Our pal James, AKA Panda was made the trip yesterday to Madison as he's in his last semester in God's country...so he wanted to soak up one extra game in person. He's a good fan. I can't say I was of the same mind. My family wanted to go get lunch after church, so I obliged...and figured I'd miss some of the game, but wasn't too bothered by that. I sat my DVR remotely and listened to Cliz between stops. For the second time this season, I made a bad decision by not deciding to watch the entire game.
By the time I got to a TV, it was around five minutes into the second half. Purdue had fought back into the game...and nearly had the lead...with Byrd and TJohn's help, Purdue was stunning the 17th ranked Badgers and the Kohl Center crowd. Byrd hit a few threes...then TJohn got hot and suddenly Purdue was in control. RonJohn got involved as he facilitated and fed Byrd and his brother...and Marcius became an absolute mother on the glass. With 10:00 left, Purdue was in the driver's seat with a seven point lead...and they looked like they belonged in the lead.
|Winning is fun.|
With the sub .500 Boilers actually playing basketball, Wisconsin's team got nervous and felt the pressure...so they took quick threes and made few of them. When Purdue needed rebounds or points, Juniors TJohn and Marcius and Senior Byrd did what upper classmen are supposed to do: delivered. RayDay also had a few clutch boards.
It wasn't all roses down the stretch though- RonJohn missed four straight free throws before he figured out that it'd be best not to have the ball in his hands in the closing minutes. And his brother dribbled into the corner against a full court trap and booted it out of bounce. But it didn't matter. Purdue won, and did so going away.
Wisconsin needed a victory to stay in the B1G hunt...and Purdue effectively knocked them out of contention (you're welcome, Teflon Tommy as well as the Forehead). Sadly, Purdue has been relegated to the role of Spoiler...and while I hate the moniker, it surely is applicable, Matty's boys were Spoilermakers this afternoon.
Bo Ryan has lost about 11 games in the last 100 at the Kohl Center...and three of those losses have come by the cold, calculated hand of Matty Painter. Painter is Wisconsin's kryptonite, at least in Madison.
|Fightin' Sandi was a difference maker at Kohl.|
Byrd led all scorers with 22 points (tying his season high; Clemson) and added 8 rebounds...TJohn had 16 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Ronnie had 8 points, 5 rebounds, 8 assists...and only two TOs. RayDay only had 3 points...but grabbed 7 key rebounds.
Purdue's woes from the free throw line continued- they shot under 65% from the line; better than many games this season...but typically not well-enough to help a team pull an upset on the road in the B1G.
BUT, and this is a big one, Purdue shot the lights out from behind the arc; they went 6-12...or should I say, Byrd went 6-for-9...and the rest of the team went 0-for-3. Regardless of how you slice it, Purdue's shooting from the field won the game...they also shot 45% from the rest of the court. They also controlled the glass versus the big, mostly-white and red-headed beasts from the tundra of the Northern US.
Purdue shot well, played solid and beat Wisconsin at their game...and in doing so, they kept the faint glimmer of the NIT flickering. Next up, the Forces of Good play on Wednesday at Mackey versus UM...who, after licking their wounds from the upset of the college basketball season at the hands of lowly Penn State, got a much-needed win v. MSU in Ann Arbor last night. As Keady always said, it's not who you play, but when you play them.
Purdue needs to get back to .500 to play in the NIT. I'm the first one to say the NIT is really an inconsequential event...but, with Purdue having a bit of a heartbeat and a ton of youth on the roster, the more games they play, the better they'll be next year...and playing in a tournament atmosphere, even the NIT, is never a bad thing for a young team. Part of me thinks we won't know the importance of this game for a year or so...the other part of me is kinda ready for this season to be over. That said, I'd love to see Byrd play six or seven more games like this one...and more than that, love seeing my Boilers play team basketball and have a good time while doing it. Upsetting teams along the way is just a byproduct of doing things the right way.
Choo choo, muthas.