Rants, ravings, and somewhat sensical opinions following the wild, wacky, and wide-wide world of Purdue sports.
Sport, in general, is a metaphor for a fight. In any boxing match, MMA bout, wrestling match… you trade “punches” back and fourth. Normally the toughest fighter comes out on top, but strikers have a chance. Nothing is carved into stone, but if you prepare, you put yourself in position to succeed.
Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes you get punched in the mouth. Sometimes you punch someone in the mouth. At the end of the day, you shake hands and call it a day. It is tough, grueling, but in the end the athletes are stronger, and live to fight another day.
Also, sometimes the head coach of Michigan open hand slaps a Wisconsin assistant coach in the handshake line, following a late game timeout.
Uh, I’ve digressed.
Anyways, following the gauntlet that this Purdue team has been pushed through, the fight shown this week has been incredible. Battle hardened, Purdue looked tough and gritty this week, taking care of business.
#5 Purdue 70, Northwestern 64: Zach Edey had 14 and was unstoppable early. He was bookended by 11 points each from Erich Hunter Jr. and Mason Gillis, as Purdue built a lead, and held Northwestern at arms reach. While the game was “close” by points standard, the contest was never really in doubt.
Rutgers 72, #5 Purdue 84: The suddenly invincible Rutgers Scarlet Knights were on a roll destroying a slew of ranked teams, and riding a 4 game winning streak against Purdue. That momentum came to an end, at least temporarily, as Purdue punched the scrappy New Jersey team in the mouth, and peppered them into submission. Jaden Ivey scored 25, including the most incredible dunk that I have seen in person, in the nearly 4 decades of watching basketball. Zach Edey had 15, Williams and Stefanovic added 11, and Gillis scored 10. Purdue got out to a lead, held it, took care of business at home.
Break it Down:
Purdue continues to win, bringing their record to a gaudy 24-4, one of the best records in their lengthy history.
I had an opportunity to be in attendance on Sunday for the Rutgers game, this time as a fan. Sitting next to two of my good buddies we enjoyed some refreshments, and took in the stunning Mackey Atmosphere. When everything clicks in “Our House” it truly is a magical experience. Spending that time cutting loose with two friends is always a nice experience. The Paint Crew is incredible, and I love their influence on the game.
Putting being a “fanboy” aside, the eye test is telling a story that the analytics are not. This Purdue team is improving defensively. No, they’re not the ’85 Bears, but they have been able to impose their will, at least in bursts, against Northwestern and suddenly surging Rutgers squad. This is the improvement that Purdue needs, and hopefully things continue to click on the defensive end.
What Went Well:
- Slump Buster: Jaden Ivey broke out of his mini slump the past few games by literally dunk-facing Rutgers. He looked motivated, and was the alpha on the floor. Excellent sign going forward, as hopefully Jaden realizes that he is -literally- the alpha on the floor every game.
- Mason Gillis, Man of Steel: He is everywhere, and has become the swiss army knife of this team. Players such as Brian Cardinal and Grady Eifert come to mind, as Gillis is getting rebounds, playing tough defense, and draining the open 3 regularly. He is well on his way to becoming a folk legend in Purdue basketball history if he can continue on this trajectory.
- Consider it, Broken: “Break-That-Press! Break-That-Press!” My buddies and I literally chanted during the Rutgers game on Sunday. First and foremost, I apologize to the fans around us who were probably annoyed by that that. Secondly, Purdue handled the press very well against Rutgers. A misstep here and there will happen, that’s what presses are meant to do. Our Boilermakers only turned the ball over one time against the press on Sunday, a great sign.
Big Man on Campus:
Eric Hunter Jr. has turned into the rock solid PG that Purdue has needed. He worked through his early struggles, and has returned to the player who helped lead this team the past few years.
In the two games this week, Hunter scored 18 points and had 0 (zero) turnovers. Love seeing this from a fan favorite. Excellent leadership from the senior!
One Final Thing:
I alluded to this earlier, but I figure that I might as well just go all in.
Juwan Howard has become a national joke following his antics against #15 Wisconsin following Michigan’s 77-63 loss.
In case you do not know, Howard did not appreciate Greg Gard calling a timeout, late in the game, against a pressing Michigan team (Literally. A timeout spurred all of this). So, in the handshake line a verbal altercation between Howard and Gard, eventually turned physical as the 6’9″ coach took a swing at Wisconsin assistant coach, Joe Krabbenhoft, striking him with an open hand before being restrained by Michigan staff. Meanwhile further skirmishes around the floor broke out, apparently following the lead of Howard.
Lest we forget, in 2021, Juwan Howard made physical advances towards then Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon during a timeout in their Big Ten Tournament matchup. Howard needed to be restrained, before that tense moment led to further escalation.
We have a pattern here, folks. Twice in as many years, Howard has been out of control and taking the metaphoric “sport” fight and either has or attempted to turn it into a literal fight.
He is supposed to be a leader. He is supposed to be guiding young men forward professionally. He is supposed to be a father figure. He is supposed to be better than this. He failed his #1 goal as a coach… be a responsible, respectable leader for his student athletes.
I am reminded of an old ball coach who, many moons ago, also punched an opponent. Funny enough, it was Ohio State, Michigan’s big-heated rival. You see, in 1978, highly decorated coach Woody Hayes punched a Clemson player in the 4th quarter of the Gator Bowl. He was promptly fired by the Ohio State Athletic Director, Hugh Hindman.
So, the next few days will be interesting. What type of disciplinary action will take place for Juwan Howard? He has absolutely embarrassed his team, and his university. The real question is pretty simple…
Who has more guts? Ohio State in 1978, or Michigan in 2022? We shall see, but I am willing to bet that Ohio State will win yet again.
*Purdue-NW Photo Gallery:
**Purdue-Rutgers Photo Gallery:
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