2/5/2024 Boilermaker Water Cooler Chat: Businesslike Edition

Photo: David Kovich

Rants, ravings, and somewhat sensical opinions following the wild, wacky, and wide-wide world of Purdue sports.

The talking head types don’t do much research. In fairness, they can’t have a superb familiarity with each game that goes on, day in, and day out. There are simply too many games and two few hours to watch them.

That is why I get irritated with box score watchers. The type of talking head who looks at a game’s stats and deduces what happened in the game, while literally having no idea of context. The type of cursory, 9 mile high judgement, that does nothing but spread information that is merely tangentially related to to the truth.

One of the funniest things that I’ve seen, from the 2024 talking head parade is that Purdue’s season is following the exact same trajectory as last season. While, at face value, the parade of early season wins and a number 1 ranking follows the tracks. Losing to inferior opponents, follows as well.

Now I am not sure what will happen to this team come March. Could Purdue lose to another 16 seed? Sure. Could Purdue win the whole damn thing? Absolutely. That is the beauty/horror that can happen in a one and done situation. I can safely say that this year’s team is not following the trajectory as last year’s team.

With the benefit of hindsight, I don’t see how the 2022-2023 Purdue Boilermakers team would survive this week. Their February concerns, the tough games, winning in a tough environment on the road. Winning revenge games against a team that gives you fits. Nope, I am not sure 2022-23 Purdue gets even one win this week.

The 2023-2024 team, however, they packed their briefcase. This week the Boilermakers threw on their best 3 piece suit, marched into the board room, and took care of business.

The Games:

#2 Purdue 105, Northwestern 96 (OT):

Prior to Wednesday’s game, Chris Collins confidently told his game plan to the world. He said that Northwestern bigs have 15 fouls, and that he intends to use them to stop Zach Edey. His confidence, his beaming bleached smile, his wry smile, everything was going to plan. After all, the referees can’t call everything!

When Northwestern used those 15 fouls (and then some) against Purdue, a huge free throw discrepancy grew. Purdue shot some 30 something more free throws than his team. Shocked that his “foul them all and let God sort ’em out” philosophy didn’t work, Collins enacted phase 2 of his plan.

Once the game was well in hand, in a well contrived, scripted moment went haywire, the likes of which only a Tony Award winning thespian could portray. Running onto the floor during live action to scream at Courtney Green. A slew of technical fouls one on Collins the other from super-duper-extra-senior Boo Buie added 4 more free throws to the total.

Collins gets to say he was cheated. Buie gets to follow his coach’s lead. The talking heads get to look at the box score without context. People debate about he officiating instead of the actual reason for the box score. Talking heads talk about anything but the actual game.

Meanwhile, Zach Edey scored 30 points and hauled in 15 rebounds. Lance Jones added 26 points, hitting 2 pivotal threes when Purdue trailed late. Braden Smith had the eye popping stat of the night, scoring 11 points, but dishing out 16 (SIXTEEN!) assists.

Lost in the box score watching is the fact that Northwestern played exceptionally well. As a team they shot 51.9% from 3 (14/27) with 50 points coming from a combined Buie and Berry, and three other players scoring in double digits.

It wasn’t enough, however, what should have been a story about a tough Northwestern squad nearly winning at Mackey Arena, turned into a story about a circus and it’s clown.

Northwestern Photo Gallery: https://snapsbyme.smugmug.com/Purdue-Mens-Basketball/23-24/Northwestern

#2 Purdue 75, #6 Wisconsin 69:

After a relatively slow start, Purdue took the lead with 9:57 left in the first half and held it for the rest of the game. While the lead would fluctuate anywhere from 2 to10 points, Purdue just held the Badgers at arm’s distance, no matter how many expletives were shouted at Zach Edey.

Lance Jones led the way both offensively and defensively, scoring 20 points and holding hot shooting Wisconsin guard AJ Storr to on 14 points. Braden Smith scored 19, Zach Edey had 18, and Fletcher Loyer had 12.

