Saturday, January 28, 2012

Boilers Survive in Evanston and Advance to Bye Week

People seem to have a short memory...but mine is differently.  Whereas many Purdue fans saw this game as a slam dunk, all I could think of was how Evanston was a house of horrors for Matty's teams...and this year would be no different. Hell, even when the forces of good prevail in their shortest roadtrip in the conference, it's never easy...and shocker, this one wasn't easy.

The preparation for the Wildcats must be torture for forces him to put Purdue defenders in *gasp* a zone...and I'm sure it's a pretty crappy one. Painter seems as opposed to zone defenses as I am to diets formal attire.

So as Purdue came off of a few days of practice versus what is surely one of the worst zone defenses in America, they had to play Northwestern's extended 1-3-1...and their confusion and lack of ability to attack it showed.

Let me take that back, LewJack and TJohn did a pretty good job at attacking the gut of the defense, but the opportunities were few...and Purdue, predictably, shot like rubber dog doo for much of the contest.  The half time score was a painful 22-26, with the good guys holding the lead because of AJ's last-second three.  But Hummel, Smith, Byrd and pretty much everyone was struggling to put the ball into the orange ring.

Before I get into any details any further, lemme say a few things about some unimportant things.

First, I've heard people call the Welch-Ryan Arena a glorified high school arena.  Let's be honest, there's nothing glorified about that place. The site lines are bad, it's got some sort of black pipe hanging across the court, it's tiny and their recently stain job to the court is nasty-bad.  I liked it in renderings...and throw up a bit in my mouth each time I see it on the television now. It makes a HD picture look like bleached out video from the 80s or before.  None of this changes the fact that it's a tough place to win.  It's a lot like Cameron Indoor Stadium...without any of that pesky history to get in the way of outsider's opinion of it.
"Another Bang-up job, B1G officials!"
Next up, the fact that Davide (David-ay) Curletti was still in the game when the clock hit triple-zero is a huge indictment on the crappy job the B1G officials do.  Sure, Curletti got sick of spelling and pronouncing his name during his childhood over and he developed a chip on his shoulder, but he was flat-out playing like a douche today.  He threw a high elboy into Smith's chin, threw elbows at Hummel and Carroll and grabbed Hummel, TJohn and others over and over.  I always gave the guy a pass since I figured he didn't speak English...he looks European, his name is Euro...but no, he's from Michigan...and his jerk style of play has everything to do with him being a punk on the court and nothing to do with his pseudo-Euroness.  I'm sure he's the salt of the earth when he leaves the violet-stained court, but he's unlikable when in purple...and will make it easier for me to root against NU as they continue their tourney 0-fer this season.

Not everyone on that squad is a jackface though...I kind of like Crawford; and the dude just killed Purdue today.  And Shurna looks like a 7th grader, but can fill it up...but this team, with its lack of depth and un-Big Ten-like athleticism, should be beaten a lot in the conference...and it turns out they are.

They had a running start coming into conference play- 10-2...but since they entered their own house of horrors, the B1G, they're 2-6...but they almost stole one today.  Carmody called this a must-win for the 'Cats...and Curletti, Shurna, Crawford and Marcitullio all played like it was.  At the same time Purdue played drowsy and struggled.

One of the tri-captains in particular, Hummel continued to grind and struggle to score. But for the second-straight game, he was the center of a small line-up.  The end result is he's not getting the opportunity to get after as many loose balls as usual...he finished with only 3 rebounds. Marcius and Lawson didn't take off their warm-ups...and Carroll only played 11 minutes; so this was a small Purdue team.  Byrd is back to playing the power forward role on defense- which I think is a pretty natural place for him.  But the story on the day was TJohn's ability to get to the middle of the zone and stay under control.
Boilers Hold on to victory -58-56, in Evanston.
(serious question- is back part of the ball?)
TJohn finished with 14 points on 60% shooting (only 25% from the stripe, of course).  He also had 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks and just one turnover.  He continues to raise his level of play...and make ignorant Purdue fans eat their words- bite by tasty bite.  For some reason, many thought he should've come into God's Country and averaged 10-15 pts/gm...but like almost everyone, it's taken him time to get comfortable.  And also, he WASN'T HEALTHY AT THE BEGINNING OF THIS SEASON! He looks healthy and nearly in shape now.

LewJack gutted out 8 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds and 2 steals...Byrd had 12 & 4...and both Barlow and AJ were pretty productive in limited minutes.  Smith had an un-Smith like day, not only shooting poorly, but not getting many rebounds (2) and only registerring 1 assist.  Hummel's play was tough to watch at times...but his sizable shot in the closing seconds over Curletti was the dagger, possibly on the Wildcats NCAA tourney-seeking heart.

It wasn't fact, it was damned ugly...but a digit in the left column is something this team desperately needed.  And Big Shot Rob returning right before a bye week might be exactly what this team needed to see to remind them that they belong in the NCAA tournament this spring.

