Is this the best game we have seen from Purdue all year? It certainly looks like it. With a team that, on paper, the Boilers were evenly matched again Purdue rolled. In fact, Purdue more than rolled. After taking a 9-7 lead with 13:46 left in the first half on a basket by Anthony Johnson the Boilers began a complete and utter domination that was totally unexpected. It is one thing to do that against Hofstra or Lamar. It is another to do it against a West Virginia team from a major conference, full of talent, and one that regularly make the NCAA Tournament.
I think the most pleasing thing about the day is that Purdue can clearly play a lot better. Purdue was 13 of 21 at the line. A.J. Hammons was limited to four points (though he had some major contributions on defense and on the glass). There were still 16 turnovers, most coming in the first half during a very sloppy start.
Purdue still won convincingly, however, by doing things it has not done all year. Instead of relying on the three-pointer as a main part of the offense it became a compliment. D.J. Byrd hit on four of them (adding a fifth by splashing all three free throws after being fouled on one). They were smart threes within the rhythm of the offense and shot with a ton of confidence.
Rapheal Davis also proved he could be a weapon by hitting a pair of treys. He has been in the corner open for threes several times this season. A couple of times recently he has hit it. It is the type of shot that can open up Purdue's offense greatly if he can hit it with consistency. We've talked all year about needing another three-point shooter. Maybe we found one.
Really, everyone had a moment in this game. Sandi Marcius continued his solid play as a big in relief. Travis Carroll kept an offensive rebound alive that led to a three by Davis. Dru Anthrop got seven solid minutes and hit a three. Even the two walk-ons, Stephen Toyra and Neal Beshears, had a rebound and a blocked shot (because you don't bring that weak shit into Neal Beshears' house), respectively.
I was there for the first game of the season against Bucknell and there today. The growth by this team in roughly two months has been astounding. Bucknell never let the game get away from them and controlled almost every aspect. The freshmen played like freshmen and without Terone Johnson Purdue looked lost for far too long on offense. Today Purdue was the team that dictated the pace. If Purdue wanted to run, it ran. If Purdue wanted to play the half court, it was able to get to the basket with the Fistful Of Johnsons offense. Hammons did the little things to clear out the lane and Little AJ was often the beneficiary.
Finally, the sheer number of charges taken was impressive. Since the charging call is one of the hardest to call for an official in basketball it is often a crapshoot, but today was incredibly smart with their positioning. Often West Virginia guys were lowering their shoulder and planting before a shove. that only helped Purdue. I think I counted at least five taken charges, and those only further demoralized the Mountaineers.
It has been quite some time since Purdue dominated a major conference team like this. The closest I can think of was the home game vs. Nebraska last season. After going up 14 at halftime Purdue came out and stomped away any momentum the Mountaineers tried to gain out of the locker room. The lead eventually got to 68-36, allowing for a comfortable seven minutes of garbage time.
Any time you can sit in the crowd, cheer for walk-ons to shoot, and generally be totally relaxed after the final media timeout it is a good day. That's what this was today. Much of the credit goes to Purdue's defense, which limited West Virginia to under 25% shooting for most of the game. Aaric Murray, one of their top players, had only four points, fouled out, and Purdue got him to mentally check out with the technical called on him. Juwan Staten, their leading scorer, had only eight points on four of 10 shooting. Eron Harris, the local kid, was the only player in double figures with 10 points.
Really, it was the closest thing Purdue has played to a perfect game all season. The only difference is that Purdue can still play much, much better. This is a confidence builder that can pay huge dividends down the stretch. The best part is that so many of these guys are freshmen that are nowhere near their limits. If this team gets to the NIT or even finds a way to claw into the NCAAs then the low point really isn't much of a low point, is it.
We're only going to get better, people.