His name is worthy of being the two-word title today.
I was pretty much left speechless after seeing what E`Twaun Moore did to the Ohio State Buckeyes. On 13 of 18 shooting in a game where we needed him to be the Red Button he was more than that. He smashed the Red Button down at the start of the game and kept it there, thoroughly destroying one of the best teams in the nation with the kind of performance we knew was possible, but was still amazing to watch. Even his five assists were works of art. It was a privilege to be in the same building as Smooge today, and even more of a privilege to be wearing his jersey as I watched. I feel like I need to retire the jersey because of this game.
I've been writing this blog at Hammer & Rails for two years and at Off the Tracks for over five years. This is one of the rare times where I can't really put into words exactly what one of our athletes did. Since Purdue plays such team-oriented basketball we're used to getting contributions from everybody in order to win. Today we got them from guys like Lewis Jackson, Kelsey Barlow, and, of course, JaJuan Johnson, but it is rare when we have a player simply take over individually to the point where the opposition has absolutely no answer. That was E'Twaun. He came out of the locker room in the zone and just buried them. He hit every big shot he needed to hit and for the third straight game closed a victory with a dagger of a shot. I thought Mackey Arena was the loudest I have ever heard it during the Michigan State game. By the time JJ threw down a reverse two-handed exclamation point we made the MSU game sound like a Tuesday night junior high crowd.
This was the best week for Purdue basketball in a long time, and we have had a lot of good weeks in the last few years. We got two excellent commitments and two huge victories that propelled us possibly to a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. As much fun as this was, I hope it is only the beginning of an amazing ride over the next six weeks. We have waited for these next six weeks for an incredibly long time and they are finally here. I can't think of a better way to kick them off.
Positives from the second Ohio State game:
E'Twaun Moore - No explanation needed. Just a fantastic performance from a senior in his penultimate home game. I hope he has 13 games left in his career just like this one.
Perimeter defense - As bad as it was in Columbus, it was the complete opposite today. We dared Sullinger to carry the entire offensive load and beat us. OSU only shot 4 of 15 from long range and I can recall them only getting one really good look all day. Jon Diebler buried it. William Buford was a non-factor, Aaron Craft was harassed into six turnovers (though he had 6 steals), and anytime Jared Sullinger had the ball and put it on the floor we were there to hack away. If they aren't going to call them you might as well do it. This was a team defensive effort today. Travis Carroll had some good minutes. Ryne Smith was phenomenal on the defensive end. D.J. Byrd did some dirty work. Even Patrick Bade was a fighter.
Attacking the basket - This was the key point of the game. OSU did a good job on JJ, especially in the second half. We still took the ball to the basket and got Lauderdale in foul trouble. This was huge because it forced Sullinger to guard JJ and therefore expend a lot of energy. Sullinger also got into a little foul trouble, but JJ made him exert so much on the other end that it opened things up. LewJack was able to drive and there was rarely help on E'Twaun. With Lauderdale out, Sullinger didn't have that help he usually has on the other side of the basket. By the 8 minute media timeout he was beaten. You could tell it in his body language. This was all borne by attacking the basket and not backing down an inch.
Kelsey Barlow - Is bad GDB gone? He hasn't been around for awhile. Kelsey is attacking the basket and really turning into a great rebounder. Today he had some great cuts without the basketball where he was able to get into scoring position behind the defense. All eight of his points came at the rim, but I am liking the tough edge he is developing.
LewJack - LewJack made Sullinger look silly every time JJ brought him out for the high post screen. That play set the tone in the second half when we ran it on our first possession to increase the lead. This is the dreaded Something Else that we need to keep making teams worry about.
Travis Carroll - Carroll and Bade absolutely need to keep shooting their little 15-footers. Yes, they only had four points combined, but if they can consistently knock that shot down other teams will have to start respecting and guarding it. Again, that is just something else for opposing defenses to worry about.
Rebounding - Most of rebounding is effort. Staying within two of a good rebounding team shows we brought that effort.
The crowd - Make no mistake: the team absolutely fed off the Paint Crew and an incredibly loud crowd today. It was so loud at times you could almost feel Ohio State wilting from the pressure. We could have beaten anyone in the country today with that crowd. In my mind this was a better Ohio state team than the one that won at Mackey last year, and they couldn't handle it. The Paint Crew singing "Party in the USA" was the funniest moment in Mackey Arena history.
Negatives from the second Ohio State game:
Ted Valentine - When Sullinger hooks Terone Johnson's head and send him sprawling that is not a foul on Johnson. I am just saying. Also, David Lighty travels nearly EVERY DAMN TIME HE TOUCHES THE BALL!!!!!
Ryne Smith (offensive edition) - This is minor, but I am ready for him to knock down those open threes again.
Three years ago, when we beat Wisconsin in Mackey Arena, I wrote that we were at the mountain, rather than the top. That moment symbolized that the Baby Boilers, as they were then called, were ready to compete in the Big Ten. It would have been easy to have that win make our season, but instead, we used it as a springboard to immediately contend for a Big Ten Championship.
I feel we are at a similar moment in time. It would be easy to have this moment as the high moment of our season, but instead it needs to symbolize what this team is capable of doing. As much fun as this is right now, this season has always been about those days in March and the NCAA Tournament. We have now proven that we are a team good enough to make the Final Four. You can easily say Ohio State is a Final Four caliber team. Today's game only proved that we are a Final Four caliber team as well, even sans Robbie. Purdue fans have thought this from the moment Rob went down, but now the nation knows it.
We still have to go out and do it though. We know it can happen. We saw today that we are more than good enough to make it happen. We have to maintain this momentum and keep playing our best basketball of the season right now. Remember, JJ had just three second half points today and we still beat the #2 team in the country by 13. Hopefully, we have 13 games left (four regular season, three Big Ten Tournament, and six NCAA Tournament). The next goal is a Big Ten regular season title, which is possible with some help. A lot of goodwill can be instantly erased Wednesday with a bad showing in Bloomington. The Hoosiers are the worst team in the Big Ten, but that does not mean it is an automatic win. As much as I would to hand out a merciless beating, I know it is more likely we're going to be in a battle with a team that played us to a three point game there last year.
It is hate week again.