1/15/2023 Boilermaker Water Cooler Chat: Mercurial Edition

Photo: Mark Elser

Rants, ravings, and somewhat sensical opinions following the wild, wacky, and wide-wide world of Purdue sports.

Midwesterners live in a place where multiple times a year, the air will hurt your face. Now, if you’ve seen me on TV or on podcasts, you’d know that my face’s generally hurts to look at… but the weather this weekend is on a different level.

As I type this, I am sitting in my small town just south of Lake Michigan. My thermometer outside reads a robust -7, which is in actuality a 7 degree increase in temperature. I have long dreamed of snow-birding, spending my time from January through May under a palm tree, eating fresh seafood, drinking mai-tai’s, and wrestling alligators. Every time I conceptualize this, however, I put the breaks on.

January, February, March… some of the nastiest weather of the year roll through the Midwest. Why do any of us put up with it? Well, weather aside, winter in Indiana means basketball. For you fair readers, Boilermaker Basketball. The nostalgia, the love, the warmth of Mackey Arena in the frozen tundra of West Lafayette, I can’t leave this behind. Palm trees and alligators be damned. This is home. This is our element.

So I will let my face get punished, let the wind pull the air out of my lungs, and I’ll slide around like an ice cube. Boilermaker basketball, for better or worse, is worth it.

The Games:

Nebraska 88, #1 Purdue 72:

The nasty winter storm that is currently punishing Indiana, swept through Nebraska this past week. No matter how cold it was outside, the Cornhusker’s shooting was red hot. Shooting a robust 60.9% from three. Even with a hand in their face, Nebraska steamrolled the best team in the nation, proving the old cliché true… its not who you play, but when you play them.

Mason Gillis led the way for Purdue, scoring 16 points off the bench, and single handedly kept Purdue in the game during the first half. Although Purdue had 5 players score in double figures (Gillis, Edey, Loyer, Smith, and Jones), things didn’t seem to click right with the Boilers.

Couple Purdue’s frustrations with Nebraska’s thermo-nuclear shooting, and this game ended up being a laugher by the end. Nebraska nearly doubled their season average shooting from 3. Had they shot their average, they would have hit 6 less threes, and had 18 less points. Do that math.

The only math that matters, however, is that Purdue ended the game losing to Nebraska on the road on a Tuesday. You don’t win Big Ten championships by beating Michigan State on a Saturday, or Illinois on a Friday. You win Big Ten championships by not losing to Nebraska on a Tuesday. Another loss, another court storm.

#1 Purdue 95, Penn State 78:

Purdue needed to thaw out following a cold Nebraska welcome, and things heated up in Mackey Arena. Penn State was in an unenviable position, playing Purdue following a road loss, and it showed.

Penn State’s completely revamped team literally had nobody who had ever seen someone like Zach Edey, let alone played against the Canadian Destroyer. It showed, as Zach Edey went for 30pts and 20 rebounds. The rest of the Boilermakers team showed up as well, with solid games from Jones, Loyer, Smith, Heide, Colvin, and TKR. The combined effort and efficiency made this game much easier than the score indicated. This was absolutely a 30 point game disguised as a 17 point game.

Penn State Photo Gallery: https://snapsbyme.smugmug.com/Purdue-Mens-Basketball/23-24/PennState

Break It Down:

I said last week that the Nebraska game terrified me, and look what happened. Purdue gets another court stormed against them. The old rule of thumb is that 3-4 losses in the league should win the Big Ten. Early in the conference slate, Purdue has already dropped their second loss. Wisconsin hasn’t lost any. This is not ideal.

While there is absolute validity in the fact that the Boilermaker loss to Nebraska was due in large part to a hot night shooting for the Cornhuskers, Purdue’s margin for error is nearly already erased. Winning on the road is very tough, and this year nearly impossible, and Nebraska is really good at home. They’re probably an NCAA Tournament team as well, but Purdue getting upset will always sting.

“I don’t care about a Big Ten Championship” some people will say. I understand the sentiment. Purdue has bigger fish to fry this year. Wins and losses still matter. Purdue has no business losing to Nebraska on a Tuesday. Yes, the Boilermakers are still on pace to be a 1 seed, but potentially lose the Big Ten. Plenty of time to right the ship, but this team needs to do it now.

