Your weekly Purdue Men’s Basketball snark, and other snidbits from around the Boilermaker Universe
Randomly, my wife and I saw the movie “Starship Troopers” playing on television, Sunday, and we watched it. The 1997 movie is based off of a 1959 novel, both in which feature an antagonistic alien hoard which resembles insects that lay siege on Earth by shooting asteroids at the planet.
Anyways, one aspect of the book and movie is the propaganda influence of the storyline. The movie follows the pattern of a PSA, or a recruitment video in which the world’s youth are being recruited to join the world army to fight the bugs. The tag line throughout the movie is “I’m doing my part!”
I found this to be particularly applicable to this Purdue squad. Yes, there are leaders on this team who get the majority of the headlines. However, this week will show you one thing; That everyone on this team adds something unique to their product
Whether it be defense, rebounding, post scoring, or three point shooting Purdue has a guy for that. If Purdue needs an assist, a gritty play, a charge to be taken, yep, they have a guy for that too. Just like a worldwide coordinated attack against arachnids from lightyears away which involves an air force, an infantry, navy, some tanks or something… whatever. Each player offers something unique for this squad. All pulling for the same goal, to defeat the insects! I mean, win Big Ten games.
Coming off an inconsistent week, Purdue hosted Michigan State on 2/16. These aren’t your father’s Spartans, as Tom Izzo’s squad was coming off a thirty point loss, and were desperate for a victory. With that in mind, they refused to double team Trevion Williams (because it worked so well the last time). This led to Tre scoring 28 points, in his continued dominance over MSU. Hunter, Ivey, and Edey scored 15, 11, and 10 respectively, as Purdue was victorious 75-65. This concluded a regular season sweep for the Boilermakers over the Spartans.
On 2/20 Purdue finally had the opportunity to play Nebraska. The struggling Cornhusker squad kept it tight for a half, but then the Boilers took over. Jaden Ivey led the way with 15 points, a flurry of dunks, a couple of threes and excellent defensive intensity. Balance was the name of the game, as Sasha Sefanovic had 14, Brendan Newman had 10, Trevion had 9, Edey had 8, Wheeler had 7, Hunter had 6, and all but one player who played scored. All of this led to Purdue winning while running away, 75-58.
Break It Down:
After splitting their last 6 games, Purdue returned to consistent winning, taking both of the games this week. What is impressive is how they’ve done it.
Against MSU the post presence took care of business. Against Nebraska it was attacking the basket, bolstered by long range shooting. Both games had different players who shined when needed. Trevion Williams, Jaden Ivey, Zach Edey, Eric Hunter Jr, Brandon Newman, Isiah Thompson, Sasha Stefanovic, Aaron Wheeler, Mason Gillis, and Ethan Morton all positively influenced the outcome of the contests this week.
This team is multifaceted, because they’ve been forced into it. This season has been chafed by COVID, causing multiple unusual hardships. Multiple players had to miss workouts due to illnesses in the off season. Junior Stalwart guard Eric Hunter Jr started the season with a knee injury. Morton caught mono. Jaden Ivey had foot problems early, and missed weeks of action. Trevion struggled with his production early. The Boilermakers attempted to turn the ball over every play, as young teams tend to do.
Something in this team dynamic changed when Sasha Stefanovic had to miss 17 days of action when he contracted COVID-19. This team grew up.
With one of the best shooters in the B1G out for an extended timeframe, and Purdue needed to learn how to win without him. Rely on the post, sure. Ratchet up the defense, alright. Continue to take care of the ball? Ok. Something bigger happened.
Brandon Newman became a more consistent threat from deep. Jaden Ivey, found his spark and began taking the ball to the hoop, forcing the action with his athleticism. Eric Hunter stepped his game up, and Trevion Williams hit his stride.
Missing an upperclassman leader, and key cog to the team, can cause a young team to fold. This team became galvanized.
As of the writing of this article, Purdue sits firmly in 5th place in the Big Ten standings, just behind Iowa. If you asked me at the beginning of the year where Purdue would be sitting at this point, and you said “a game out of a double bye in the Big Ten Tournament.” I would have called you crazy. Here we are.
Photo Credit: Mark Elsner
What Went Well:
- Splashanovic: With the combination of the COVID layoff and a slow ramp-up following the illness, Sasha hadn’t hit a field goal in over a month. He decided to make up for that in the span of a few minutes of game time. Hitting 4 threes late in the second half to seal the game is an encouraging sign for the sharpshooter. He’s now seen them go in, and now its, hopefully, off to the races.
