Rants, ravings, and somewhat sensical opinions following the wild, wacky, and wide-wide world of Purdue sports.
In Indiana, basketball is a religious experience. I grew up in a decent sized city, but have since moved to a one stoplight town to root my family after I got married. We have some 2000 residents, two restaurants, two bars, two gas stations, two places to buy beer, and one Dollar General.
I remember a few years ago, during what was called a “polar vortex,” temperatures dropped double digits below zero. In some areas emergencies were declared. Other towns cancelled schools. Most well adjusted people sat at home and hunkered down next to a fireplace, covering themselves in many blankets to wait this out.
Not my town. No sir. You see, the local high school had a successful basketball program. Despite -15 degree temperatures, a thousand fans, students, and community members crammed the bandbox sized gym to watch the local team take on their next foe. Half of the community braved life threatening cold in order to watch their boys run, jump, dribble, pass, and shoot. I couldn’t believe my eyes at the turnout.
You see, basketball in Indiana is a different breed. There is something romantic about the sport in our neck of the woods. There are basketball hoops in front of a huge portion of houses. There are many examples of the old cliché, baskets hanging on a barn, within 5 miles of our house. Not a day goes by without the local kids putting together a driveway pickup game, so long as it is dry out.
Basketball is a religion in Indiana.
Growing up as a fan, you had two choices in this state. You had Purdue and you had Indiana. Sure there are other programs in the state, but these were the two that people really cared about. In the 80s and 90s, I grew up in the midst of the Keady vs Knight feud, who’s legendary battles brought the century old rivalry to new heights. While the steam has been taken out of the rivalry as of late, there is still something special when the Hoosiers and the Boilermakers meet.
A chilly February evening, in the heart of Indiana, two teams met for bragging rights. One of my favorite days of the year. All eyes in the state on 94 feet of hardwood. Only to watch a thorough beat down of a once proud program.
I love it. A perfect Saturday.
#2 Purdue 79, Indiana 59:
Purdue struggled early, as the Indiana Hoosier squad played an efficient 10 minutes to open the game, keeping it close. What followed was entirely the works of a superior team imposing its will on a program that still can’t figure out its identity.
Zach Edey led the way with his regular yeoman effort, scoring 26 while pulling in 13 rebounds. Bookending his performance was Braden Smith, adding 19 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals. Mason Gillis went 3 for 6 from three, providing a boost from off the bench, draining some shots to shut the door on any Indiana thought of a comeback.
Defensively, Purdue kept the Hoosiers confused, turning them over 12 times, on 10 steals. The Boilermakers outrebounded IU by 15, and limited the Hoosiers second chance points to 4 for the entire game.
IU Photo Gallery: https://snapsbyme.smugmug.com/Purdue-Mens-Basketball/23-24/Indiana
Break It Down:
Purdue achieved a quad 3 victory on Saturday, handily beating the Hoosiers at home. What was a 20 point victory had the DNA of a 30+ point victory, if Purdue hadn’t essentially goofed around for the last 10 minutes. They did so intentionally, as IU never really threatened the Boilers following the first few minutes of the game. This led to alley-oop attempts, three point shots, and a generally relaxed demeanor out there. Had the Boilermakers kept their foot on the gas, this would have been even uglier.
We’ve gotten this far into the article and I haven’t addressed the elephant in the room. The national trending headline. The thing that everyone is talking about. Yes, my friends, it happened. It happened. IT.
I went to college for communication. I have been a journalist for nearly 20 years. I have a penchant for finding the right words to illustrate my feelings on things. At the 6:35 point of the second half, with the Boilermakers up by 25, Braden Smith and Zach Edey called an audible.
Coming out of a timeout, Edey told Braden Smith to look for him on the pop. Painter had no idea. Mackey Arena had no idea. Indiana had no idea. From the top of the key Zach Edey took, and banked home his first career three pointer.
It was a moment of which I can only describe from my two decades of media punditry as “apeshit bananas”. The cathartic instant of the (soon to be) two time National Player of the Year, scoring his first 3 pointer (on only his second attempt) against his emasculated, embarrassed in state rival, at home, in (presumably) his final regular season game against the Hoosiers… Some things are just too perfect.
