As the first ever Big Ten team to play in the CBI, Purdue began it's post-season journey after defeating the Western Illinois Leathernecks in the emptiest Mackey Arena I've ever seen in my collegiate career. The place was more filled up during the alumni game I watched last summer.
Regardless of the poor show, Purdue came out with a chip on their shoulder after being taken down but a bottom-of-the-pack Nebraska team and beat the Leathernecks pretty heavily. The Leathernecks gave up a huge advantage when it came to size, which lead to the Boilers owning the rebounding battle 32-23 (in my opinion I thought we should've rebounded better and gave up some silly offensive boards).
Purdue's defense was pretty shaky at the start of this game; we helped a little too much on defense which led to open shots. Purdue also played with the same intensity my friends and I have when we go to the rec after a Cactus night. The Leathernecks were hitting their 3-point shots early, which gave them the lead at the beginning of the game. Our starters came out with a lack of energy, and the youth showed quite a bit early on. But with a line-up change where Dru Anthrop came in and sparked the offense really got things going. Anthrop came out determined to win this game, and his tenacity, along with Rapheal Davis', rubbed off on the rest of the team. Anthrop went 2-2 with 4 points, a team high 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals. I loved watching Dru at this game and his play really got the crowd going.
The first half of the game was rough to watch; we played slow and careless even though we came away with a three point lead. The second half was a different story as we subtly beat Western Illinois ass. Purdue took advantage of their size, physical style of play, and tough defense, which lead to us getting plenty of points in the paint, turnovers, fast break points, and open looks.
Davis, the Johnson brothers, and A.J. Hammons all finished in double digit scoring. Davis had 12, Ronnie Johnson had 12, Terone Johnson had 10, and Hammons with 15. Hammons and Terone didn't shoot the ball particularly well, going a combined 10-21. This was the fourth game I've been to this season, and Hammons is even more frustrating to watch live than on t.v. I was going nuts about how he had such an enormous size advantage but never tried to overpower his opponent once. He took his fade away turnarounds and hook-shots. They went in, and I'm fine with that, but I pray that over the summer he learns how to be a dominating, powerful force in the paint.
I loved the way RayD played last night. He hustled, rebounded hard, and was all over the place on both ends of the court. His three point-shooting is improving, too. If he can be consistent with that than we will continue to be a handful for opposing teams.
I also loved how intense Sandi Marcius was on the bench and on the floor. I've decided when I get my tax return, I'm buying a 55 jersey and maybe even stitching "Chooch Train" on the back. Call me crazy, because I probably am, but the energy this guy brings every night is EXACTLY what this team needs. I don't recall seeing him sit once. When he wasn't on the court he was bouncing up and down at the end of the bench, cheering on his team, and playing his heart out when he was on the floor. Did he still commit silly fouls and turnovers? Yes, absolutely. But with the effort he gives I can overlook that. Hammons, please take notes.
Purdue shot the ball well from every point of the floor: 58% overall, 63% from beyond the arc, and, yes, you are reading this right, 92% from the charity stripe. Hell just froze over with that last statistic.
The Boilers will host Santa Clara on Monday night. I encourage all Purdue students and members of the Lafayette and West Lafayette community to come and support them. I managed to get a free ticket for last night's game, and I'm sure there will be more for the next.
Purdue will need to continue it's tough play, be energized, and not force anything if they seriously want to win this tournament. It's most certainly doable, but the Boilers can't overlook any opponent because of the conference they come from. It will be interesting to see what Purdue team shows up on Monday night.