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"It was like he had three guys in his pocket..."

That is what coach Dino Gaudio had to say about Purdue's second half defense last night. He didn't even have any preamble when he began his section of the press conference after the game. After Wake Forest's Ishmael Smith torched Purdue for 10 first half points and the Demon Deacons held a 31-29 halftime lead, Purdue cranked up its defensive intensity. Smith hit just 2 of 6 second half attempts after going 5 of 9 in the first half.

"He couldn't do anything. It was like he had three guys in his pocket the entire second half." - Dino Gaudio

There is a reason that the Paint Crew, which was in postseason form all night, serenaded Wake Forest in the closing minutes with, "BIG TEN BASKETBALL clap clap clapclapclap."

I did get a chance to ask one question in the presser. (As a sidebar, I did have a "holy shit!" moment when I walked into the press room at the exact same time E'Twaun, JJ, and Robbie did. It was like, "Hi, guys." as I was 3 feet away from them. Fortunately I maintained my composure and didn't go fanboy). I asked the guys if they felt they were becoming a second half team after the way this game and the St. Joseph's game played out. Here was JaJuan's response:

"We don't want it to be that way, but it is kind of how it has been. You want to go out and have that good start but right now we feel like anything can happen in the second half."

Enough hard-hitting real journalism. Let's break this game down.

Positives from the Wake Forest game:

Purdue's hosting ability - If I hadn't been so flustered and freaking out (more on this in a moment), I could have really enjoyed sitting down and seeing the placard that said, "Purdue welcomes Travis Miller" right in the press section. Talk about a moment of vindication after working on this blog for over three years. I've covered tons of high school games since 1999, but this was like getting called up to the Majors after toiling for ten years in the minor leagues. Everything was first class on Purdue's end. I owe a big thank you to Randy at Rush the Court for setting everything up, as well as Purdue's basketball SID Cory Walton and his staff for everything on Purdue's end. Let's hope this does not turn into a cup of coffee situation and instead becomes a 10-year journeyman career.

E'Twaun Moore - I thought I saw it in the Tennessee game, but I saw it even more in person last night. E'Twaun is developing The Look. He is getting the ball in his hands specifically looking to take over the game. I wish I had remembered to ask him about this last night now. You can tell at certain moments that he wants to dominate the game, and he has the confidence now that he can do it. I absolutely love it.

Chris Kramer - Okay Paint Crew, if there are members that read Hammer & Rails I have a new chant for you. In the LiveBlog last night I mentioned that we needed a Kramer Moment. Basically, it is whenever he makes a great defensive move and causes another turnover or any great play for that matter. The next time he does it, let's get a Kramer Moment chant going. Some top Kramer moments: His swim move, the shot from his knees, His tomahawk jam against Illinois two years ago. The man keeps his legend going. He really is the Secretary of Defense, adding four more steals and a sweet assist to Robbie on a break last night.

Robbie Hummel - He'll break out of his shooting slump. That's what many of these next few games before West Virginia are for. In the meantime, I love that he continues to work hard on the glass and at the defensive end. He knows what he needs to do too. His response to going 0 for 6 from 3-point land: "That's unacceptable."

JaJuan Johnson - 21-9-3. I'll take those numbers from him any night of the week. Is there a more special moment than when he gets the ball and everyone in the building knows a thunderdunk is coming?

Rebounding - Anytime you out-rebound a bigger team it is a very good thing.

The Paint Crew - I made this comment several times last night, but that was the loudest I have ever heard Mackey Arena. Even the alumni were loud. It absolutely gave me chills and it took every fiber of my being to maintain professionalism and not go nuts with you. They thoroughly disrupted Wake's offensive flow int eh second half (though foul trouble helped as well).Someone on the GBI football board proposed a similar group for football next season, even having it including young alumni who want to get loud and crazy during games. Sign me up!

Negatives from the Wake Forest game -

My 5pm until about 7:30 - For about two and a half hours things could not have gone worse in trying to get things going. A sampling:

  1. Leaving Indy at 5pm should give me plenty of time, but traffic slowed things by about 20 minutes on 465.

  2. Getting the press pass and parking pass from Mackey, then actually getting parked behind Ross-Ade, was a trial. As a result, I had approximately the National Anthem to get the laptop up and running. Next time, I'll try and have everything mailed to me. It would have saved me half an hour at least.

  3. I had to scramble down to the press room to get the wireless access code. That wa the one very small negative that it wasn't at the press row, but in Purdue's defense I thought I would have more time to get to the press room pre-game.

  4. Cover It Live refused to let me sign in, and wouldn't e-mail me the new password. I finally had to create a new account, redo the code, e-mail it to Rush the Court, and re-input it into my Open Thread. This is why we have nothing for about the first eight minutes of the game as I was in panic mode, texting, e-mailing, and flashing between sites. This was after running full-tilt from the back of the R Lot behind Ross-Ade to Mackey.

  5. The first half went well. Everyone was playing nice in the comments, so I turned off moderation. Then things went a little south. Purdue took over the Cover It Live chat and ruined the neutrality of it a bit. Since this was for the national (and neutral) Rush the Court it ended up being a little counter-productive. While it is awesome so many of you readers showed up to chat, I need to moderate things better next time if I am there for Rush the Court. Hence, there will be more moderation on my end instead of turning it off like I did. You guys can, however, leave plenty of comments in the Hammer & Rails open thread away from the Cover It Live. Chalk it up to a lesson learned.

This made my evening feel like an unmitigated disaster on the way home. I know I didn't really get to enjoy much of the game, but it was fun running the liveblog. I would give myself a D as far as coverage for this game and the actual assignment. The only saving grace was getting an actual question in at the press conference. Had the main reason for me being there been this site, the grade is easily raised to a C.

3-point shooting - We all know 1 for 15 isn't going to cut it. It looked like we were leaving everything short on our home rims. Ah well. The shots will start falling eventually.

Up next:

We now have a pair of wins in the bank that are growing interest, with St. Joseph's potentially joining that group if they continue to have a good year. Soon I'll be able to d the non-conference opponents tracking sheet again to see how our portfolio is doing.

I do think this is a major step forward though. One journalist asked how things were different his year from last year in terms of experience. She mentioned that we had a close loss in a preseason tournament (Oklahoma) and a loss at home in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge (Duke). Those are now wins for us this year (Tennessee and Wake) in similar circumstances. Robbie pointed out that experience was the big factor now. This team now knows it can win these types of games. That is a huge step. The difference between thinking you can win and knowing you can by actually doing it is huge. We're going to be favored in every game now until a huge West Virginia game. The only real test in that stretch will be December 12th against Alabama.

It is now time to work on the freshmen. DJ Byrd and Patrick bade need a lot of work, plus we still don't have Sandi Marcius back. These next few games will get their legs under them and have things running smoothly for that next big test.