Your weekly Purdue Men’s Basketball snark, and other snidbits from around the Boilermaker Universe.
In the ISC Purdue text stream, we were talking about our favorite Purdue vs IU moments. Having watched, literally, every single Purdue vs IU game since the 1980s, there are plenty for me to choose from.
For my son’s 14th birthday present, the only thing he wanted was to get tickets to the Purdue vs IU game at Mackey Arena. Apparently, I had brainwashed him correctly. Just a few days past his birthday, Romeo Langford waltzed into town as the #25 Indiana Hoosiers braved a blizzard to take on the homestanding Boilermakers. The date was 1/19/2019, and Mackey Arena was a furnace on a cold winter day.
IU fans had been telling me that Romeo Langford was, probably, the greatest basketball player in the history of the world. He was an irresistible force and he was going to steamroll the Boilers.
Being used to having high school arenas fawn over him, and Ass. Hall cheering him on, he didn’t understand the vitriol that was heading his way. For the first time in his life he was going to play in an arena, filled with people who detest him. Yep, it was a rough game for the young phenom.
The group of early 20 something IU fans who sat in front of me were particularly entertaining. Bragging about how recent history, the Hoosiers were dominating the series. I knew that we would have a fun afternoon dealing with these guys. Of the four guys, three were pretty alright. The fourth was inebriated, and definitely had his game face on, hurling the standard insults about banners around our section of seating, we all rolled our collective eyes at him. (From this point forward, I will refer to this young man as Mr. Gameface.)
As the Boilers slowly and methodically built a lead, Romeo Langford was struggling. 14 thousand plus fans were laughing at his ineptitude, and Mr. Gameface stood up, taunting the crowd, in some sort of WWE heel move… for some reason. As if, in some sort of heroic act of sacrifice, he could dive on the grenade of boo’s being lobbed at his fair Romeo. His fellow Hoosier fans urging him to cool it down a bit, after all, the Hoosiers were losing pretty convincingly at this point.
During the game, Romeo Langford scored 4 points, a far cry from the greatest basketball player in human history. Likewise, during the game, he missed all 4 free throws that he attempted.
I am not sure which free throw it was that he missed, but I remember one vividly. It was in the second half, I think. Anyways, after the ball careened off the rim it was eventually corralled by Carsen Edwards. Carsen, the showman that he was, checked the ball for foreign substances, like an umpire checking a baseball for Vaseline. Clearly the greatest basketball player in history couldn’t have missed yet ANOTHER free throw without some substance gumming the works. The arena popped.
Mr. Gameface popped as I yelled “He checked the ball!” amidst the laughter in our section. Voice cracking, he leapt to his feet and spouted profanities. He stormed to the aisle, and disappeared into the concourse. His fellow IU fans, through muffled giggles, apologized to surrounding fans and children for their buddy’s behavior. Mr. Gameface never re-emerged from the concourse.
We walked back to the Union Club Hotel where we were staying that night. He and I celebrated down the street at Mad Mushroom, with a pitcher and a pie. Well, I had the pitcher, he and I shared the pie.
That is what this game does. It creates memories. Was this the most exciting game in Purdue/IU history? Nah. Was it a last second half court buzzer beating heave that won the game? Nope. Was it competitive? Not at all. A blizzard, a Boilermaker victory, a tantrum throwing IU fan, a pitcher, a pizza, a father and a son. In Indiana, this is a way of life.
As he turned 16 this week, my boy is growing up. In a different way this Boilermaker squad is growing up. Time is constant, and growth is inevitable. It’s just life.
On 1/14/21, Purdue went to the town down south, to visit Assembly Hall. Trevion Williams took the Hoosiers to school, scoring 22 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. His double double was flanked by great guard play. Jaden Ivey scored 13, Brandon Newman scored 12, and Eric Hunter added 11. Boilers win the game 81-69.