Basketball in Indiana. You have to love it.
What Went Well:
- Mackey Arena: Is the best damn atmosphere in the world. The Paint crew was lining up for hours before the game, creating a wall of humanity that I had to wade through two+ hours before tip to get my media credential. I knew we were in for a special day when I saw thousands upon thousands of individuals out there hours before the game started.
- 9: Players scored for the Boilermakers. While there was heavy weighting on the Edey/Smith side of things, its good to see contributions from the bench.
- Gillis: Shot 50% for the game on his 3 point attempts (3/6). He looked confident shooting them as well, working for his jumper and seeking his shot.
- TKR: Matt Painter’s philosophy coming out from halftime was to feed the ball to Trey Kauffman-Renn. A bucket or two quickly followed, but what was more important was that the fouls started to mount. IU was selling out to stop Zach Edey with Kel’el Ware. With Malik Reneau covering TKR, there was blood in the water.
- 20.5: Average margin of victory for Purdue over IU this year in the regular season sweep of the Hoosiers. This is the first time that the sweeping team has won by 20+ points in each game since 1934. That’s 90 years.
Opportunities for Improvement:
- 63.6%: Free throw shooting is starting to be a bit of concern. Purdue missed 12 free throws, with Zach Edey missing 5 of his 16, and Trey Kauffman-Renn missing 3 of his 4. Boilermakers are a good FT shooting team, but the last few games they seem to be struggling.
- 0-7: Purdue’s start for the game shooting from deep to start the game was getting a bit frustrating. Streakiness happens from skilled teams, but against an offensively competent opponent this could cause a huge problem down the line. Luckily water found its level, as Purdue ended the game at a respectable 38.1% for the game.
- No Emotion Allowed!!: This week, Lance Jones got a technical foul for presumably hyping up the crowd after a tense interaction against the Hoosiers. Last week Braden Smith got a stern talking to from an official for celebrating a good play.
Big Man On Campus:
“People count out his athleticism a lot, and he’s a really good athlete. He’s just short.”Zach Edey, on Braden Smith in the post game press conference.
“Personally, I think I’m the right height…”Braden Smith, on Zach Edey’s press conference comment
This exchange, with tongue firmly placed in cheek, garnered some good laughs at the press conference, showcased the fun that this team has. This week was Braden Smith’s time to shine, as he imposed his will on the hapless Hoosiers.
Braden was aggressive in the first half, hunting for his shot, and burying IU before they had a chance to really do anything. His 19 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals were the true difference in this game.
He was playing like his hair was on fire, showing aggression and doing absolutely everything right all night. The future All American (and apparent #11 on the Cousy Award List), is excelling in his roll.
One More Thing:
I live in Northwest Indiana, so I don’t get the chance to cover as many games in person as I would like to. With balancing my day job, my local media obligations, and travel, it gets difficult sometimes. This weekend I was blessed with the opportunity to cover this game at Mackey Arena.
I think it merits a special thank you to the Purdue Athletic Department. They continue to run a tight ship with excellent hospitality for their media members. I’ve had the opportunity to cover events at many high school, college, and professional levels. Purdue’s Athletic Department continues to be one of the best in the business.
So, a special thanks to the Athletic Department for everything you for the players, fans, and journalists alike.
A Look Ahead:
The #2 Boilermakers will continue to hold on to their ranking, as #1 UConn continues to win.
The Big Ten season is rounding into shape. As of the writing of this article, Purdue commands a 2 game lead over after Illinois lost to Michigan State this past weekend. With 7 games left in the regular season, if Purdue does what they need to do, Big Ten Championship 26 is within reach.
On Thursday 2/15 Purdue will host Minnesota. The Golden Gophers are playing better as this season continues to roll on. Purdue should be big favorites over the visitors from the north.
On Sunday 2/18 Purdue will travel to Ohio State. The Buckeyes have been playing poorly the last few weeks, but you never know what can happen on the road in the Big Ten. REGARDLESS, Purdue should still be favored vs the Buckeyes.
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