Lack of hustle, lack of heart, stupid shots, no identity; these are the things I've wrote in post game wrap-ups basically all season long. My mood during the write-ups ranges anywhere from completely miserable/depressed to extremely pissed off. Today was the polar opposite.
I'll be honest, I almost didn't even want to watch the game because I knew we were going to lose. There was no doubt in my mind about it. Even throughout the game I wouldn't believe what was happening because, well, it's Purdue. We aren't good this year at all. I'm so happy to say that Purdue made me look like a huge ass for having this mindset.
This was one of the biggest wins Purdue has had in a long, long time and Painter's squad earned it. They came in and did what Purdue basketball has been known for: hard-work, grit, spit, and grind. And man, was this a fun game to watch (something I haven't said about Purdue since we beat Illinois)! This was a huge win for multiple reasons: We saw what the future holds, we seem to have figured it out (a little too late, but whatever I'll take it), we played great team ball on both ends of the floor, fun was being had during this game, and we made Wisconsin's senior night completely suck. So suck it, Mike Bruesewitz, who is one of my most disliked players in the Big Ten.
Purdue started the game like we do most of the time, pretty ugly. Honestly, the whole first half was pretty ugly for both teams, but Purdue is accustomed to winning ugly and whatever Painter has said and did in that locker room before the game worked. These guys came out ready to play and busted their asses on the glass and on defense. Purdue out-rebounded The Badgers 46 to 32. Shots fell for the Boilers too; Purdue hit 50% from long distance.
Senior D.J. Byrd went nuts in this game and played his heart out as he hit all six of our long range shots. Byrd finished with 22 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, played great defense, and brought it throughout the whole game. In the second half, Terone Johnson would not let Wisconsin get ahead of Purdue and literally took over the offense. After a T.V. timeout, TJ had three buckets in a row that gave Purdue the lead, and Byrd's 3-point shooting throughout the second half along with Purdue's great defense prevented Wisconsin from clawing their way back in. Terone finished the night with 16 points, 7 boards, 4 assists, a steal and a block.
These guys played lights out, but if I'm Coach Painter I'm definitely giving the game ball to junior Sandi Marcius. Chooch Train left it all on the court tonight and should be proud of it. Chooch finished with 10 points, hitting all three of his field goals, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals. His defense was awesome, he set great screens, and played with a fiery energy that rubbed off on the whole team. If you watched the bench, you would've seen everyone going nuts when Chooch scored or got fouled. This team finally looked like a team of guys who care about each other and want to play together. Basketball became fun again for Purdue.
A.J. Hammons was unfortunately a complete no show today. Every time he touched the ball he took a shot, and three of them went in. Hammons has been playing miserably lately, and it's stressful to watch because of how good he is. Truthfully, I'm over Hammons starting. Chooch has been playing great lately and definitely deserves the start. Until Hammons plays with heart and acts like he cares his limits should be restricted because, and it showed today, that his lack of effort kills this team's momentum.
Last week, Gold & Black wrote an article about how Rapheal Davis has become a leader on the team and is becoming the guy to get others stick around after practice to put in the extra work. Davis' offense game has been streaky all season, but his level of effort is there and it showed this afternoon. Davis only scored three points, but he crashed the boards all afternoon long and finished with seven boards. Davis is still a work in progress, but I've always loved this guy and seeing how hard he plays makes me excited for his future.
Purdue is now in an interesting situation. They went in and beat a really really good Wisconsin team, a team that barely ever loses at home; especially to unranked teams. This is a huge win, but it doesn't necessarily mean anything...yet.
After Iowa manhandled Purdue, any hope for a post-season tournament pretty much went out the window. But Purdue faces two streaky teams, at home, in Michigan & Minnesota. If Purdue plays like they did today who knows what could happen. I'm a realistic person and thinker, though. I believe that Michigan is going to go continue to be a great team and not let another unranked team embarrass them. I don't think we get a win in that game. Minnesota is incredibly athletic, but also incredibly inconsistent. They've had a tough schedule and I'm sure they're getting wore out. If Purdue can shut down senior Trevor Mbakwe, who is turning into the heart and soul of that team, it will be a very interesting match up.
Needless to say, Purdue has to play like they did today if they want to even hang close in these games, let alone win. Purdue took a big step forward today, hopefully they figured it out and we can start enjoying watching this team again. With only a handful of games left in the season, it would be nice to see the Boilers have a fun more fun games. The team saw what they can do and got another taste of what a big win feels like. A huge win for these young guys; we'll have to wait and see how they react going forward when Michigan comes to town on Wednesday.