Purdue 109 - Central Connecticut State 73
For one game, all was right in West Lafayette. An inferior opponent came in and the Boilers scored the most points in the Matt Painter era. It may be hard to believe with a Painter-led team, but this team is 21st in offensive metrics and 173rd in defensive metrics according to Ken Pomeroy. This is a major SMALL SAMPLE ALERT, but if this team can start playing some hard-nosed defense, this Boilermaker team could do some real damage.
It's amazing what a difference AJ Hammons makes. Sure, his 12 points and 5 rebounds were great to have in only 17 minutes of play, but his 7 blocks really helped turn this one into a laugher. CCSU shied away from driving the lane, meaning the layups Northern Kentucky had in the first game turned into missed jump shots for the Blue Devils .
Purdue 81 - Rider 77
Another nail biter against another bad team. Was the CCSU game an illusion? Rider fell behind early, but stormed back to take a 9 point lead in the second half. Luckily, a monster Basil Smotherman dunk ignited everyone in Mackey Arena and Sterling Carter had a fantastic final 5 minutes (2 steals, 4-4 free throws, and a HUGE tip-in where the 6-foot carter somehow jumped over everyone) to put the Boilers up for good.
A couple comments about this one:
- AJ Hammons was in foul trouble and only played 12 minutes. He took zero shots in those 12 minutes as Rider's main focus on defense was to shut him down. This doesn't bother me, but I'd like to see some assists if he's not going to take a shot. Presumably someone is wide open when they're doubling Hammons - he needs to find the open man for the easy basket. Maybe he could take some pointers from Jay Simpson, who made a beautiful pass in a similar situation in the second half. Interestingly, Purdue has played 120 minutes of regular season basketball this year, and their best player has played only 29 of them. We really haven't seen the real Boilermakers yet.
- I am already sick and tired of all the fouls and the new "emphasis" on hand-checking to improve scoring. Each team had 31 free throws and Rider at times looked like their gameplan was to run into Purdue players to cause contact and force a foul call. Why is this "emphasis" happening again? College basketball wasn't broken. Anybody who's a college basketball fan can tell you that they absolutely do not want it to start looking like the NBA. And sure, shooting more foul shots adds points to the board, but they're boring points. Fouls ruin the tempo of the game. And while we've seen our share of ugly offensive games in the past several years, there's nothing more exciting than a defensive showdown where every basket feels like it's worth 5 points because you had to work so hard to get it. PLEASE de-emphasize these new rules now...before we get the fun sucked out of college basketball.
- It's true - Rider and Northern Kentucky are both not very good and it's not a good sign that this team nearly lost to both of them. However, last year's team DID lose these games. The real difference this year is that guys are actually stepping up in big spots. Errick Peck drained the huge three in the opener and Sterling Carter willed the team to victory on Sunday night. The two 5th-year transfers have been huge for this team and have taken the pressure off Terone Johnson at the end of the game. Remember, the committee won't care about these games at the end of the year, especially since they don't look at margin of victory. These games surely won't help us get in, but they won't hurt us either. Had we lost even one of them, however, it would have put us in a hole that would have been VERY difficult to dig out of. So be happy with the result, and hope we see more games like the CCSU one, and less like the other two.