Before last night, the last time Bryson Scott even scored a point for Purdue was before Christmas. He had 13 points, including 9 of 10 from the free throw line, as he attempted to single-handedly save Purdue from losing to Gardner-Webb. He played 12 minutes that night, and that came after an 11 minute, 11-point performance in the debacle that was the Notre Dame game. He also had 10 points against Vanderbilt, giving him 34 points as one of Purdue's few consistent players during the three-game December losing streak that currently has Purdue on the outside looking in at the NCAA Tournament.
At the time he was hardly the problem. He only had five turnovers in those three games, but was only 10 of 26 from the field. Still, he looked like one of the few Purdue players aware that the games counted and we should try to win them. You could see that as he got to the line and was a solid 14 of 15 in that time. He then played 12 minutes against Minnesota in the Big Ten opener. Though he didn't score, he had four rebounds and effective defense in the comeback win.
Then whatever happened in practice happened. Bryson was banished to the bench for effectively a six-game suspension. He had three DNP-Coach's Decisions in that time, played less than 10 seconds against Maryland and barely a minute against Illinois. He never attempted a shot and managed only a rebound, two fouls, and a turnover against Penn State in three minutes. When asked after the Maryland game what was going on coach Painter deftly eluded the question. It looked like Bryson was permanently in Painter's doghouse, and rumors of transfers began to fly.
Bryson did his time and now wants out
I don't know what happened in practice from Saturday to Wednesday. I don't know why coach Painter finally decided that Bryson's exile was over. All I know is that a couple early turnovers and a foul by Jon Octeus, normally Purdue's steady leader, had coach Painter looking to the bench for Scott. Bryson has been beaten up a lot here for the last two years, but when let off the leash last night he responded in a way that few players have ever responded to an extensive benching.
Immediately, Bryson was a catalyst. He was grabbing rebounds, playing smart, and aside from an ill-advised three-point attempt, was generally a shot in the arm for a Purdue team that needed his harnessed emotion. It seemed like a positive feedback loop last night. The crowd was amped up to a classic Mackey Arena level, so Bryson was amped up. Bryson played angry, but focused, and that, in turn got the crowd going even more. He had an early save that led to a basket by Basil Smotherman, but what really got the crowd going was a play with 6:26 left.
Leading 28-15 Bryson grabbed a long rebound of a missed Troy Williams jumper and put his head down. He decided instantly that he was going to go coast-to-coast between two Indiana defenders and it was their job to stop him. I don't know if the IU defenders didn't think he would do that or were surprised by his speed or what, but they were slow to react as he motored up the floor and easily scored, putting Purdue in front by 15.
He did it again with under five seconds left after Kevin Ferrell made a free throw, putting Purdue in front by 11 at the half. In the second half he continued to cause havoc defensively and rebound like a mad bastard. All it night, in 22 minutes, it wasn't so much what Bryson did, but the level of intensity in which he did it that made a huge difference. When he plays aggressive but in control like last night he gives Purdue a level of athleticism that only he and Basil Smotherman can deliver. Both working in concert equalized a major advantage the Hoosiers had in terms of quickness and sheer athleticism.
Watch last night's post-game video again here:
In it, you not only see a humble Bryson Scott, but a proud big brother in Rapheal Davis. Davis deserves as much credit as Bryson for his performance because he was the guy behind the scenes that kept Bryson's head up. This was beyond teammates. This was beyond a team leader trying to get everyone involved. This was a childhood friend keeping his buddy engaged and encouraged during a rough time, and it paid off.
So where does Purdue go from here? Last year Purdue beat Indiana in Mackey Arena for its fifth conference win. It did not win again until this season's opener. I don't think we'll see a similar fall off this year, but ultimately, last night's victory means nothing unless it is a springboard to something more. With 10 games left Purdue sits 5-3 in the Big Ten and likely needs to go 7-3 in the last 10 to have any legitimate chance of making the tournament. The good news is that a similar effort to last night would be more than enough to go 7-3.
Last night only gives us a chance to still do something this season. Like Bryson Scott, let's seize that second chance.