Rants, ravings, and somewhat sensical opinions following the wild, wacky, and wide-wide world of Purdue sports
Like any somewhat well adjusted kid who grew up in the 80s and 90s, I was a fan of professional wrestling. The over the top characters, the hard hitting action, the wacky shenanigans… it was chaos in the squared circle. Predetermined or not, watching wrestling was the thing to do when I was a kid.
January is a particularly exciting time in the world of sports entertainment. In January, the WWF (Now WWE) would run my personal favorite wrestling event, the iconic Royal Rumble. 30 men enter the ring, one at a time, in 90 second intervals. Their goal is to throw their opponents over the top rope, so that they land on the ground. If two feet hit the ground, then they are eliminated. The last man standing wins a heavyweight title shot at Wrestlemania! Everyone knew, when the Royal Rumble was coming up, business was about to pick up!
January, in the Big Ten, is very reminiscent of the Royal Rumble. Athletes crashing into each other. Opponents getting body slammed. Competitors getting eliminated in hilarious fashion. Clueless referees allowing cheap shots. It is the perfect microcosm for January basketball in the Big Ten.
Do I expect officials to allow Zach Edey to be clocked with a steel folding chair on the block this January without fear of repercussion? Mostly no. What I do expect, however, is the physicality to continue to reach a fevered pitch. In the Rumble, you have to be tough to survive. In the Big Ten, as Randy “Macho Man” Savage once put it, “The cream rises to the top, uhhuh!”
Nebraska 55, #3 Purdue 73: Fletcher Loyer bombed away from three, setting the tone for a relatively easy victory against Nebraska at home. Loyer led the way with 27 points, shooting 6/12 from three. Zach Edey pulled his normal double double, scoring 12 points, and pulling in 13 rebounds. Braden Smith and Mason Gillis each added 10 points.
#3 Purdue 64, Michigan State 63: Boilers started out hot, but had to battle back against a surging Michigan State squad, pulling off a last second victory. Zach Edey was a force, as the Spartans decided to play him 1 on 1 in the post. Edey scored 32 points and hauled down 17 rebounds, as MSU had no answer for the NPOY front runner. Fletcher Loyer, hounded by the crowd for much of the night, scored 17 points, including some clutch free throws, and the game winning assist. A sweet ending for the Boilermakers in a hostile environment.
Break It Down:
Two strong wins in two appearances this week for Matt Painter’s squad. Looking at the MSU game, this is a contest that previous Boiler squads would have lost. This team is mature beyond their years.
Something is -different- about this team. There is a Grit to this team. There is intestinal fortitude. There is a sense of calm for a REBUILDING team. The combination of mental toughness and physical ability is a really encouraging combination, now into the meat of the season. Well Done Boilers!
Strangely enough, this team has yet to actually play the fabled “perfect” game. This team still has room to grow, exponentially.
That is scary.
What Went Well:
- 38.4: Purdue’s percentage from 3 the past week, which is where we thought they would be to start the season. However, Purdue had about a 6 game stretch of shooting in the 20% range. The 4/10 shooting total against Michigan State brings Purdue over 30% for the season. The sky wasn’t falling earlier in the season, the shots weren’t. The Boilers are on their way to their shooting percentage matching up with expectations.
- 17-1: The Boilers’ record, which matches Purdue’s all time best start to a season (125 seasons).
- Breath of Freshman Air: Coming into the season, the nay-sayers said Purdue wouldn’t be any good because they are being led by freshmen guards. Following a hot start, certain podcasters said that Purdue’s success couldn’t last because they were being led by, freshmen guards. Following sustained success, those same podcasters said that Purdue’s guards had peaked, and would be exposed in Big Ten Play, because they’re freshmen. We’re in the thick of it, folks, and these freshmen keep bringing it. Lots of basketball to play, but there has been plenty of evidence to say that these young athletes are the real deal. Are they a finished product? Absolutely not. There are still opportunities for failure ahead of them, but they are playing like seasoned vets right now.
- Fletcher is Better: Michigan State students thought they would get under the skin of freshman, Fletcher Loyer’s skin by mocking him about his older brother Foster, who played for 3 years in East Lansing. They chanted “Foster’s better” at him. Bold move. FLETCHER LOYER ended up being directly involved in Purdue’s last 11 points, urging the Boilers past the Spartans. Chef’s kiss.
Opportunities for Improvement:
- 1: The total amount of rebounds that Michigan State exceeded Purdue on Monday. Purdue is the best rebounding team in the NCAA, and by my math, this is the first time that a team has beaten Purdue in the rebound totals. I may be wrong. I am not going to check, because it is late, and I am reaching my deadline with the editor. Needless to say, Purdue normally wins the rebound battle. [Editor’s Note: Ben was close – Marquette was only opponent to out rebound Purdue this season 35-33]
- 1: The amount of fouls given to Zach Edey against Nebraska for passing the ball. Yes. You read that correctly. Zach Edey got called, for a foul, for passing the ball against Nebraska. I have watched this play dozens of times. Edey got called for a foul for passing the ball over his opponent’s head.
- 1: Jump balls called following a lengthy review of an out of bounds call against Michigan State. Initially called out of bounds on Michigan State, a painfully long review at the desk commenced (as is tradition in the Big Ten). Despite normal convention, showing inconclusive evidence to overturn the call, this officiating crew decided to make it up on the spot. They called a jump ball, which is absolutely against the spirit of the review. This is a cowardly call, as they were probably intimidated by the raucous Michigan State fans, and sneering puppet master of a coach. Under no circumstances can this be a jump ball, it is inconclusive evidence, and Purdue ball. By burning the alternating possession, it gives Michigan State the advantage down the stretch. Luckily it worked out for the good guys.
- 1+: Seconds added back to the clock, after Brandon Newman poked away a desperation pass by Michigan State in the waning seconds. Initially showing .5 seconds, the officiating (after a lengthy review, mind you) adjusted the clock to 1.8 seconds. That means that the defensive play only took a fraction of a second off the clock, and allowed Michigan State yet another opportunity.
Big MEN on Campus:
Fletcher Loyer and Zach Edey averaged 22 points for each game this week. Both players flirted with or surpassed 30 points this week, and both were instrumental in Purdue’s two victories. The both get the nod here for BMOC!
Congrats Coach Painter:
In the victory over Nebraska, Matt Painter crested the 400 Big Ten win total, a major milestone in the lore of the conference. Painter, now with 401 victories, is now the fifth winningest coach in Big Ten history, trailing Lew Henson for 4th place.
Likewise, the victory over Nebraska is also the 1900th victory in program history, the first Big Ten team to accomplish that goal, and only 11th program total.
A Look Ahead:
Purdue looks to continue their winning ways by traveling to Minnesota, and the haunted wood of the Barn. The Boilers will take on the Golden Gophers on Thursday the 19th.
Following that, Purdue will return home to take on the Maryland Ninja Turtles on Sunday, 1/22.
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