Your weekly Purdue Men’s Basketball snark, and other snidbits from around the Boilermaker Universe
I grew up a Chicago Bears fan. Superbowl Sunday isn’t exactly an eventful day for me as a fan. Sure, I’ve seen two Bears appearances in my lifetime, but that isn’t exactly a common thing.
Regardless, I love Superbowl Sunday, and it has absolutely nothing to do with football. Sure, I like hot wings, snacks, beer, and buffalo dip as much as the next guy. Football is always fun to watch, and the crowning of a champion is always a historic feat, even though it is rarely the team that I care about.
Why do I love this Sunday? First, I love snacks on top of snacks, with a beer or two. Secondly, but most important, following the Superbowl, college basketball becomes king.
College basketball has always been my favorite form of entertainment. Now, in the second week of February, all eyes are on the NCAA. In a few short weeks the greatest show in sports happens.
With visions of sugar-plumbs Big-Dancing in my head… My next stop, the NCAA Tournament!
Purdue finally entered the rankings at no. 24. To celebrate this, the Boilermakers traveled east on 2/2 and controlled Maryland for the majority of the game. With opportunities to extend the lead to double digits, Purdue couldn’t capitalize. A late surge by the Maryland Terrapins involving some killer 3 pointers and even more clutch free throws doomed the Boilermakers. As they fell 60-61. Boilers couldn’t close out a game that they should have won.
On 2/6 Purdue hosted struggling Northwestern. Purdue shot out to an early lead, but couldn’t extend the stranglehold on the game. A few quick runs by Northwestern which included an uncharacteristic efficient 3 point shooting effort by the Wildcats made this game too close for comfort. Led by their freshmen, the home squad held off the pesky wildcats 75-70. This was a game in which simple mistakes and curious surges in scoring turned what should have been a 20 point Boilermaker win, into a game that was much too close late.
Break It Down:
Up and down week for the Boilers. Following their first appearance into the top 25, Purdue failed in their debut matchup.
There is no shame in losing to Maryland. The Big Ten this season is a meat grinder, with no gimmie games. The inability to close out against Maryland is multi tiered. 1) Maryland is a good team with talented players. 2) Maryland needed another strong win against a ranked opponent. 3) Maryland is at home. 4) Young teams often times blow leads. It is part of the maturing process, knowing how to secure a victory. 5) Boilers were still down one of their most important players. 6) Sometimes stuff happens.
Against Northwestern, Purdue clearly showed two things. 1) They are the better team. 2) Mistakes will kill you. Whether it be streaky missed shots or a dozen turnovers the Boilers allowed an overmatched and out stilled team to hang closer than they should have been. Never mind that, the victory is all that matters.
What Went Well:
- First Name Jaden, Last Name Ivey: The freshman with mountains of potential is starting to really come into his own. Scoring 14 and carrying Purdue for large portions of the game against Maryland, to following that up by scoring a career and game high 20 points against Northwestern is a meaty week for the young man.
- FreshMEN: In the Northwestern game, the 4 freshmen that played all scored in double figures. While Ivey led the group with 20 points, Zach Edey had a double double with 12 & 11 off the bench. Mason Gillis scored 11, including 3 huge 3 pointers which spurred the Boilermaker offense, and Brandon Newman continues to show off his skillset scoring 10.
- 23: Free throws made on 24 attempts. If a post-centric team can accomplish this regularly, they’re going to win a lot of games.
- Trevion (against Maryland): 23 points and 11 rebounds is the type of performance that Purdue fans have grown to expect from Williams.
Opportunities for Improvement
- Trevion (against Northwestern): 8 points. 4 fouls. 3 rebounds. Any time the double double machine achieves more fouls than rebounds, that spells doom for the Boilermakers. Everyone is entitled for a bad game or two, luckily freshman Zach Edey filled the void, which buoyed the Boilers enough for victory.
- Rust is a factor: Sasha’s long awaited return from COVID is a going to be a tremendous boost to this team. His first game back, understandably, was hampered by some rust issues. After missing the previous 3 games, Stefanovic only scored 4 points, all on free throws. Only playing 14 minutes, this is the “get your feet back under you” game for the Junior guard.
- Coffee is for Closers: Young teams have growing pains and need to learn to take advantage of their opportunities. Purdue should have closed that game out, but didn’t. Eyes shift to the upperclassmen in these scenarios, and Purdue needs some clutch performances from these folks.
Big Man On Campus:
Big MEN on campus. Here we go, folks, it is time. The freshman class here in West Lafayette is something special. Last week it was Brandon Newman. This week it has been a combination of all of them. Jaden Ivey might have been the high scorer for the week, but Newman, Gillis, and Edey led Purdue to a winning opportunity against Maryland and secured a victory against Northwestern. Any time that your All-Big-Ten caliber center is hampered with foul troubles, and your sharp shooting upperclassman guard is rusty from a long layoff, you are in trouble.
How does Purdue fix that? Freshmen. Trevion struggled? Edey got it. Absence of Sasha? Newman here. Need someone to take over? Ivey is around. Clutch three? Gillis has multiple. You love to see it.
Oh, there is a man left out here. Ethan Morton is just as skilled as this group. Ethan started this season off getting mono, which has derailed his progression. Folks, Morton can play too. I’ve seen the film. Call it bad luck or whatever, but the Pennsylvania native will soon make his impact on this program.
The future is bright, folks.
Photo Credit: Jacob Hosteter
A Look Ahead:
Boilers have one game next week, a Thursday night tilt against Minnesota, on the haunted wood of the Barn. Game should be a coinflip. Hopefully the Boilermakers continue their winning ways, and take care of business in Minneapolis.
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