I hope this game can be viewed as a turning point of sorts for a team that still has no defensive identity...but we won't know that for at least another month.  What we do know is that the shiny tan Forehead and his minions will be bringing their stench squad to Mackey one week from today. After that, they travel to Columbus for a tough one, then back to Mackey to play these Wildcats once again.


Mark said...

I think you're being harsh on the boys. Aside from missing wide open outside shots, we played very well.

This is a team that beat MSU on that court!

Something must be up with Smith. He hasn't been playing or shooting well for a few games. He started passing up shooting opportunities today, and his defense wasn't up to par. Hope he's able to overcome whatever is going on because we need his 3-4 longballs per game.

I've been a HUGE fan of TJ since he got here. He has All Big Ten written all over him in the next year or two. If he starts hitting FT's, his point production will skyrocket.

It's disappointing to not be in the title hunt, but people need to back off...LJ, Robbie, TJ, and Byrd all started the season gimpie. TJ and Byrd are just now rounding into form. LJ and Robbie are still trying to climb out of it. When arguably (but in my mind) the best 4 players are hurt, you're going to struggle.

I still don't understand the injury front with Purdue seems out of control to me...but good ole' Morgan Burke says that our 10 year injury average is still normal. brilliant.

Orracle said...

I lost count of the number of times I went to Evanston expecting not only a win, but a BIG win and was disappointed. And I've been going there whenever the Boilers were there (either gender)for 30 years.

This time, my small group of Boiler fans and I went there not expecting much--nay, expected a loss. We were determined not to get our hopes up. And for most of the game, that seemed a very wise decision.

We were behind those stupid hanging poles and in front of three NU fans. And people arrived LATE. Half an hour into the game people were standing in front of us trying to find their seats, led by an usher who was older than dirt and could not read the row or section numbers. (and they are very poorly done)

Every time I've been there I have been pleased by the number of seats filled with black and gold. Without their band and homer announcer, they couldn't out shout a kindergarten class. Nice to hear the Paint Crew in the upper reaches of W-R too.

And the Good Guys won. Barely, but with one point to spare!

boilerdowd said...

Orracle- it looked like a strong Purdue contingent; I've never been there for basketball, but am 2-0 on the football field.

Mark, what was I being too harsh about?

Erin said...

I was at the game, good to see all the Chicago Purdue fans that made their way to the game to show support. Though, the NU fans behind me did keep me entertained with their comments - especially their speculating that Carroll must be a walk- on freshman based on how he plays. They were probably right though on their comments to "just keep fouling 0 to win the game"

grant.jacob2 said...

I go to welsh-Ryan whenever purdue is in town and this was the biggest turnout of boiler fans I've ever seen there. I can attest to being hard on TJohn, but it make it hard to support a guy when he does an excellent job drawing a key foul, but soon disappoints you by making 1 of 2 at the line. This simply isn't the same Purdue team we're used to, but as long as they continue to play inspired defense they will knock of someone in the upper echelon of the conference sooner than later (my guess being Indiana next Saturday). I also believe Travis Carrol deserves more minutes as he rarely hurts the team when he's in, even going back to last year he did an excellent job on Jared Sullinger

Chad said...

Typically being "upper echelon" means in the top half of the conference and having won more than 2 road games in 4 years.....

zlionsfan said...

This was a nice road win ... might actually add something to Purdue's RPI (ESPN currently has the Wildcats at 43, ahead of the good guys at 50), giving them two "big" road wins (Minnesota is currently the other). That'll help to balance out the Butler and Penn State losses. (I see Butler has "reverted to the mean". It's too bad, that was a pretty impressive run.)

Plus any conference road win is a good one. Staying in the top half of the conference is a big deal; the more Big Ten teams there are on the bubble list below Purdue, the better.

It would be nice to defend home court against Indiana, particularly if it sends them back to .500 (or below) in conference play ... not that they'll miss the tournament, but just to keep things in perspective down there. I think a few IU fans thought this was 1975-76 all over again during non-conference play. (Who knows? That IU team might have had a couple of losses in this conference. Put Kentucky in the Big Ten and see if they have a better conference record than OSU ... we already know they'd have at least one loss.)

Mark said...

Maybe I was being picky/defensive, but this is what I thought was too harsh...

"and their confusion and lack of ability to attack it showed."

I thought the team showed excellent patience for most of the day. Robbie is the new GDH, and Ryne is in a shooting funk. They hit "normally", and we win going away.

My only complaint with the team is that we MUST score points, which Painter seems unconcerned about at times. Sometimes I think a 0-0 tie would please him more than a 100-101 victory.

There has to be an effort to improve the shooting efficiencies of very good shooters on this team who are not shooting well. To me that's coaching...maybe more mental than anything, but it's still coaching. How can lesser calibre players on other teams hit open threes when we can't...even when our players were 3 pt. shooters in HS? I fear a return to Keady-ball...killing shooters until they're seniors.