On Monday I lambasted A.J. Hammons for two hours. Today he totally redeemed himself even after missing a free throw late in regulation. With less than two seconds left in overtime Hammons scored on a jump hook to give Purdue an 87-85 victory. The win over BYU may not feel like much to the outside world, but it might be Purdue's biggest victory since beating St. Mary's in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
Think about it for a moment. For two seasons this team has struggled in the early season neutral site games. In fact, our only victory on a neutral floor in the past two seasons before heading out to Maui was last year over Siena. Purdue was 0-2 in the 2012 2kSports classic, lost to Notre Dame in at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and lost to Nebraska in the B1G tourney. Last season Purdue was 1-2 in the Old Spice Classic, lost to Butler in Indianapolis, and to Ohio State in the B1G tourney.
I won't even get into our dismal road record. Purdue has been lousy away from Mackey Arena and not much better in Mackey.
Going out to Maui and coming away 2-1, especially with a win over a pretty damn good BYU team, is huge. The way it happened, where Purdue had to gut it out and grow up before our eyes in overtime, is even better for a young team to gain confidence. Even defensively this was a confidence builder as Purdue held the nation's top scoring team, averaging 99 points per game, to 85 over an extra five minutes. Chase Fischer, who went off yesterday, was kept almost completely in check too with only a couple second half threes.
There is no question last year's Purdue team loses this one after BYU made it second half run. Isaac Haas and Hammons both foul out after getting their fourth fouls with over nine minutes to go in regulation. Tyler Haws goes crazy (he kinda did anyway), and BYU wins by about 15.
This Purdue didn't fold. It was refreshing. Hammons and Haas played smart and slowly fouled out most of the BYU frontcourt. The Boilers got lucky with Haws missing an open look for the win, but only gave up one field goal and clamped down with a couple of huge steals in the extra session. Your biggest plays were a Jon Octeus block and a Kendall Stephens block as Purdue nursed a two-point lead in overtime.
Like yesterday, this was a team win in which everyone had a part. Your heavy lifters were Vince Edwards with 25 and Rapheal Davis with 18. Davis did what he does best: drive the lane and either get to the line or score. Edwards had a versatile offensive game with three triple, stepping up for Stephens who struggled to shoot (and had a nasty finger injury too).
Hammons and Haas were also key, as they seamlessly interchanged on substitutions. Each had 12 points and while they did not rebound much, Hammons set the tone defensively with four blocks.
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At the end though Purdue needed a game-winner and we learned who Painter wanted to take it. He gave it to the Big Man to either score or get fouled against a player with four fouls. Hammons delivered, and the plane ride back to the Mainland will be a lot sweeter.
In terms of the overall NCAA profile the Missouri win is nice. The Tigers don't look good, but at least by playing in a major conference their rating won't crater into the 200s. BYU is a legitimate tournament team though, and on Selection Sunday, if Purdue is close, it now has a nice little plus in its favor.