As Purdue basketball fans, we pride ourselves on defensive intensity and holding teams under 60 points. It's easier to win games that way. Even today, very early in the game, we were not showing our typical defensive intensity, so coach Painter called a timeout and laid into his charges throughout the entire minute-long timeout.
Today's final result barely reflected that. We gave up 77 points to a team that is usually offensively challenged. We still scored 85 though. Through three games we have relied on blitzing teams with offense that doesn't seem like it is working that well, but we still look up and see 80 or more points on the scoreboard by the time things are done. It is completely outside of our identity, but what does it matter? As long as you are winning games, who cares how you get there?
All that matters in this game is having more points than the other team at the end. For three straight games our defense has been below our normal standards, but the offense has been there. Today, it was Lewis Jackson fueling that offense by dancing between forwards on repeated drives to the basket. With D.J. Byrd providing a pleasant surprise in the form of 12 points off the bench we were able to finish the day and get to the championship round.
Positives From The Temple Game:
LewJack - This was almost a virtuoso performance from him. They simply could not keep up with his speed, so he made them pay. If they cut off his drive, he stepped back and hit a short jumper. If they fouled him, he'd go to the line and make them pay. Out future opponents will see a lot of this game because they will watch the tape in order to see LewJack the Scorer. We know he can still be LewJack the Distributor. As long as we get one of either each game, we're going to be a solid offensive team.
Robbie Hummel - I love that Robbie was involved in the clinching play just by being himself. When LewJack was at the line to complete a three-point play Robbie took his position to get a long rebound, only Micheal Eric chicken-winged him. The result: Eric fouled out, Rob daggered them with two free throws, and we were able to close the game. The rest was a Robbie game: 20 points, 6 rebounds, 2 dimes, 2 blocks, and a steal.
Sandi Marcius - We're used to getting 20-10 games out of our center because of JJ, but Chooch gave us 14 quality minutes with five boards and a crusher of a dunk that damn near broke the basket. That is what you call a higher-percentage shot.
D.J. Byrd - Byrd was the catalyst off the bench with two three, and three made free throws during a nice stretch of play. I think we're going to get a lot of that from this year. He'll have games where he only scores a little, then the random 12-point outburst.
Jacob Lawson - He only played nine minutes, but it was an incredibly efficient nine minutes with 2 points, a steal, and a dime. Too bad he fouled out.
Free Throws - Thank the great, good Lord. We were 27 of 33 from the line, which is more in line with where we should be. Many of those were the result of relentlessly attacking the basket.
Negatives From The Temple Game:
Defense - It is still awful by our standards, but we're finding a way to get it done. That tells me that if we ever figure it out, we're going to be a damn fine team. Temple was 10 percentage points over their season average coming in from the field. We let a team shoot better than 50% again. Ramone Moore had 27 and if Eric had not committed about four dumb fouls he could have killed us inside. Instead, he was limited to griping like 1991 Alonzo Mourning.
You have to feel like this tournament is already a win because we have reached the championship round. Most of the "experts" didn't think we would make it out of the opening round against Iona, so to be in the final is exceeding expectations. We now get a day to rest, and we've already collected two wins that will accrue in our RPI bank for the rest of the year. These are wins that are likely of the top-50 variety, so they are gold on Selection Sunday, fighting the perception that we have a weak schedule.
Next we get the potential for a top 25 RPI win, which is even better when it comes outside the conference. Alabama is a top-15 team, so beating them would almost certainly put us back in the top 25. Wichita State is a solid MVC team and the favorite to win that conference. The MVC is making a comeback this year with Indiana State and Creighton as top teams, so it is possibly a multi-bid league and beating the favorite is a good win.
Even if you lose at this point it is far from a bad loss. I feel like this team is playing with some confidence now. In four games we have seen seven different players score in double figures at least once. We have variety on offense that is needed. If we figure out how to hold teams under 60 again we're going to be incredibly dangerous.