This doesn’t make up for March 30th in Louisville. That is an ache that will be fresh for a while. Still, the rematch with The Champs (or at least part of The Champs) was highly anticipated. Virginia is still an elite team. They were ranked #5 in the AP poll and No 2 in the Coaches Poll. They entered with a 13 game winning streak overall and had not lost since last year’s ACC Tournament. They had not lost a regular season game since February 9th at home against Duke. With our own home mortality shown in the loss to Texas and a narrow loss to Florida State just a few days ago, I was concerned.
Mackey is Mackey again though.
Tonight just felt different from the Texas game. Yes, Mackey was great that night, but there was almost a complacency like we had nothing to worry about because it was Mackey. We literally let that slip away.
That wasn’t happening tonight.
With a new starting lineup Sasha Stefanovic came out bombing away, hitting three huge early threes against the nation’s best defense. Playing from behind, the Cavaliers really struggled as Purdue turned up its own defensive pressure. The Boilers were absolutely stifling, holding Virginia scoreless for more than 9 minutes at one point as it used an 11-0 first half lead to build a double digit margin. Jahaad Proctor channeled Carsen by hitting some tough shots to keep Virginia off balance as well.
Most of it was on Stefanovic and Proctor, who formed a great backcourt, but Matt Painter debuted a new and devastating lineup tonight. Bigs Trevion Williams and Matt Haarms BOTH started and played extensive minutes together. Their defense and rebounding was critical, while Haarms stretched the floor with a pair of big threes.
Honestly, it was fantastic to see for Purdue. Offensive lulls were costly against Texas and Florida State. Against Marquette an entire terrible half cost us a great road win, but againt Florida State in particular the Boilers managed just two points in overtime and missed on multiple chances to win it in both regualtion and overtime.
Tonight though, the guards got it done while the bigs rebounded and defended. Eric Hunter cotniued his run of excellent play and hit some big second half shots. Sasha would finish with 20, hitting 6 threes as a tribute to Ryan Cline, who was shown on the scoreboard in the first half. Cline then chugged a Boiler Gold and toasted the crowd.
Overall four Boilers got in double figures. In addition to Sasha’s 20 Proctor had 16, Haarms 11, and Hunter 10 (with 4 assists and 5 rebounds), but this was a team effort on both ends of the floor. Every time Virginia tried to get back in it Purdue had an answer.
Again, this doesn’t make up for March, but taking down The Champs by 29 at home feels really, really good.