For about 28 minutes Tuesday night Purdue was mired in one of the ugliest basketball games you will ever see. Purdue was down 34-29, was 1 of 15 from three, and was shooting about 23% from the field with only 11 made baskets. Of those 11, at least 4 were dunks by A.J. Hammons or Vince Edwards (and WHAT A DUNK by Edwards). As expected between a pair of Gene Keady acolytes, it was a defensive slugfest. It was around here that I suggested that the first 7-0 run of the half would turn the game.
Well, I was right.
Purdue went on a 10-0 run as Isaac Haas scored 5 straight, Dakota Mathias hit a critical jumper, and A.J. Hammons completely took over. Ryan Cline had some nice assists, but the game completely shifted as the Boilers started attacking the basket and getting their bigs, Damian Jones and Josh Henderson, in foul trouble.
Just like that Mackey Arena was plugged back in. The Boilers started attacking the glass relentlessly and the result is a nice non-conference win over a ranked team to close that portion of the season at 12-1.
Make no mistake, for the first28 minutes Purdue looked awful. The final numbers are still not that great. Going 2 of 19 from three at home is egregiously bad, but just like on Saturday, Purdue faced a second half deficit and needed to get tougher. Unlike Saturday, it did just that.
There were lots of good things to like here:
Riley LaChance - Last year he had 26 as Purdue lost by 10 in Nashville. Tonight he was scoreless.
Rapheal Davis - The senior leader had a very quiet 14 points and did not get a foul on defense. Great job by The Captain.
Caleb Swanigan - He had a huge offensive rebound that sent him to the line during the 10-0 run. He would finish with 13 points and enarly reach a double-double of his own with 8 rebounds.
Ryan Cline - This was a fantastic Little Things game for Cline. He had three assists, but all three were huge as Purdue shifted the momentum in its favor. He looked much better on defense too.
The story though, was Hammons. He threw up a monster 21-10-7 with an impressive 7 blocked shots. Even with two seven footers Vandy could not stop him. When Hammons gets that look in his eye and Purdue gives him the basketball on the block there are very, very few players that can stop him. If we get this A.J. for the rest of the season, look out, especially when the threes start falling again.
Now the Boilers get a week off before starting conference play. I don't think you could really ask for more from this team. It won 12 games by double digits, collected wins over at least three NCAA teams and maybe has many as 6, it won the its early season tournament, beat a ranked team, and the one loss was to a ranked team on a neutral court when it probably couldn't have played worse. Even in that game, Purdue had the ball down just 3 with 30 seconds to go. Onward to conference play!
ED NOTE: Quotes from the postgame:
"They kind of pistol-whipped us in the second half. They played with purpose and we didn't match it. They look how we do when we have Kornet, but obviously we don't have that right now. Swanigan's physicality is tough to match with."
"When you get outscored by 18 at the foul line you're not going to win and that's what Purdue can do to you. We tried to gameplan for it but we couldn't stop it."
"We did a great job rebounding in the first half and they did a great job in the second half. They were scoring because they kept getting offensive rebounds. They kept throwing the ball inside and we couldn't do anything with Hammons."
"I wanted to thank the fans. That was a better ovation than when I played."
"When A.J. comes in hooked up and ready to play he is the best big in the country."
"We knew this game would be huge for us. We remembered last year at Christmas and we didn't want that feeling again."
"I don't think we took any bad threes, we just didn't hit them. Today we keyed in on the little things and came out with more intensity in the second half."
"I thought I played well for my team, I just needed to make sure I helped out on my defense."
"I noticed they were in foul trouble and I just wanted tot take it at them."
"In the Butler game we got out-hustled and out-manned so today we had to bring it out. Coach got down on us in the first half and at halftime. We had to come out and play way harder than we did."
"Coach Painter always says when your shot's not going you have to do other things to help the team. I got the ball to A.J., I hit that big pull up, and you can always rebound and defend."
"Nothing really changed in the second half. A.J. got going a little bit and that opened some things up. When he takes his time with patience in the post like that he is tough to defend."
We played with a sense or urgency after halftime and we didn't have that against Butler. The coaches got on us at the half and we got after it after that."