Coming into this one, I read, watched and studied the same material that Painter and co. did...to a lesser extent of course. And I saw a bloodbath as imminent.
5-start talent backed up by four-star talent and superior size at every position. This team reminds me a lot of aOSU, but a bit of a caricature of them in that they are so physically-strong. And Purdue's struggle all year has been against physical, talented and large teams.
But Matty and company had a good plan and fired every bullet in the chamber at the 'Hawks...and it almost worked.
J and I talked away from the site about how it would take someone throwing the team on their back to win this one. To no one's surprise, #4 played like he did versus aOSU a few years ago at Mackey and went crazy in the first half...but got bottled up by great defense in the second half. But, it was more than just Hummel that kept Purdue in the lead for most of this game.
That said, Hummel's 26 points, 9 rebounds and a block were huge. I'm not sure if Hummel's knee had been sore coming in...but tendonitis wasn't an issue in this one. Hummel played frenetically away from the ball, and with surgeon-like precision with the ball. In the one-on-one battle with Kansas AA, Robinson, he won...but I'm sure he would have gladly traded stats for another game in the left hand column.
Here are some things that stood out to us:
-Marcius started...played hard and pulled down 6 big rebounds in 16 minutes. Ryne Smith came off the bench. Carroll and Lawson also played in an effort to match-up with the Jayhawks.
-We've been begging and pleading just for a tiny taste of zone defense for years from Matty. Tonight we got to see it. Sure, it kind of looked like they had never played the match-up zone before...but this showed how much gutting and grinding the coaches really did in their preparation for the contest.
-Purdue's scrappy, frustrating defense that we thought we'd see this year returned for this game...and that bodes well for next season.
-Byrd finished with 10/3. TJohn had 10/8...and LewJack had 5 pts, 5 ast, 4 reb.
All of this and a Purdue team that was selling out time and again led to a one-point lead, 59 seconds on the clock...and Purdue ball. Purdue 60 Kansas 59. I knew it would take perfect execution or tremendous luck for Purdue to win...Purdue got neither.
After a timeout, Painter ran an isolation play for LewJack, but Kansas' defense made it two defenders v. LewJack. After the ball was knocked away, Kansas finished on the other end quickly and had a one-point lead. Purdue 60 Kansas 61. But Purdue would have another shot.
Purdue used another timeout and had :24 seconds to make something happen.This time, the offense made much more sense...and Hummel got a good look from the right side...but it didn't fall. After a defensive rebound, Kansas got another runout and finished again...Purdue 60 Kansas 63.
Purdue used the final 2.4 seconds to get the ball in Smith's hands who took a runner from about 29 feet. It banked off of the glass, hit the front of the rim and fell to the ground. Final: Purdue 60 Kansas 63.
Season over...and the same goes for Hummel, Smith and LewJack's careers in gold and black...and that's what stings. For some reason, bidding these guys farewell is really hard for J and I...but we've loved watching them for the last 4/5 seasons.
Purdue's players looked crushed as they walked through the line with Kansas after the game. I don't think there's any doubt that they thought they should have or could have won...but it didn't happen.
Painter wanted a team in the middle of the season that would fight hard; at that time, he didn't have it. But, by mid-March, he had found one that fought hard and consistently. Perhaps if the team we saw play tonight had existed back in December, they wouldn't have had to play Kansas in the second round...but, this group was playing their best basketball this evening...and if nothing else, they went down swinging.
"Ever Grateful. Ever True."