My wife thinks I am insane. She is probably justified. Last night she was in the middle of one of those long woman conversations with her best friend. She went in the other room (mostly for quiet) while I languished watching the game. When Kelsey Barlow pulled in the final rebound to secure the win I sprinted through the apartment with a series of fist pumps and general jackassery, eventually ending up in the other room.
On second thought, maybe she is just used to it. She didn't bat an eye.
This was a cathartic win as a Purdue fan, almost as cathartic as the football team upsetting Ohio State a few weeks ago. Can anyone name the last time We grabbed an elite win like this away from Mackey Arena? Does Wisconsin from two years ago count? Even though the Badgers were Big Ten champs at 16-2, they weren't considered a major Final Four threat like Tennessee. Maybe the answer is Duke in the 2003 Great Alaska Shootout? Florida out in Maui in 2000? I don't know.
This is a huge win on so many levels. The young kids played a ton of crucial moments and showed they are learning how to win from their elders. We overcame injuries to two players in our main rotation, foul trouble for our two legit big men, and a cold shooting night from one our stars. Tennessee was more athletic, but we showed them that you can scrap and claw your way to victory even when shorthanded. Make no mistake: this game was a war. Bodies were flying everywhere. There was some genuine dislike between the players and coaches. There was even a light shoving match at one point. We made the Volunteers play our style of game and they didn't like it. No team had a bigger lead than six points, and even when we had a late chance to bump our lead to seven we missed two easy layups (finish, Patrick Bade!).
But it was enough. We finished with one more point than Tennessee, and that is all that matters.
Positives from the Tennessee game:
E'Twaun Moore - I guess I should say tournament MVP E'Twaun Moore. What a series for the young man! I think he is showing signs of making the leap. He had a killer instinct last night. You could see it in his eyes. It was the, "Give me an opening and I WILL beat you." I was elated to see him take on that role of being the guy who will give us a basket when we absolutely need it. I think we're going to get used to him hitting those backbreaking shots. They are the kind that come late in games where we have a small lead, our opponent is playing good defense and winding the shot clock down, only E'Twaun buries a a shot as the shot clock hits zero. He had the look of a cold-blooded assassin last night. I love it, especially the way that Boiled Sports broke down the Chism Moment. Essentially, he looked Chism in the eye and said, "You are now my bitch."
Patrick Bade - Yes, he was overmatched most of the night, but you could see the young man grow up a bit under fire. We needed every second he was on the floor because of JJ's foul trouble. His one basket was huge too, as was each rebound. If he can just learn to finish around the basket.
Kelsey Barlow - Talk about a player growing up! Those two rebounds in the last minute were gigantic. He even shook off his missed free throws to pull in the last one. I think the light may have went on for Kelsey. The sooner he comes on means the less we will miss LewJack. I think we needed him more last night anyway because he has more size than LewJack. That was critical against Tennessee's big guards.
Chris Kramer - Not so much for his defense, which was stellar as usual, but for his offense. Yes, I said offense. It was only six points, but both baskets from the field came because Tennessee did not respect him as a shooter. It is all about making the opposition worry about someone else, freeing up JJ, Robbie, and E'twaun. If we can make them worry about Kramer, Ryne Smith, Keaton Grant, et al, they can't double team our big guns. It becomes almost easy at that point.
Robbie Hummel - Any night where Robbie can give us 20 and 8 during an off night is perfectly fine with me.
Negatives from the Tennessee game:
JaJuan Johnson - The officials weren't letting anyone play for stretches, but JaJuan has got to be more careful. Those last four minutes were tough without him in there defensively. It is Tennessee's fault they didn't attack the middle on the final play either. We had no answer for their dribble penetration late. None. They should have gone big with Williams and Chism and just pounded it inside.
Keaton Grant - Keaton was rather silent for most of the game. The only notable play I remember from him was a late drive that got him to the foul line for two big free throws. I don't know, but I expected more from him this year. It is still early though.
This win is like a 401k. Now that we have it we need to file it away and let it grow until we can cash it in come March. The better season Tennessee has from this point on the better this win will look. This may have been the toughest non-conference game because Wake Forest and West Virginia have to come to Mackey Arena. I'll take my chances against any team in the country in front of the Paint Crew.
This was a good tournament though. We got to see the young guys grow up. We got to see that Ryne Smith and Mark Wohlford can come in and provide depth and even a scoring punch occassionally. Shoot, Wohlford had another huge three last night. He is the better defender than Smith, but Smith has showed that he won't be strictly a bench player this year. I think this tournament was best for Bade. He got some quality minutes against an elite opponent and hopefully he'll be able to grow from it. Now it is time for a few days off before what should be a layup game against Central Michigan Saturday afternoon.