Purdue seniors had never beaten a top 10 team in their careers. They had never beaten Michigan State in their careers, either.
They made sure both of those streaks ended tonight.
That's who got this win. Vince Edwards hit some big free throws, Ryan Cline had a huge three-pointer. P.J. Thompson harassed Denzel Valentine all night long, but it was Rapheal Davis and A.J. Hammons that got this 82-81 win over an extremely good Michigan State team. Who cares if it came after Purdue led by 16 at the half, by 18 early in the second half, but collapsed to trail by 4 with two minutes to go.
Wins are wins, and this one is beautiful.
First, let's look at Rapheal. Simply put, Purdue needs his offense. It cannot afford to have him be a ghost, and, as I have written before, when he does very little on offense Purdue often loses.
"They just outplayed us the first half. The guy is shooting 29% but goes 5 for 5 and that's what tough kids do. I loved that kid all four years here," said Tom Izzo in the presser. "In the third time in my career I opted to not take a timeout at the end and shame on me. I take full responsibility."
Izzo was right. Rapheal went supernova to start with 16 of Purdue's first 20 points and 19 in the first half as Purdue led 46-30 at halftime. He finished with 24 and was 1 of 11 from the floor in the second half, but this Ray D. is the one we all know and love. If he can go out guns blazing like this to end his Purdue career the Boilers will go a long way.
"I said all summer I wanted to beat Michigan State. I have never beat Michigan State and I want to beat them like I want to beat Indiana, if not more. It is such a big game because they had beaten us 7 years in a row and they are always in the top 10," said Davis. "A.J. was cleaning up a lot of my misses, but even down, all I was thinking about was getting a win at home."
Then there was A.J.
19 points, 13 rebounds, 8 blocks, 3 assists, 7 of 9 at the line with some big ones late. None of that matters if he doesn't physically rip down Ray's missed free throw and then ripped it away from the Michigan State defender as time expired. The officials clearly swallowed their whistles there (I thought he had a jump ball and traveled), but Hammons saw the win right there as the clock was bleeding and took it.
A few years ago, to calm AJ before some game winning free throws, coach Painter asked him about what pizza he was going to get after the game. So, tonight I asked him if he was getting a double-decker pizza after that rebound.
"Nah, I got some baked lasagna tonight. Did you get that? Baked lasagna. I wasn't going to let that go.I as just happy to get that win. I was like, "Nah, I wasn't going to let Forbes get that ball."
I had to chuckle.
Of course, there are still some troubling things. Blowing an 18 point second half lead at home is deeply concerning, but Michigan State also missed three dunks as Izzo repeatedly said. They, too, had their chances and blew them. Denzel Valentine had 27 points, 10 assists, and 8 rebounds as he, too, almost had a triple-double, but it was his missed dunk in overtime that was huge. He still almost single-handedly pulled them back into this game with three straight second half threes in about a 90 second stretch that went a long way toward erasing Purdue's big lead.
There is also Caleb Swanigan. For the second game in a row he had some severe defensive lapses that led to baskets. He also had six turnovers. I can forgive then open look at the top of the key with about a minute left because he can, on occasion, hit that. I have no idea what on earth he was thinking at the end of regulation by taking a wild 25 footer though. Caleb has so much talent, but right now he is a liability.
Finally, let's give some credit to Vince Edwards. It wasn't his best game, but he got things done at the line and he had a huge and 1 in the overtime to push Purdue ahead by 4 with 1:12 left. Also, P.J. Thompson deserves credit by being a pain in the ass for Valentine despite giving up so much size. He harassed him all night long.
We know the bad. We know the good. Let's just enjoy this for a few days because the good outweighed the bad by a very small margin.