2/7/2022 Boilermaker Water Cooler Chat: Uphill Climb Week

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

Each season, every team goes through this stretch. The “on paper” hardest portion of the schedule, where a series of good teams pack into overloaded weeks. For Purdue, this is that stretch.

Five games in eleven days, gives Purdue tournament feel. Starting with a game on the cursed wood of the Barn in Minnesota, and closing out with Maryland on the 13th, Purdue has, and will continue to play some doozies of games.

What was originally a tough stretch was made more difficult, as the Kevin Warren led Big Ten decided to shoehorn a return-game against Michigan in the midst of this hell week, forcing the Wolverines and Boilermakers to play a home-and-home with only 4 full days in between. Before the Boilermakers head to Ann Arbor, they host Illinois on Tuesday, just two days prior.

This is madness. Purdue is in the midst of “hell week” and so far, they keep pushing forward.

Former British Prime Minister, wartime leader, and fellow booze enthusiast Winston Churchill had a saying that has always stuck with me, and it is pretty appropriate for the Boilers.

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Photo: Mark Elsner

The Games:

#4 Purdue 88, Minnesota 73: Jaden Ivey and Eric Hunter Jr. scored 21 and 20 points respectively, as Purdue got out big, and kept Minnesota at arm’s length, for a 15 point, uneventful, road victory.

Michigan 76, #4 Purdue 82: A game that paradoxically felt both closer to, and not as close as the final score indicated, Purdue essentially controlled from the tip. Jaden Ivey went all dunky on the Wolverines, as Trevion Williams and Zach Edey did battle with Hunter Dickinson. Dickinson poured in an extremely impressive, game high, 28 points. Unfortunately for the former Purdue recruit, it wasn’t quite enough, despite being a stud.

Photo: Mark Elsner

Break It Down:

Two more games, two more victories.

While defeating Minnesota isn’t a particular shocker, beating them on the road has been a difficult venture for the Boilermakers lately. Likewise, the most infamous moment in Purdue Basketball history happened on that floor, so leaving Minneapolis with no literal scars, is excellent news.

Defeating Michigan at home is more impressive. Looking at Michigan’s record doesn’t necessarily tell the whole tale. The Wolverines are one of the most talented teams in the Big Ten, if not in the nation. While things haven’t quite clicked for them this season, they are still a very good team, playing for their NCAA tournament lives. They will have two chances to defeat a top 5 team within a week, but they dropped the first. Look for a battle next go round.

Boilermakers have now sit at 20-3 on the season, having won 5 in a row, and 8 out of their last 10. They are sitting pretty, with plenty of opportunities ahead.

What Went Well:

  • Eric Hunter Jr.: EHJ has returned to the starting lineup, and has absolutely found his stride the last few games. Whether it be filling up the stat sheets, playing good defense, and hitting his free throws late, he is everything that Purdue has wanted and needed this season.
  • Mason Gillis: Gillis has proven to be one of the most efficient players in the nation this season. Shooting 56% from the floor (51% from 3), and 88% from the free throw stripe, Mason is quite steady. His defensive presence and clutch ability to grab a timely rebound has turned me into a huge fan. He has won Purdue some games this year, and will continue to do so.
  • Defense is getting there: Eye test, folks. While Purdue is slowly trending the right direction on the Adjusted Defensive Efficiency metric, or whatever -mathematic- concept you use, the eye test is fleshing out. The wide open 3s are not as common. Help is getting better. On the whole, opponents are relying on last second 3s to assure a scoring possession. Things are improving.

Big Man on Campus:

The scary part about Jaden Ivey is that he is continuing to improve. Whenever you have the ball in your hands as frequently as he does, mistakes happen. His mistakes are lessening, and his dominating plays are expanding. There is a reason that the NBA scouts are drooling over him.

Scoring 21 and 23 points, respectively, this week has shown that he is consistently bringing it. This week, his shot may not have been there, but he found a way to jam the ball home, with authority. Special week for a special talent.

A Look Ahead:

Hell Week continues, folks!

On Tuesday, Purdue will host #18 (as of this writing) Illinois. If you happen to consume national sports talk, which I tend to dabble in, Illinois is the hot-trendy-cliche-OMG-best team in the B1G- picks from many talking heads. Purdue has already beaten them at home, none the less, the narrative persists. In fairness, Illinois is currently ahead of Purdue by 1 game in the standings, and have been impressive to this point. Tuesday is a HUGE Game!

On Thursday, the Big Ten rescheduled/crammed the return Michigan game to Ann Arbor. As mentioned previously, Michigan is a tremedously talented team, and are literally fighting for their NCAA tournament lives. A win over a top ranked team will look good on a bubble resume.

Sunday, Purdue will play their third game of the week, hosting Maryland. While the Terps have had a rough season thus far, Purdue will more than likely be exhausted by this point of the week, making this game much trickier than it appears on paper.

Boilers are currently going through hell. If they keep winning, they stand a good chance to make a 1 seed. Have to keep the train rolling!

Photo: Mark Elsner

Michigan Photo Gallery: https://snapsbyme.smugmug.com/Purdue-Mens-Basketball-19-20/21-22/Michigan/

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About Benjamin Kolodzinski 83 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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