I guess all Purdue needed to do was come home to Mackey Arena.
No, it can't be that, because for the first time in about a year and a half Purdue looked like the Purdue of old. Everyone was getting involved and Purdue busted out from a 20-20 tie at the second media timeout to go on a critical 19-3 run and take firm control of the game. Perhaps more importantly, Purdue was getting it done a variety of ways. Jay Simpson was contributing with some hard work on the offensive glass and a few garbage baskets. Basil Smotherman connected on a three and had a ridiculous dunk on a beautiful pass from A.J. Hammons. Kendall Stephens was serving as a sniper, shooting the lights out of the gym.
By the time the blitz was completely over Purdue was up 49-34 at halftime and not for a few missed free throws and some botched layups could have been up a lot more. The Boilers did this with nine different players scoring. Stephens had 11 and Terone Johnson had 10 as everyone was getting involved. Purdue was so hyped that even Travis Carroll attempted a three. It was probably the best half of basketball Purdue played all season.
The problem in Orlando is that Purdue only had one good half per game, but that appears to have been solved at least for tonight. Purdue continued to be methodical as the faster team with more hustle. TJ consistently beat his man off the dribble to the basket and Hammons showed that he can be an offensive force with a step-back 18-footer that will be tough to defend if he can hit it consistently.
The second half wasn't quite as impressive as the first, but it was enough. Purdue successfully kept the Eagles at bay and prevented them from ever getting a run started. Since this was the first time this season I have seen Purdue in person (Purdue granted me a press credential for this one) it was nice to see things develop on something other than a TV screen.
The biggest thing I liked is that Purdue had energy again. We are not a program that can sit back and take what other teams do. We have to be the energy program that is on the floor after loose balls or looking to create on a break. We have to outwork our opponents even if we have more talent. When that work is not getting done seasons like last year happen.
I hope tonight was a bit of a "the light came on" moment in that respect. There is only one truly easy opponent left on the entire schedule. If Purdue doesn't have the energy it had in the first half on a consistent basis it is going to lose most nights. We just lack the experience to win any other way.
While the first half was a blitz of beautiful basketball, the second half was more of a Little Things half. The Boilers weren't as dominant, but thanks to a big hot here, an offensive rebound there, etc., Purdue kept BC at bay and never let them get close. In essence, they closed the game by slowly strangling their opponent. Even Anfernee Brown got his first career basket.
Maybe it was the fact that E`Twaun Moore was in the crowd tonight and even sitting with the Paint Crew in the second half. Maybe it was little things like Rapheal Davis contributing five quiet assists and Sterling Carter hitting two big second half threes as BC drew close. It was probably all of that, really. I am just happy that Purdue looked like a Purdue basketball team again.