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You’re excited? Feel these nipples!

First off I wanted to say thank you to former Boilermaker Mike Alstott, who retired from the Bucs today after 12 seasons. I knew this was probably coming after he started the season on injured reserve, but I still salute Purdue's all-time leading rusher as he finishes a long and distinguished career. Long-time Purdue fans view Mike as one of the few bright spots of the Jim Colletto coaching era, and I still maintain that if we had had at least a marginally competent head coach we would have gone to at least one bowl game in his career. Mike played at a time when opposing teams knew he was our only true offensive weapon, yet he still was able to dominate games.

Inevitably Kory Sheets will pass his career touchdown scoring mark in the 2008 season, but many of the overall rushing records will still stand. You had to watch Mike play at Purdue to truly appreciate just how good he was, as he almost single-handed carried us to a bowl game as a junior in 1994. That year coach Colletto squandered a 4-1 start into a 4-5-2 finish simply because of his, "a tie is as good as a win in the Big Ten," philosophy against Wisconsin and Iowa. Mike saved his best work for last, as his Friday after Thanksgiving performance at Indiana in 1995 was one of the most dominating performances in Purdue football history. Purdue only finished 4-6-1 that season, but nearly defeated Notre Dame, Penn State, and Michigan in what would have then been a landmark year. I always wonder how good our offense would have been the past few years with him in the backfield.

Mike, you were the epitome of what it is to be a Boilermaker, and you will be missed. Thank you.

Now we move on to last night's basketball action, and I must say I was very impressed by Purdue's play. I knew Penn State would suffer from the loss of Geary Claxton, but their performance on Sunday at Indiana had me leery of a potential trap game on the road. What transpired was a total shock, as I feel Purdue turned in perhaps its most complete performance in a road game since at least the 2000 season when we nearly ended up in the Final Four. The only other game I can think of where we have been so shockingly dominant away from home recently was the 2003 NCAA Tournament game against LSU. Absolutely no one was picking us in that game and many were arguing whether we should even be in the tournament at 18-10. Sports Illustrated even had the gall to predict that LSU would reach the elite 8. We then proceeded to come out and kick them up and down the floor for an easy 80-56 win.

I kept track of the game last night on gametracker then watched the highlights this morning on the web. Many will say that it was just Penn State, but the first half was certainly one of the best halves of basketball Purdue has put on in quite some time. Consider the following firsts from last night's game:

First back-to-back road wins since 2000-01 season

First 20-point or more road win since 2000 (at Iowa 84-58)

Best defensive effort in a game since the 1998-99 season (54-42 win over Minnesota in West Lafayette)

Best defensive effort on the road since at least 1996-97 (I can't find records back further than that.)

Let's please keep in mind that before this game we had exactly three true road wins since the beginning of the 2004-05 season total. It didn't matter if we were playing Duke in Cameron Indoor or Sisters of the Poor and Blind on a playground, we simply could not win away from Mackey Arena. Often the games weren't even close to teams we probably could have handled at home. Last night the Toddler Boilers answered those fears with an emphatic win that has been a long time coming. The stage is now set for an even bigger win this Saturday, but I will get into that later.

Positives from the Penn State game:

The Defense – I am giving this area as many positives as is humanly possible. We were smothering, we didn't allow Penn State to get anything going, and we used stellar defense to generate points in transition. Since it had been nine years since the last time we had such a dominating defensive effort it is pretty obvious that such a performance makes it very difficult to lose a game. Even better was the fact that we had nine blocked shots and eight steals. I expected to dominate the paint, but nine blocked shots from seven different players? Are you kidding me? Please tell me the football team was watching and learned you can win games by preventing the other team from scoring.

Sharing the ball – This truly was a total team win, and that is what has me so excited for the future. Only Terrance Crump will be gone from this lineup next season, and he had 0 points and four assists in 22 minutes last night. These guys are not only very talented individually, but they are growing together so much they play as a single unit on the floor no matter who is in the lineup. On 25 field goals last night we had 18 assists from six different guys. Three guys reached double figures and once again we had a different leading scorer. I expected great teamwork between Hummel and Martin since they played together in high school. You can throw Moore into that group from AAU as well. The fact they have meshed so well with everyone else is just an added bonus.

Robbie Hummel – This was the best game of his very young career so far. 15 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, and 3 of 5 from 3-point land is a great night from a senior, but from a true freshman? I am beginning to wonder if Robbie even likes playing Mackey because his best games have come away from home. It's been asked before, but how different would things have been had he not been sick against Michigan State? I love this kid's versatility.

3-point shooting – This continues to be a surprising weapon for us, but since the nature of our motion offense is to take only good shots who can blame us for taking the 3-pointer if it there. Right now we are knocking it down with regularity, and most importantly they are not always coming from the same player. We hit 11 triples in this game for 33 points, so if we can continue to do that and hold other teams under 50 points I certainaly like our chances of getting the rest of our points from inside the arc. Six different guys hit triples for us as well.

E'Twaun Moore – Moore is starting to come along nicely and is developing into a great complimentary scorer. His 11 points were big last night, but his five assists were even bigger. He only had one turnover as well. All told it was a very nice all-around game and you can feel him start to adjust to Big Ten basketball.

Keaton Grant – Keaton finally cooled off, but it still wasn't a terrible game for the reigning Big Ten player of the week. Keaton's numbers were down from his last two games, but I like that he didn't sulk and instead was more concerned with getting everyone else involved. The key to this team's future success is going to be unselfish play and learning to go with whoever is the hot hand on that given night. I mentioned this in yesterday's preview and last night we exhibited this characteristic very well.

Chris Reid, Bobby Riddell, and Chad Sutor – I know they are 20/20 guys at the moment, but I love that they were able to get in the game and get 4-5 good minutes at the end. You never know if we're going to need one of these guys down the line, and any game time is better than practice. It would have been nice to get a bucket or two out of them, but I'll take the PT because it means things are going very well or very poorly.

Things to work on:

I almost want to put this game in the category of the elusive perfect game. Finally we were able to go out and finish off a Big Ten team on the road early before their crowd could even get into it. Even the foul discrepancy didn't cause problems as Penn State shot less than 50% from the line. What else did we really do wrong? Cornley and Battle were essentially non-factors and we won every major statistical category by a sound margin.

Up next:

Mackey Arena will have the most electric atmosphere in perhaps more than a decade on Saturday. Sadly I was outbid at the last minute on Ebay for some tickets this afternoon that were less than face value or I would be one of the delirious 14,123 fans there on Saturday. Wisconsin will be the biggest game the program has played in since the Wisconsin game in 2000 during the NCAA Tournament. A win would announce to everyone else that we are ready to compete for a conference championship right now. Barring a collapse I think we will be in the NCAA Tournament, as we only need to win six of the last 12 games by my count to get to 20 wins overall and 11 in the conference. We've proved we can play on the road, so we'll get a couple more road wins along the way. Now it is time to defend the home turf. Beating Wisconsin would also make an undefeated Big Ten season at home a real possibility. If you had told me before the year started we would lose only one game at home and it would be Wofford I would have taken it since conference games are much more important.

Let's make Mackey a fearful place on Saturday for the Badgers. I know I will be making my couch fearful.