Perhaps Purdue should start mentally brainwashed that they are in the second half of games?
For the second game in a row Purdue struggled to defend the perimeter as a Big Ten opponent came in and built a double-digit first half lead. Fortunately, for the second game in a row Purdue had a dramatic reversal of fortune at the break. Purdue trailed by a combined 19 points against Minnesota and Michigan at halftime, but has come roaring back to win by a combined 17 points. It really could be 20 points too, since Minnesota threw in a half-court three as time expired that only made the score closer.
It is simply astounding to see what this team has done. At halftime on Wednesday they were dead. It looked like two losses and an 8-7 overall record were certain. With eight minutes to go against the Gophers they woke up and won it. Now, aside from a sloppy first half against Michigan, this team may have turned itself around. It is sitting at 10-5 and an all-important 2-0 in the Big Ten in first place.
Here are a few quotes from the players afterward:
Rapheal Davis: "Even before halftime, as we were walking through the tunnel we have had teams talking trash saying they had us, so it amped us up. It put fuel to the fire.
Jon Octeus: We came out with a little more energy. Guys were locked in. We knew the scouting report and rebounding really helped us. They didn't get any second chance opportunities.
Vince Edwards: Our plan is always to attack the offensive glass and I just wanted to go harder. I just wanted to help this team win and if it is by crashing the glass then so be it.
Here is more video from the players:
And Coach Painter:
This was definitely a team win, helped by ridiculously cold shooting from Michigan in the second half. At one point in the second half Purdue was on a 31-8 run and the Wolverines had hit only two field goals. Edwards got the half started by slicing to the basket, but enough credit cannot be given to Dakota Mathias, who really started things late in the first half. His only basket was a three-pointer from the corner that rattled in, cutting the Michigan lead from 10 to 7. Purdue would get it to five before Spike Albrecht hit his third three to end the half.
After Edwards did his work Michigan's cold spell began in earnest. They didn't hit a field goal for over 10 minutes, a cold stretch that Purdue fans are all too familiar with. Kendall Stephens once again tied it with a three with 15 minutes left, and Purdue, though still somewhat sloppy on offense, was able to pull away thanks to Michigan's awful shooting.
It may not have been pretty and much of it comes from Michigan's cold spell, but a win is a win. If you believe, like me, that Purdue needs 12 Big Ten wins to reach the NCAA Tournament then the first two are already in the bank and a 10-6 finish from here would be enough.
As we have seen, Purdue plays well when everyone is involved, it is playing nasty perimeter defense, and it shows it can hit some shots from outside. A.J. Hammons was huge inside while Isaac Haas was not allowed to play because he is so big. Edwards and Davis stepped up by attacking the basket and Octeus had maybe his biggest game as a Boilermaker.
More importantly, Painter has shortened the bench. Basil Smotherman had a few first half minutes and Bryson Scott, for reasons unknown, did not play at all. The shorter rotation is allowing guys to get into a rhythm and a solid lineup is emerging. Kendall is the shooter. Octeus and Davis are getting to the line or scoring by slicing to the basket. Haas and Hammons are using their size. The X-factor is Edwards, who is going to be a special player. He took advantage of Michigan's lack of size by getting to the glass and working against a smaller player since the few Michigan bigs were concerned with Hammons and Haas. The more Purdue gets from Edwards, the better it will be.
As fun as these two games have been, it gets tougher with the two favorites in the Big Ten up next. If Purdue somehow gets a split, which is unexpected, then we can really begin to see a turn around.