|DJ doing what seniors do
A beatdown, that's what happened. Six minutes into the game, Minnesota had only made one field goal, Purdue was leading 20-5 and shooting 58%. Purdue's lead would balloon to 21 and only return to single digits for less than 3 minutes of total game time.
Appropriately, Byrd led the way with 18 points (his highest total at Mackey this season), seven rebounds, five assists, and two steals. Sandi Marcius (who I thought would be critical after getting hurt against Michigan, which likely cost the game) only played 12 minutes but was able to score two points, nab two rebounds, and get a steal. He didn't have quite the same energy as his previous few stellar games, which may be due to the bum ankle.
So how did the Boilers handle the physical Gophers with Sandi not being much of a factor? AJ Hammons turned his effort meter back up and was perfect from the field for 14 points, six rebounds, and three blocks (the rejections coming in a four-minute span in the first half). It's exciting to see Hammons play even remotely close to his potential, and the sky is really the limit if he can stay hungry.
|AJ pointing the way to Chicago
Along with Hammons, fellow freshman Ray Davis had a fantastic game. Davis scored 18 points on only eight shots because he got the line a bunch by being physical and driving into contact. He also had four assists (can you see a nice trend? Purdue had 20 on 32 buckets), a steal, and a block. What Hammons sometimes lacks in energy, Davis certainly has in abundance, and he's learning how to use it very effectively.
|Ray Day playing like a man
Terone and Ronnie Johnson didn't have a great day shooting, but they still scored 12 and 14 points respectively while playing tough defense and each dishing out five assists. The other Johnson, who I've openly criticized and pined for less playing time, proved me wrong and scored 9 points in 19 mintues of action. That doesn't sound that special in a blowout win, but little AJ was a huge reason the Boilers held the lead early in the second half.
|Little AJ burning by the Gophers
Down 17 at half time, Minnesota came out and scored six unanswered points in the first 90 seconds. They followed that with three three-pointers over the subsequent two minutes and change. Times we've seen the Boilers melt seem to start like that, but thanks in part to Anthony Johnson scoring five points by attacking the rim over a two-minute span, the cushion stayed big enough that Minnesota never seriously threatened again.
Say what you will about this year's basketball team (and I'm the first to be pretty critical when it's deserved), but they seem to be peaking at the right time, finally learning how to work together as a team, run their offense, and play with effort for a full 40 minutes. They aren't near the top of the conference, but if they play like this, they have a shot against anyone.
Now that you've read about what happened on the court, allow me to rant about the travesty off the court. First, the upper bowl at Mackey looked empty in the Paint Crew sections (from the TV angles). This is pitiful, and it's been happening for a few weeks now. I've never been more disappointed in the student section (those fans/ticket holders who don't show up don't deserve to be called the Paint Crew).
Second, I'm incredibly confused by the actual Paint Crew, specifically whoever was in charge of ordering the senior night t-shirts. It's nice to have shirts honoring the seniors, but whey are they orange-gold instead of the actual Purdue colors? When the Paint Crew did this two years ago, people thought it was strange, but since the game was against Illinois, it wasn't a big deal.
Conversely, when playing Minnesota, I find it ridiculous that the student section would be clad in the opponent's color. This was likely a case of poor planning by the Paint Crew leadership, and it looked horrible on TV when you saw the section sitting behind the Minnesota bench and it looked more like a road game. Is it that hard to get shirts in Purdue's actual colors, and if so, why couldn't you choose another color knowing that the one specific game you were making the shirts for was against the GOLDEN Gophers? Really! But again, at least those students showed up to cheer on the team.
Let me add one last quick note about the seniors. I've mentioned earlier this season that I thought Byrd should be benched, to both provide a potential offensive threat off the bench (something the team was lacking), and as punishment for some poor play, games he simply didn't seem to show up for. I don't take back those comments, but I'm thrilled to see how DJ is ending his college career. I hope for it to only get better in the post-season and for DJ to make me look a fool. Also, congratulations to Anthrop, the former walkon who had to battle back from a hand injury just to finish out his senior season. The kid plays with huge effort and heart, and I wished he would have seen more action on Saturday to reward him for all he's done.
While no one saw this huge victory coming, at least Erik and I both correctly predicted a Boiler triumph. Of course, we thought it would be a relatively low scoring affair, with neither team surpassing 65 points. Instead the guys go out and score the most points they have this season, and that's against some bad opponents, including two exhibition games!
Because of that, I've regained a large amount of ground in our picks against the spread and won't get my kneecaps broken. Of course, I have a long way to go to catch Erik, so the Big Ten Tournament better be very good to me. Check out the current standings:
Erik +328 (23-10 Against The Spread)
Kirk +1 (14-19 Against The Spread)
With this win, Purdue earned the #7 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, which helps them have a slightly easier game against Nebraska on Thursday and a touch matchup against Ohio State on Friday (avoiding #1 seed IU). We'll post more about the tournament soon, but do you think this team can make a miraculous run?