I had missed nine minutes of the first half and Purdue was leading by 15 points (22-7). What bizarro world had I entered driving down the interstate in the land of the geriatric? Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!
|The fans sure didn't turn out for the game, but Terone did|
I'll admit, that was a fun game to watch, as Purdue was hitting ridiculous shots that normally wouldn't go in but also playing a complete basketball game for the first time in weeks. And I only felt a little bad for Northwestern. Sure, the Wildcats are missing three of their best players and are pretty terrible without them, but Purdue needed this win like Carl needed to kill a gopher. The twenty or thirty point losses were piling up, and it was starting to feel a bit like this, but then the Boilers go and flip the table to actually BEAT an opponent by more than thirty points. So how on earth did this happen?
Other than Northwestern being pretty horrible and missing tons of open shots (22% from three, 29% overall), Purdue played for the first time in weeks like they actually cared. Let me rephrase that: Purdue's veterans played for the first time in weeks like they actually cared. I don't know what changed with Terone Johnson, but he went off for 22 points, 6 rebounds, and only one turnover while nailing four of his five three-point attempts. While Terone is the type of player who can carve up bad defenses and less athletic players with his drive and floater, no one expected him to be the team's leading deep threat.
Speaking of deep threats, DJ Byrd finally played a solid game, too. He tallied 13 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds to go with only one turnover. While the team as a whole didn't exactly handle the ball well (15 total turnovers), it was nice to see the upper classman "leaders" actually lead and perform well on the court. If only they could do the same against good teams!
Another senior played better than expected, and that was Sandi Marcius who got the start over AJ Hammons. Hammons played only 12 minutes, and he did fine scoring six points in that time, but Painter was clearly sending a message (that I'd been begging for) to start the players that actually showed the most effort. And how can you not love Sandi? Even though he's clearly not the best big man, he gives 100% every time he's on the court. In 16 minutes he made a couple baskets, got a few boards, and blocked two shots, and the team did well when he was in.
Ray Davis had a nice game with ten points and seven rebounds (leading the team). Thanks to the Wildcats' poor shooting and lack of athleticism (or maybe even effort since the game was over early), Purdue out-rebounded them by 20. People were actually boxing out and crashing the boards, as opposed to previous games where players acted like they were allergic to jumping. Even the walk-ons got some playing time (since our coach is decent enough to pull his starters when leading by 25+ points with under 10 minutes remaining).
The team that has played like a group of individuals also seemed to gel, making some great passes including 18 assists, the most in a game since losing to Villanova in NYC in the third game of the season. Maybe a senior player stepped up and gave the team a great pep talk like this after the second IU loss.
Does this mean the Boilers' problems have been fixed? Hardly, but it's nice to see that this group can remember how to play as a unit, and just maybe that can lead to an exciting upset to end the season. If not, we should all enjoy this victory (and watch if repeatedly on your DVR if you're lucky enough to have one) since it may be the last this season.