There isn't a whole lot to say about last night's 18-point win as we welcomed Nebraska to its first ever Big Ten Tournament. It wasn't quite as business-like as the win in Mackey. The Cornhuskers came out early and notched a lead at the first media timeout. Purdue was just a little flat in the first seven minutes, but then Robbie Hummel hit a three to put us ahead 13-12 and we never looked back.
That three was part of a 17-0 run that reversed Nebraska's early momentum and put the Boilers firmly in control. The Cornhuskers would only get within four once, when they scored the first two baskets of the second half. That only prompted another "we're taking this game and you'll like it" run, once again fueled by Rob. Once they had made it 39-35 we responded with a 28-13 run to essentially close it.
Really, we won this game with incredible balance. Anthony Johnson played the best game of his very young career and showed off a pretty shooting stroke with an early three. Rob, Ryne Smith, Terone Johnson, and D.J. Byrd were all in double figures with AJ, even with "Jail Byrd" chants raining down from the rafters from the leftover Indiana fans. We got some extensive bench time in the final few minutes where Jacob Lawson added a basket.
Any time you can play your walk-ons in the Big Ten Tournament it is either a very good day or a very bad day. I would like to have seen Dru Anthrop, Neal Beshears and the rest of the bench clears at the final media timeout just to give the main guys more rest, but that is not my decision. What we did see was John Hart getting a couple of minutes as we stretched out of the seven-man rotation of Lewis Jackson, Rob, Ryno, TJ, AJ, Travis Carroll, and Byrd that we seem to have established. That bench could go longer today with Sandi Mrcius and The Law getting some time against Jared Sullinger.
Really, what else can you say about this one. Nebraska has one quality player in Bo Spencer, but he didn't score 50, which was probably necessary for them to win. We wont he battle on the glass, had 17 assists on 28 baskets, and shot 52% from three. We actually tied a tournament record with 13 threes in a game.The only negative was another 55% free throw shooting night.
Here are some selected quotes, first from coach Painter:
Well, obviously we were able to get off on pretty good start in the game. I thought the difference for us was our ability to make our 3s and be able to thin them at the 3-point line. And then the rebounding in the second half, we were up I think a couple rebounds in the half, then ended up being eight for the game, so got rebounded by six, but we had a stretch during the second half where we made a nice run, making some shots, kinda pushed the game out, but we also dominated the glass.
From Rob on making a statement in the postseason:
It's very important. This is the end of my career, and same could be said for Ryne and Lewis. So I think that we're all looking forward to making a nice little run here to cap off four -- or in my case, five -- great years of playing at Purdue.
AJ on the spark he provided in the first half when LewJack and Rob each got their second fouls:
You know, when I come in, I just want to bring a spark. If Robbie and Lewis are in with me, I still want to bring a lot of energy, so I didn't go in noticing that they are out like, ‘I need to do this' I need to do that.' I just wanted to come in and bring energy for my team.
So now we shift to Ohio State. What's at stake is something Purdue prides itself on: having a winning record against every team in the Big Ten conference. Currently, the only team we don't have a winning all-time record against is Ohio State. The series with the Buckeyes is tied 83-83.
There are three major factors for tonight's game:
- William Buford simply went off in the last game, and all but single-handedly won it after it was tied late.
- We were simply not allowed to play defense on Sullinger the last time. If they are calling every dinky touch foul again while Ohio State gets away with assault on the other end, we lose.
- Kelsey Barlow was a major factor in the last game, and now he is gone. He get into their heads, especially with his nuts to Sully's chin dunk, but that factor won't be there this time.
As I said in the original preview, nothing is impossible against the Buckeyes. We last played them at possibly our lowest point of the season and nearly pulled off a huge road upset. You know they had favorable officiating when Doug Gottleib and others were saying we got screwed.
We really have nothing to lose. Few people expect us to win this game, we're in the NCAA Tournament comfortably already, and we can only improve our seed right now. There are no more chances for another "bad loss", only good wins. I think if we reach the weekend in this tournament we can reach a No. 7 seed and avoid a 1 seed until in the opening weekend. A loss may even drop us to a 10, which also serves that purpose. The latest Bracketology has us as a No. 9 in Louisville, so at least we could then bring a nice crowd.