What Went Well:

  • Bounce Back: Do not underestimate the importance of Purdue’s dominant win against Penn State. Basketball is a game of momentum, a the Boilermakers need to gather that momentum back.
  • 30 & 20: Zach Edey’s performance against Penn State is what this team has been needing for a few weeks. While his numbers have been gaudy, something wasn’t quite clicking for the big man the past few weeks. Great to see him assert his dominance.
  • Rounding into Shape: Camden Heide has begun to get more and more crucial playing time. In two games Heide has hit 3 of 4 threes, provided defensive boost, and showed the athleticism that we know he can provide. Great to see him work his way into the role of a contributor for this team.
  • Quick Trigger: Mason Gillis has been a dead eye shooter this season from deep. He isn’t hesitating with his shot, and is drilling them in rhythm. This week, Gillis went 7/15 from three, and single handedly kept Purdue in the game at Nebraska.

Opportunities for Improvement:

  • Keep your head: Purdue got into their own head against Nebraska. You could see the visible frustration from the normally even keel squad. When a team is getting frustrated, an opponent can feed off of that energy. Add a hot shooting opponent with a Purdue team that is internally pressing is a recipe for disaster.
  • 14: Twice this week Purdue turned the ball over 14 times. While 14 isn’t an absurd number of turnovers, the Boilermakers’ kryptonite is giving the ball away. Would like to see the turnover totals get closer to 10.
  • Gotta Do Something: While there were plenty of hands in the face of the Nebraska shooters, something needs to be done in order to stop a team from going nuclear. Easier said than done, I guess… but the two losses this season were both due to teams going wild from 3. This is what Matt Painter gets paid the big bucks for, stemming the tide.

One More Thing:

At the end of the day, this doesn’t matter, but the optics are incredibly irritating. In the second half against Penn State, Heide was fouled on a three. He was, per rule, awarded 3 free throws. After shooting the first two free throws is when things got weird.

The officiating crew decided to stop the flow, and review to see if Heide was behind the three point line, before awarding him his third shot. The review, of course, showed that Heide was a few feet behind the line, so Heide got his third free throw.

Big Ten Officials are generally considered poor at their job, and this is just another example of them not having their ducks in a row.

A Look Ahead:

Following the Nebraska loss, Purdue is currently the #2 team in the nation, getting jumped by UConn. Considering that the top 10 was a slaughterhouse this week, there was an actual chance that Purdue might actually keep that ranking, following the Nebraska loss, but it wasn’t to be.

Either way, Purdue will become road warriors this week. On Tuesday 1/16 Purdue will travel to Bloomington for an evening game against IU. This game is being played on Peacock, which is, just… just awesome.

Following that game, Purdue will travel to Iowa City, to take on the Hawkeyes on Saturday 1/20.

Purdue should be favored in both of these contests, but the road in the Big Ten is treacherous at best, and violent at worst. Will the Hoosiers storm the court against Purdue for the 3rd straight year? We will see on Tuesday.

For more content like this follow @ISC_Purdue on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. For a deeper look into the mad mind of Ben Kolodzinski, follow him at @BRKolo on Twitter. WARNING: Viewer’s discretion is advised…

About Benjamin Kolodzinski 105 Articles
Blending the passion of a sports fan with years of media experience, Ben Kolodzinski is a unique personality for ISC Purdue. Since the 2017-18 NCAA seasons, Ben has written weekly columns for ISC, with a style that can only be described as snarky, irreverent, and often times irrelevant. A 2008 graduate from Purdue West Lafayette, Kolodzinski has worked for several local and regional media outlets. Best known for his television and radio work at Lakeshore Public Media (Lakeshore Public Television, and 89.1 The Lakeshore), Kolodzinski helped grow Northwest Indiana's only nightly news show Lakeshore News Tonight, along with The Region's only local sports shows Prep Sports Report, and Prep Football Report. As of 2022, Kolodzinski hosts Lakeshore Gamenight, a prep football radio show and cohosts Lakeshore PBS Scoreboard, a prep football TV highlight show. Kolodzinski is known, locally, for having a fun loving and gregarious personality, and for attempting to inject humor into his reporting... sometimes successfully.

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