Your weekly Purdue Men’s Basketball snark, and other snidbits from around the Boilermaker Universe.
Sometimes, there are fleeting opportunities that pop up that are the, ‘once in a lifetime’ type things. In these ‘uncertain’ times our way of life has been disrupted.
You all know my history. I have been going to Purdue sporting events since I was in diapers. I have been to hundreds of basketball and football games in my 35 years on earth in God’s country. This pandemic threatened all of our abilities to attend our favorite events on campus this season.
As if my attendance at a Purdue sporting event is important enough to matter in grand scheme of these trying times. There are plenty of more important things to worry about… However, I have digressed
In the pandemic world of 2020-21, I had an opportunity to cover the Iowa at Purdue football game to kick of the 2020 season. It was surreal, watching and covering a football game in a stadium that was essentially empty. A place in which I have seen thousands of loud, passionate fans urge my Boilermakers to victory, I got to see a game played there, in essential silence.
I knew if the situation presented itself, that I would relish the opportunity to cover a game in Mackey.
Since I was a toddler, I have had a fascination with Mackey Arena. The domed roof. The intensity. The noise. The history. The success. It has always been my favorite place on earth.
Saturday, I had the opportunity to represent this great blog, Indiana Sports Coverage, and USA Today in covering a game in a COVID-19 pandemic laden season. One of the greatest, and strangest two hours of my life.
Some 200+ fans in attendance, and a few dozen media folk, Mackey Arena was a shell of what I remember it as. Like a beast that has been caged, Mackey had lost some of its bite. The thing about beasts, however, are that even if they are caged, they are still powerful. This building, this monument to basketball, this monster filled with boiling intensity, sat there and watched. For one season Mackey Arena is not the attraction, it is the fan.
Like a wise old lion, this golden building towered over this game. Watching life operate within it. This tremendous beast, still strong with years of attrition, enjoyed watching his cubs play.
Mackey knows that soon he will roar again. For now, however, he sit and waits. Watching his pride grow stronger by the day.
On Saturday night, both Purdue and #21 Minnesota braved a snowstorm in order to do battle in Mackey Arena. The game, although exciting, was quite lopsided. Frankly, when a ranked team takes on an unranked team, things like this happen…
By “things” I mean that Purdue won by nearly 20, while being unranked, continuing their recent success against ranked foes.
It wasn’t easy, as the Boilermakers were down early. Following a strong field goal by Minnesota Senior Brandon Johnson, the Golden Gophers were up by 14 in the waning minutes of the first half. Johnson quite literally flexed in the face of Purdue. Alpha move by the senior leader. Bold.
Motivated by that humiliation, or by the fact that the rust of a long layoff was breaking off, that is the point when the Boilers took over. By taking it to the hoop, Purdue turned a 14 point deficit into 5 points by half. The Boilers took that 5 point deficit, and turned it into a 19 point lead by the end of the contest. Moral of the story, if you’re going to show up your opponent, best make sure you have the stuff to close the game out.
Brandon Newman went nuclear, dropping 29 including 5 of 6 from the 3 point line. Trevion Williams had a tremendous game as well scoring 17 points and snaring 14 rebounds. Mason Gillis added 11 and had a series of hustle/glue plays that kept Purdue alive.
The Boilers continue their uncomfortable trend of dropping behind by double digits but roaring back in order to take a late lead. This time, down by 14 pts with 7 minutes left in the first half, to winning by 19, with a 62-81 final score.
What Went Well:
- Youthful exuberance: Purdue continues to garner tremendous support from the freshmen on the roster. Brandon Newman was excellent, bombing from deep and scoring 29 points. Mason Gillis added a gritty 11 points. Jaden Ivey continues to be a spark plug on the floor. Edey had a strong showing in the post while spelling Trevion. The future is bright, folks!
- The dead don’t die: For like the millionth straight game, Purdue slipped into a double digit deficit in the first half. It seems like the majority of those games, the resilient Boilers decide to come back and win the game. I think that I can speak for Boilermakers everywhere by saying, life will be much easier if Purdue just decided not to, you know, get down by double digits. However, the fight shown to come back is something to be incredibly proud of.
- Boilermaker Hospitality: Just like my experience at Ross Ade this season, the Purdue University Athletics Department has some of the nicest and most efficient workers imaginable for their sporting events. I can’t speak highly enough about how welcoming and helpful these folks are for folks like myself. Greatly appreciated, folks! Keep up the great work! Absolutely the best in the business!
Opportunities for Improvement:
- Laying a brick wall…: Shooting 0% from 3 for a half of basketball will eventually get Purdue beat. While the shooting woes and slow starts haven’t exactly nailed Purdue yet… rest assured, they will.
- Seems like a pattern…: Minnesota is not known for their 3 point shooting prowess. In the first half, they were on clip to shoot over double their season percentage of 29.9%. Sometimes your opponent is just hot. Other times there are defensive lapses. Whichever it is, it appears that Purdue opponents seem to go on crazy-hot shooting stretches that go well beyond the ebb and flow of a normal basketball game.
Big Man On Campus:
Another week, another freshman with the honors. Valparaiso, IN freshman Brandon Newman is quickly becoming a star in the Big Ten.
In the absence of sharpshooter Sasha Stefanovic, someone needed to step up. Newman answered that call and then some.
With 29 points, on 9-14 shooting, including 5-6 from 3. Newman continued to be exemplary from the free throw line shooting 6-6, a cool 100%.
Speaking of Free Throws:
One of these days we’ll chat about the Valpo freethrow and why it is the standard for shooting the freebies. Having grown up in Valpo, and having played many years of basketball, the Valpo freethrow is a real thing. It is excellent. I have it burned into my memory. Just ask fellow Valparaiso Viking, Robbie Hummel how free throws go.
A Look Ahead:
Purdue heads to Maryland on 2/2 in a rematch from their Christmas Day tilt.
Following that rematch, Purdue takes on the recently struggling Northwestern Wildcats at home on 2/6.
Purdue should be a favorite in each of these contests.
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…