Your weekly Purdue Men’s Basketball snark, and other snidbits from around the Boilermaker Universe.
You’ve gotta know when to hold ’em. Know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away, and know when to run. You never count your money when you’re sitting at the table, there’ll be time enough for counting… when the dealin’ is done.
Legendary country singer and fried chicken entrepreneur Kenny Rogers sheds his own folksy wisdom in his hit single ‘The Gambler’, which conjures up the philosophical ramifications of a high stakes gamble in life. That song has been running through my mind for a day or two since Purdue’s most recent loss.
A few years back I sat in Saloon #10 in Deadwood, South Dakota. Being a poker player, this building holds a significance in the gambler’s lore. You know those western movies where a gunfight goes down after a sketchy moment in a poker game? Deadwood was the type of town that it happened in regularly.
Saloon #10 is particularly important. This establishment, known for its thriving night life, women of ill repute, and gambling. It was the quintessential cliche western saloon.
On August 1, 1876 legendary lawman, gunslinger, and all around American Icon, “Wild Bill” Hickock was playing a game of five card stud. He held two pair, the ace of diamonds, the ace of clubs, and a pair of black eights. Aces and eights… Cards which would come to be known as the dead man’s hand.
Now let me tell you something, in a game of stud, two pair is a pretty decent hand. He was probably standing to make a pretty penny on the hand in question. Unfortunately, Wild Bill never got to see his winnings. You see a Mr. Jack McCall, still smarting from losing a small fortune to Hickock the night prior, exacted his revenge at that moment.
In a hail of gunfire, a historical figure was struck down, and the Wild West claimed another soul.
What does this have to do with Purdue basketball? Perfectly fair question.
I am not a particularly accomplished gambler. I’ve won some, and lost some. Every hand is a winner and every hand is a loser. Wild Bill Hickock had his hand won, until he didn’t.
Sports are a strange thing. Purdue had this game won. What are the odds that the worst shooting team in the Big Ten made a handful of three point shots in the waning moments of the game? What are the odds that a rejected shot bounces into the hands of a shooter, who hits one of those threes in the final minutes? What are the odds that the suddenly hot shooter, misses a shot so badly that it banks in to take the lead with a few seconds left? What are the odds that a Big Ten official makes the incorrect call while being out of position to effectively end the game?
Well that last one is pretty high, anyways. A chain reaction of junk plays compounds into fortuitous bounces in which Minnesota capitalized upon and won the game. Purdue couldn’t close it out, but it still took a calamity of bounces to keep the Boilers on the losing end.
In poker, we call that a bad beat. A full house, losing to 4 of a kind, losing to a straight flush. Each of these hands should’ve won in their own right, but sometimes that’s how the cookie crumbles.
Now I am not trying to say that Purdue got Wild Bill Hickock’ed and got murdered by an outside force during the game. What I am saying is that in any sport, whether it be basketball, football, wrestling, boxing, MMA… when you have an opportunity to end the game, you need to do it. When you rely on the gamble, when you depend on the luck of the draw, sometimes those numbers don’t flesh out.
Purdue controlled the game for 38 minutes but could not extend the lead out to an insurmountable total. Notoriously cold shooting Minnesota uncharacteristically drained multiple threes in the final minutes, including the aforementioned shot that missed so badly that it went in, dooming the Boilermakers.
Trevion Williams led the way for Purdue with 24 points and 10 rebounds, but committed a “turnover” on the game winning attempt with 7 seconds remaining, essentially ending the contest. Eric Hunter Jr. looked to be breaking out of his slump by adding 14 points, and Zach Edey played well with 13 points.
It wasn’t enough as Purdue lost 71-68.
Break It Down:
Listen folks, the Big Ten is a meat grinder. Minnesota is a good team. They have spent much of this season ranked, and have Marcus Carr, who is one of the more dynamic players in recent conference memory. Carr is an absolute killer, and he showed it this week.
This game is a combination of 1) Minnesota being a good team, and 2) Purdue piddling down their leg when given the opportunity to close it out.
Purdue is a young team, we get it. Young teams tend to not be able to close things out when times get tough. The frustrating part is that this team has shown the ability to do it. They have a history of finishing these games. They also have a history of being unsuccessful in the same circumstances.
There are no “gimmie” games in the Big Ten. Simply because Purdue laid it on Minnesota a few weeks back, doesn’t mean that they are going to fold. This time the Boilermakers folded. This is a lesson that Painter’s team has learned the hard way. You need to show up for 40 minutes, every night… or things like this will happen.
What Went Well:
- Business Trip for Tre: His 24 and 10 has become expected from him. However, we need to respect how wonderful of a stat line that is. There is a reason that Williams is starting to get “First Team” level of acknowledgement for his success rate.
- Big Boys Gotta Eat: Lets go ahead and add Zach Edey’s 13 to Trevion’s 24 and you get 37 points from the center position, and only 3 turnovers between the two of them. That is 54% of the team’s scoring.
Opportunities for Improvement:
- Eleven point eight: Percent shooting from three point range. ELEVEN POINT EIGHT. That is 2 of 17 for the game. A game in which Purdue lost by ONE point, they shot 2 of 17. Water finds level, and I know this… but its a miracle that Purdue only lost by 1. With that shooting it could’ve just as easily been 20.
- Trevion, Edey, and Hunter… earmuffs: Everyone else didn’t contribute much on the scoring end, particularly on the guard side of the lineup. Sasha 0, Morton 0, Thompson 1, Wheeler 2, Ivey 4, Newman 5, Gillis 5. I fully admit that there is much more to the game than scoring the ball. Gillis had 8 rebounds, and Ivey had 4 assists. Part of the game that is often overlooked is their defense. I will point out that defensively these folks did bring it, and the hustle was there. Off nights scoring doesn’t necessarily mean that there wasn’t contribution.
- Piddle paddle patty cake: Big Ten Basketball isn’t patty cake folks. For the second time in three games, Purdue was in position to close out the game and secure victory. For the second time in three games Purdue went piddle paddle and couldn’t close the door. When the opportunity to end the game comes up it needs to be accomplished… or else you’re back to gambling.
Big Man on Campus:
Due to popular demand, there will be no BMOC named this week. Coffee is for closers.
A Look Ahead:
The rankings come out after the writing of this article, however, I will work under the well deserved presumption that Purdue will not be ranked in this poll.
The Boilers host likewise unranked Michigan State on 2/16. Sparty just recently got housed by Iowa, losing by 30. Knowing Michigan State, I expect some sort of rebound game this week. How much do the Spartan’s bounce back? Will it be enough to intimidate the suddenly gun-shy Boilermakers? However it fleshes out, Purdue should be favorites in this game.
On 2/20 The Boilers will be on the road, traveling to Lincoln to take on the Cornhuskers. Purdue should be huge favorites, however, the Huskers are coming off of a conference victory against Penn State.
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