Gone was the one guy who would step up when needed.
Gone was the continuity.
Gone was the defense.
Gone was the spark.
Gone was the hustle.
The absence of hustle made my assessment easy. We all knew Purdue would struggle to learn how to play again. I mean, when you lose pillars of a program, it happens. BUT, I thought aloud that since there were so many healthy young guys, this team would be indoctrinated into Painter's idea of sacrificing skin on your elbows for the sake of the team.
Instead, these guys liked to watch loose balls bounce around until they found an opponent's hands. They didn't seem to love pestering their opponent with gnat-like annoying traits...but sagged off and mimicked a sleep walker.
Heck, even when they played hard, they could only do it for 20-30 minutes...then they'd lose interest and allow games to slip through their pillowy-soft grasp.
|Not pretty, but it works.|
BUT, a Matt Painter team with grit and toughness is familiar, inspired and a metaphorical symphony.
You typically don't see and hear fans bragging about the methodology of a timeout being called...but last night, DJ Byrd's timeout set the Twitterverse ablaze. In a split second, after being shoved by an Illinis player, Byrd assessed the out of bounds line, the trajectory of the ball and the placement of the official in order to make a truly brilliant, game-saving timeout. Yes, I just typed that sentence.
After weeks upon weeks of Byrd scratching and clawing to be someone he simply is not, it clicked...in the form of a loose ball timeout.
But for Purdue to be consistently successful this season, David Jonathan Byrd will need to be a Leatherman, of sorts, this year.
The screw driver on a Leatherman doesn't work as well as a typical phillips or flat screw driver...but it does the job. The pliers are kind of uncomfortable in your hand because the handle has all of that crap in it, but it can still pull a nail out of a 2x4...and when in a pinch, you take this beast-of-burden tool and smack things around with it. It's not as sleek and sexy as a Swiss Army Knife...it's more utilitarian. It doesn't have a high-gloss surface, but a brushed, almost dull, finish. Mine is gunked up with paint and dried glues and has battle scars from when I got myself into trouble, but only had a four year old as an assistant who didn't know what I needed when I asked for the hammer. But dammit, that jack of some traits is a tool that's indispensable in the Bdowd household.
When Matty's Leatherman tries to be Ryne Smith, it doesn't really do the job- He's not a pure shooter. When The Leatherman tries to be E'Twaun Moore, it really doesn't work either- he has a hard time creating space. He's not quite big or skilled enough to be Hummel, not nuts enough to be Kramer...he's a different thing altogether.
15 points is a solid game versus a team ranked in the top-15...but none of the things Byrd did last night that were really important show up in the stat line...he made everybody else work better...and when his teammates needed a play the most, he made it.
Admittedly, I didn't want Byrd with the ball in his hands in the closing minutes as Illinois extended the pressure. We all know that doesn't doesn't go well. That's the time for Ronnie Johnson to do what he did last night- quickly evade swiping hands and get out of trouble.
The leading scorer had a monster stat line: 25pts, 9 reb and 4ast...but Terone Johnson is no DJ Byrd.
|Not pretty, but it works.|
Byrd and his teammates all accepted their roles last night, and the end result was their first complete game and their first win versus a quality opponent of the season. Will they all be able to know their roles come Saturday in East Lansing?