This game wasn't a must-win, but it was one the Boilers could really use to solidify its position as a top team in the B1G and on the right side of the bubble. Unfortunately wins are always hard to come by on the road in this conference, and it is 1000x harder when you turn the ball over 20 times. Sure, the refs weren't exactly spectacular today, but we can't give away that many chances and expect to win.
Early in the first half, Purdue looked flat on both sides of the ball. Oddly enough, the crowd at the famed Williams Arena was even flatter than we were. A run by the Gophers put them up 21-13 and picked up the energy of the crowd, but that seemed to pick up Purdue's energy as well. A stretch of good defense and dunks by Octeus and Hammons allowed the Boilers to retake a 23-21 lead. Minnesota eventually settled down, but the good guys took a 31-27 lead into the break.
Unfortunately for Purdue and my blood pressure, the Gophers came out like a team on a mission and we couldn't handle their pressure defense at all as they scored a ridiculous 14 straight points to take a 41-31 lead. It took the Boilers a long time to finally get it together and they ended up down 15 before the shots started to fall and threes from Jon Octeus and Kendall Stephens put us right back in it with five minutes to play. Finally, down five with a minute to play Octeus hit his fourth triple of the game to make it a one possession game.
The last minute of this strange game kept with the theme as the Gophers' missed shot was tipped in between the rim and the backboard by Eliott Eliason. The possession arrow kept it with the home team and Rapheal Davis was forced to foul Deandre Mathieu. He would miss the one-and-one opportunity and the Boilers had a shot to win it with about 20 seconds left, but Davis passed up a decent look from the outside before Vince Edwards got mugged inside by Maurice Walker on his attempt. Despite everyone on the floor stopping and looking around, no foul was actually called. Minnesota would hit two free throws to put it away, 62-58. Andre Hollins led all scorers with 18, while Octeus scored 17 for Purdue.
I feel confident in saying Purdue is a better team than Minnesota. However, we have to stop with the lazy passes and keep playing hard. We got back to doing that late in the first and at the end of the game, but kind of like the Gardner-Webb game, we dug ourselves too big of a hole. This loss hurts our resume a bit, but we are still squarely on the bubble. If we win our last three at Mackey, win at Rutgers and at Michigan State(very doable this year), we should be a top four seed in the B1G Tournament and right at the 12-6 mark most thought we'd need to get in the NCAA Tournament.
On a positive note, Hammons is still playing great, he even played the whole second half without looking too tired. He went for a double-double with 11 and 10, in addition to 5 very important blocks. Going forward I think we will only see Isaac in short spurts to spell Hammons. Secondly, our outside shooting picked up during the late run and we'll need that to help stop teams from focusing their defense entirely on the paint. In the end, we really missed a golden opportunity, but hopefully we can learn from it and pick up a big victory at the RAC (another place where strange things seem to happen) against Rutgers.