Twice this season a team with a top 10 ranking has walked into Mackey Arena, both after Purdue was determined to be mortal at home with an early season loss to Texas.
Twice said top 10 team has left with its tail between its legs after a 29 point loss.
Mackey Arena is a special place. It is a Dungeon of Noise. It is a Fortress of desolation and pain for visiting teams. Coming off of a game effort Thursday night in Ann Arbor Purdue could have been down. instead it plugged into the crowd and never trailed. The Boilers took the lead on three free throws from Aaron Wheeler just 34 seconds into the game and never trailed. It pushed the lead as high as 22 in the first half and when Michigan State threatened in the second half Purdue found answers.
The biggest threat came with just under 10 minutes left. The Spartans had cut the lead to 11 and had the ball, but missed an open three. Purdue ripped off a 9-0 run to push he lead back to 20 and it was a prolonged celebration from there.
What’s so encouraging is that EVERYONE had a hand in this one. At one point early on Purdue had already played 9 guys. Eight of them had scored with no one having more than 4 points. The only one that was scoreless at the time was Eric Hunter Jr., who had only lived in the jersey of Cassius Winston and harassed him into a 1 of 7 effort at that point.
Hunter would have his turn for offense later, too. He hit a three with 15:16 left that stymied a Michigan State run where they had cut it to 12. He finished with 10 and didn’t give Winston room to breathe all afternoon.
I also have to cite Evan Boudreaux, who delivered the best game of his Purdue career. E-Bo did exactly what we need to do: Rebound, hit open threes, and draw fouls. His three wide open threes were gigantic and later on, when Purdue was in an offensive lull, he drew offensive fouls on three consecutive MSU possessions. He finished with 11 points, 5 rebounds, and played his nuts off.
Really, everyone played well. Trevion Williams is going to win Big Ten player of the Week after averaging 26 points and 13.5 rebounds this week. Sasha Stefanovic hit a couple big threes and scored on a drive at a key point to finish with 10. Nojel Eastern added a 9 and 7 to silence his critics for a bit. Isaiah Thompson only hit one basket, but it was an early three on a break that really got the crowd going.
Purdue needed this. Badly. Thursday felt like another missed opportunity much like against Texas and Florida State. Given a chance to get a resume win Purdue emphatically defended home court. The NCAA Tournament is still very much alive and given the brutal nature of the Big Ten, a decent seed is even possible because every game left, save Northwestern, can be a resume win.
There is still a lot of work to do, including another tough road game this week at Maryland, but for one afternoon Purdue was dominant again and it felt so, so good.