Purdue has now won 5 straight in Assembly Hall, and 8 straight for the series. This is the longest winning streak in the series since John Wooden played for the Boilermakers (Don’t tell Mr. Gameface) in the 1920s. As of the writing of this article, it has been 1793 days since IU has defeated Purdue in men’s basketball. Ho hum.
On 1/17/21, Purdue played their first game at home since Christmas. Pregame, Penn State’s equipment manager packed their light gray jerseys… which is essentially a home color. Because of this, Purdue was forced to change their uniforms at the last minute. Time was up, and Purdue did not have the time to warm up for the game. Purdue handled this adversity by playing like a team… that didn’t warm up for the game.
All 5 of Purdue’s starters scored in double figures. Stefanovic 15, Hunter 14, Williams and Newman both scored 13, and Mason Gillis added 12. Balance is the name of the game!
Purdue, however, gave up 23 (twenty three!) offensive rebounds, including 10 (ten!) to John Harrar alone. Those offensive rebounds, 9 missed free throws, and a series of panic-turnovers against the press kept the game close. A game that could have been a Purdue blow out was down to 4 points in the waning moments. Regardless, Boilers end up winning 80-72.
What Went Well:
- Rounding into form: Something has clicked in Trevion Williams. Early season struggles are long forgotten, as Tre is producing both on and off the court. Scoring aside, Tre is a coach on the floor out there. He is pulling these younger players aside and having words with them. When things are getting chippy, he calms his teammates down. In interviews, Tre answers the questions like a coach would. Folks, we should be very happy that this young man is a Boilermaker.
- 64.7: Is the Boilermaker shooting percentage against he Hoosiers. It is difficult to lose when shooting that well from 3.
- Age and maturity: The Boilermaker freshmen are hitting their stride and paying fearlessly against some good competition. Purdue needs killers, the type of player who will end it. These guys aren’t there yet, but with a little bit more experience, they will be.
Opportunities for Improvement:
- Speaking of killers…: Purdue could’ve used someone to close the game out against Penn State. Even though the Boilermakers were firmly leading by double digits in the second half, poor turnovers allowed the Nittany Lions to float around and stay in the game.
- Speaking of turnovers…: Turnovers nearly allowed IU to come back in their game as well. Over a string of a few minutes to end the first half, Purdue essentially handed the ball to the Hoosiers who were begging for a spark to get back into the game. The Boilers obliged to that request. Although Purdue responded, it is always best to close that door before the opponent walks through it.
- Speaking of walking through doors…: If you have an opportunity to close it behind you, do it. Closing the door on a defensive possession is a key cog in winning basketball games. Purdue allowing 23 offensive rebounds, including 4 on the first possession of the game speaks to a lack of hustle. Rebounding is heart and effort. There is nothing worse than grinding on the defensive end for 29 seconds, only to allow the other team to have another shot on an offensive board.
Big Man on Campus:
Brandon Newman may not have led the team in scoring this week, but the Valparaiso native played inspired basketball.
Against IU he scored 12, had 6 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block, and 1 assist.
Against Penn State he scored 13, with 5 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 1 assist.
25pts, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks, 2 steals, and 2 assists on the week. Likewise, he is playing fearless on the big stage. Newman is wise beyond his years, and I can’t wait to see him continue to mature this season.
A Look Ahead:
Well, well, well… If it wasn’t for the Nebraska game being postponed, Purdue could have been staring at 4 straight wins right now.
As they stand right now, the Boilermakers are tied for 4th Place (fourth!) in the BigTen at 5-3. You read that correctly.
- First Place (tie): Michigan and Iowa @ 6-1
- Third Place: Wisconsin Badgers @ 5-2
- Fourth Place (tie): Ohio State, Illinois, and Purdue @ 5-3
- The Rest: The Rest
In order for the Boilers to stay in the top portion of the B1G standings, they will have a tall order ahead of them. On 1/19 Purdue travels to Ohio State on short rest, to play their 5th out of 6 on the road. On 1/22 Purdue will host Michigan, who looks to be one of the best out there in the conference. Boilers will, more than likely, be underdogs in both of these games.
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