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Player Review: P.J. Thompson

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I am going to show you why he was PJ “Big Shot” Thompson

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Purdue vs Iowa State James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Name: P.J. Thompson

Class: Junior

Grade: A-

Stats: 7.4 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.0 SPG, 28.6 MPG

45.5% FG, 40.2% 3FG, 70.5% FT 4:1 Assist-to-Turnover ratio

As a warning before we get started, I have unabashed love for P.J. Thompson and the way he plays. It felt like at least once a game I had to tweet PJ “Big Shot” Thompson. He is never going to be the best player on the floor or the flashiest, but he is a player that is easy to love because he rarely makes mistakes and he always plays within his abilities.

That is what we have always seen from PJ. It started his freshman season when he averaged only 13.6 minutes per game, but if teams forgot him on the perimeter there was no hesitation in him shooting it. As a freshman they could do that. He shot only 28.6% from three. That lack of hesitation has paid off though because this year he posted his second year averaging better than 40% from three. In 2015-16 he was actually Purdue’s best three-point shooter by percentage at 41.5%. This year he was out fifth-best shooter from long range even though he had a slight dip in his percentage. Because he played 209 more minutes he ended up attempting 50 more three, so he was bound to have a small dip.

Overall PJ averaged 1.7 more points per game in 6 more minutes per game, but it was the placement of those points that huge. For example:

· Against Georgia State very early in the season as Purdue was struggling Thompson made a key steal with 3:43 left and the game tied at 56-56. He would also hit a three with 44 seconds left to put Purdue ahead 64-56 and effectively close the game.

· He had nine points against Notre Dame, including two huge threes during the second half comeback and a clinching free throw with five seconds left.

· With 1:24 left at Ohio State and Purdue clinging to a 72-71 lead P.J. hit a huge three to push the lead back to 4. Purdue would eventually win by one on a free throw from Caleb Swanigan. P.J. had only six points.

· At Maryland P.J. hit a three with 3:23 left to give us a 66-65 lead. This was about a minute and a half after he hit two free throws trailing 65-61. Purdue eventually won on two free throws from Carsen Edwards with 3 seconds left, set up by a defensive rebound from, you guessed it, P.J. Thompson with 16 seconds left.

· At Indiana PJ scored on an offensive rebound putback with 2:29 left to put Purdue ahead 61-57. He then hit three of four free throws in the last 37 seconds of a 69-64 win. Those were his only five points of the game.

· With 15 seconds left in overtime at Penn State PJ collected a long offensive rebound of a missed shot from Isaac Haas. He was fouled and hit the clinching two free throws in the 74-70 win.

· Against Iowa State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Purdue had just finished blowing a 19 point lead. Thompson, who was scoreless to that point, hit a huge three with 3 minutes left to give Purdue a 74-73 lead 11 seconds after the Cyclones had taken their first lead of the game. With 8 seconds left Thompson also hit the two clinching free throws in the 80-76 win. These free throws were critical, because 8 days earlier PJ had the chance to hit from the line with a 2 point lead and 18 seconds left in regulation against Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament. He didn’t come through then as he missed the front end of a one-and-one and Michigan went down to tie and send the game to OT, where it won.

Purdue won eight games this year that were “close games” (that is, within a possession or two at the final media timeout). It lost five such games. In seven of the eight wins PJ had a major, major role in those closing minutes that helped Purdue to a victory. Even in the losses he was instrumental in giving Purdue a chance. Against Villanova and Michigan (BTT) he hit half-court buzzer-beating threes just before halftime. Against Minnesota he hit three threes to help us force overtime after being down early. At Iowa he had two offensive rebounds with just over a minute left, but Purdue was unable to convert.

That’s not to say PJ was perfect. He lacks the size to be a truly elite defender, but he is a tenacious one. He could also be a bit more aggressive. He was a solid scorer in high school and he can drive to the basket, but he doesn’t do it enough to be truly effective. Maybe that is something we see more of in 2017-18 as a senior.

PJ is a savvy, veteran leader that has gotten better every year at Purdue. He is basically our Robert Horry. If we need a big shot in a key spot there is going to be a good chance PJ will take it and hit it. In those five “close losses” he only had one shot or free throw attempt that would have made a huge difference, and that was the Michigan loss in the Big Ten tournament. That made Purdue 7-1 this year in the “P.J. Thompson is attempting a big shot/free throw in the final minutes” games.

I’ll take that record.