- Welcome to Dunk City, population Boilermakers: Finishing the ball hard at the rim holds major importance in the game of Basketball. Not only is the dunk the highest percentage shot in the sport, but it also creates a psychological warfare aspect psyching your team up, while intimidating your opponent. Just off of the top of my head, the following Boilermakers had a slam this week that stood out in my mind: Trevion Williams, Zach Edey, Jaden Ivey, Brandon Newman, Aaron Wheeler… did I miss anyone? Bueller? Finish strong at the rim, and keep that score board moving!
- Getting there…: Against Nebraska, the 3 ball began to fall yet again, despite a long sabbatical from the Purdue team. 5 players hit a 3 pointer, with Stefanovic, Ivey, and Newman hitting multiple shots. The percentage continues to be low, but seeing them fall will force defenses to stretch, opening the floor up.
Opportunities for Improvement:
- 50: The percentage of free throws that Purdue shot against Nebraska. For a team that made over 20 and only missed 1 in a game this year, missing 5 of 10 is not good. Free throws are free for a reason. Luckily the Boilermakers didn’t need them this game.
- 14: Turnovers against Nebraska. This, like the free throw misses, is a bit concerning. Boilers need to take care of business. Again, luckily, Purdue didn’t get bit on these against Nebraska.
- DJ Carstensen Led Crew: Bo Boroski is renowned for his questionable ability as a Big Ten Basketball official. He is consistently bad, and loves watching himself review a play in the waning minutes of any matchup that he graces us with. He’s bad, but at least he is consistent. DJ Carstensen is chaos embodied into a 6’7″ referee with a shaved head. He is bad, yes, but unlike Boroski, there is no logic or reason to Carstensen’s ineptitude. Will the call be right? Who knows! Will there be logic to his call? Probably not! Are you afraid? Yes! When Purdue was extending their lead against Michigan State, it was almost like a light switch got flipped for this crew. 50/50 calls went against the Boilermakers. Questionable calls went in favor of MSU. Blatantly incorrect calls started flying around like confetti. Absolute chaos, I tell you. CHAOS! One call in particular really stood out…
- In the second half against MSU, Jaden Ivey was making a play on the ball right in front of Purdue’s rim. The MSU defender hip checked Ivey while he was jumping, causing Jaden to twist in air, and land flat back bumped on the ground in the middle of the lane. Clearly, Ivey was called for the foul. Why? You’d have to speak with DJ here, I guess. I presume Ivey bounced off the ground at such force that he bumped a rebounding Spartan player, causing him to be off balanced.
- In order for the physics to work on this foul, Ivey would have had to intentionally attempted to flip in the lane in order to bounce off the ground as hard as possible in order to damage his opponent. The equivalent of Sonic the Hedgehog jumping onto one of those spring-loaded bumpers to strike a foe. Except, instead of a video game of an andromorphic hedgehog using a spring-loaded bumper to gain an advantage while searching for Chaos Emeralds… there was an actual human being with bones and flesh being shoved to the floor, bouncing, and fouling his opponent, living in a chaotic wasteland of a Carstensen called game. Alright, so maybe this is a slight exaggeration… but it is not as drastic of an exaggeration as it should be.
Big Man On Campus:
Jaden Ivey. I can’t heap enough praise on this young man as he is growing into a stud this season. This week Ivey flexed on his opponents. Whether it be dunking the ball, rebound-dunking the ball, draining threes, stealing the ball, creating space for and assisting his teammates to score… He has done everything that Purdue needs.
It was no secret that Ivey was highly regarded coming into the year, but he is surpassing my expected impact. His athleticism was on full display this week, showing why we Purdue fans have a star on our hands.
A Look Ahead:
Purdue only has one game next week. On 2/26 Purdue heads to Penn State, in a return match from the 80-72, too close for comfort, victory in Mackey Arena on January 17th.
Penn State is struggling this year, but they are a still a very talented team with players that can cause Purdue problems. Who knows, maybe Purdue will bring the wrong jerseys this trip, causing chaos with Penn State having to change uniforms 10 minutes before game time, making it so the Nittany Lions don’t have time to warm up… But then again, that would be ridiculous.
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