Wisconsin’s Tyler Wahl was a bright spot for the Badgers, going for 20 points and 7 rebounds. He was fearless against Zach Edey, taking it right at him for better or worse.

Break It Down:

Want to know how badly I misread this week?

Against Northwestern my gut told me that Purdue would win a relatively stress free revenge game at Mackey. That was one of the most stressful games that I have watched in recent memories.

On the road at Wisconsin, my gut told me that Purdue would make my blood pressure spike. I didn’t see a win coming. Not only did Purdue win, but they won with relatively little drama.

I was way off.

The way that Purdue stared a loss in the eye and willed themselves to victory against a hot shooting team was impressive. The way that Purdue took care of a top 10 team, in a hostile arena, when Wisconsin was motivated from a recent loss, was incredibly impressive. This team did what they needed to do. They continue to handle their business.

What Went Well:

  • Comeback Kids: Despite leading for much of the game, Purdue found themselves down by 5 points in the waning minutes of the Northwestern game. I personally thought the game was over until Lance Jones drilled two dagger threes to boost Purdue back into the lead, and eventually win the game. Past Purdue teams do not win games in this fashion.
  • 27: Purdue won the rebounding by 27 this week. Purdue continues to punish teams on the boards.
  • 15.8%: Purdue held Wisconsin to just 15.8% from three. There was a concerted effort to make sure a hand was in the face of each Badger shooter.

Opportunities for Improvement:

  • Big Ten Officials: Continue to have problems with the basics. The hook and hold foul, also known as the Issac Haas rule, was implemented due to an injury to a Purdue big man, which derailed a tournament run. This has been a point of emphasis sine the rule was implemented. Big Ten officials had an opportunity, nay a responsibility, to call one against Northwestern as they yanked Zach Edey to the ground. The textbook hook and hold call, was deemed a legal play. Awful miss by the officiating crew there. Someone is going to get hurt (again).
  • 17: Missed free throws against Northwestern will get you beaten the majority of games that happens in. Purdue just got lucky that Northwestern was continually fouling, giving them multiple opportunities to shoot more.

Big Man on Campus:

Back to Back, Lance Jones is the Big Man on Campus again this week. Without his heroics against Northwestern, Purdue doesn’t win. Without his defense against Storr, the Wisconsin game is a different animal. Lance Jones continues to be a key piece for this team, and he continues to endear himself to the Boilermaker faithful.

A Look Ahead:

The Boilermakers will continue to hold at #2 this week, as #1 UConn continues to win.

Purdue also has a bit of a breather this week, with no weekday games. On Saturday the Boilermakers will host Indiana, in the return match from the 87-66 drubbing in Bloomington. While Purdue will be prohibitive favorites, don’t expect another blowout like last time. Indiana’s indisputable ineptitude aside, rivalry games mean something.

I will see you all in Mackey on Saturday! Boiler Up!

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About Benjamin Kolodzinski 105 Articles
Blending the passion of a sports fan with years of media experience, Ben Kolodzinski is a unique personality for ISC Purdue. Since the 2017-18 NCAA seasons, Ben has written weekly columns for ISC, with a style that can only be described as snarky, irreverent, and often times irrelevant. A 2008 graduate from Purdue West Lafayette, Kolodzinski has worked for several local and regional media outlets. Best known for his television and radio work at Lakeshore Public Media (Lakeshore Public Television, and 89.1 The Lakeshore), Kolodzinski helped grow Northwest Indiana's only nightly news show Lakeshore News Tonight, along with The Region's only local sports shows Prep Sports Report, and Prep Football Report. As of 2022, Kolodzinski hosts Lakeshore Gamenight, a prep football radio show and cohosts Lakeshore PBS Scoreboard, a prep football TV highlight show. Kolodzinski is known, locally, for having a fun loving and gregarious personality, and for attempting to inject humor into his reporting... sometimes successfully.

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