Tonight was all about E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson. It is appropriate that Purdue accomplished something it hadn't done in 42 years with these two. They have been breaking down old streaks for their entire careers: 14 years without a Big Ten title, No Big Ten Tournament Championships, Decade plus losing streaks at Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Indiana. 42 years without a perfect home season was nothing for these guys.
It was the way they did it though. They always did it with class on and off the court. This season they were written off before the year even started. We had no chance of a special season without Robbie Hummel. As it turns out, it makes everything they have accomplished that much more special because they have done it when all but the faithful wrote them off. They didn't have a chance of success, so of course they would go unbeaten at home as we turned Mackey Arena into a veritable fortress.
Of course, tonight a HUGE assist goes out to D.J. Byrd, who picked the perfect time to have a career night. We definitely had to work for this one, so credit goes to Illinois for giving us a hell of a game, but thanks to Byrd, the seniors can leave Purdue knowing that no one was as good as them in Mackey Arena this year.
Positives from the Second Illinois game:
D.J. Byrd - We'll get to JJ and Smooge in a minute, but we don't win this game without D.J. Byrd tonight. The Byrdman brought it on both ends of the floor tonight. His 16 points were huge. He hit some big free throws when the game was close. He hit one of the big threes during the 12-0 run after we were down 13. His seven rebounds were, dare I say, Hummel-esque? Finally, another Hummel quality came through with his timely block of Mike Tisdale on a putback with 2:11 left. That may have been the play of the game. If Tisdale scores there it is entirely possible he draws a foul on JJ and gets an and 1. Who knows what happens after that. Byrd came through, then JJ and E`Twaun closed it out.
E`Twaun Moore - It is awesome the Smooge's final image at Mackey Arena will be an Assassination triple with a man in his face to clinch the game. It made me jump off my coach and scream, "Red Motherf***ing Button." It took him awhile to get going, but We had several Red Button moments tonight. Two of them were huge steal and score baskets when we absolutely needed a momentum shift.
JaJuan Johnson - I am saying it right now. It is an absolute crime if JJ does not win Big Ten Player of the Year. There is literally nothing more he could have done for us, and absolutely no one has stopped him. The man leads an offensive category in the conference (points) and a defensive category (blocked shots). Opposing teams have keyed on him and they still cannot stop him. He has had at least 20 points in 12 of the last 13 games. His worst scoring game was the season opener against Howard when he didn't need to do much of anything and still scored 10.
The Paint Crew - A tip of the cap to them, as well as the Boilermaker Heroes in the Boiler Brass. I just want to say I am envious of all you students.
Ryne Smith - Would you believe Ryne led us with nine rebounds? His eight points (including two triples) were nice, but the kid was a warrior on the boards. If he can start hitting from long range again we're going to be even more dangerous.
Negatives from the Second Illinois Game:
Kelsey Barlow - Who brought bad GDB back? I want answers! The kid nearly got himself a technical at about the worst time.
First half defense - I think it is safe to say that this is the biggest deficit we have faced at home this season. Demetri McCamey showed up in this game, and if he didn't have to sit with two fouls early on we may not make that 12-0 run. I didn't see a good portion of the first half since my high school game was wrapping up, but it didn't sound pretty. Mike Davis played well down low and they were working the ball to Tisdale too, so basically they were doing exactly what they needed to do.
I do want to credit the Fighting Illini, who played a pretty good ballgame and seem to be coming together at the right time. This will be a dangerous team in Indianapolis, especially if they get a bye past Thursday.
It's been a long day and I am tired, but I just wanted to take this space to thank JJ and E`Twaun one more time. as predicted, it got real dusty around 9pm when JJ and E`Twaun left the floor for the last time. I want 10 more games from them. All we can do is take care of our own business on Saturday and hope we get some help. I think 15-3 was going to put us in the championship picture even if Robbie had played all year. With the way OSU has played at times this year, 15-3 and a solid second place is nothing to be ashamed of.
So let's rest, Boilers. We have one more regular season game, then things get real serious. For the record, the last time we went undefeated at home we played in the National title game.