Rants, ravings, and somewhat sensical opinions following the wild, wacky, and wide-wide world of Purdue sports.
I’ve never been much of a dancer.
Let me rephrase that. I have never been much of a “visually pleasing” dancer, although not due to lack of effort. A 6’3″ barrel chested, kinda fit, kinda fat guy, encouraged by a cocktail or two, normally doesn’t lead to positive results.
Sure, I’ve entertained a folk or two with my clumsy, albeit, on beat/tempo movements. Whether they’re laughing with me or at me, everyone is having a good time. It could be the cha-cha, macarena, chicken dance, the hustle… I give it the ol’ college try.
Purdue, historically, has had a clumsy dance move or two (dozen) over my rapidly approaching 4 decades of fandom. What happens when their feet finally catch the right beat. What happens when things fall into place. When you’re 10 players deep, it doesn’t matter who is leading. It doesn’t matter how it looks. All that matters is that you keep on dancing.
I was blessed enough to be in person for the dance, this past weekend, covering for this very media company. I am currently sitting here, following a multi-hour postgame trip back to my office at home. It is nearing 3 am, my family is asleep. I have to be up for work in just a few short hours… but I am dancing the night away in my desk chair.
#14 Yale 56, #3 Purdue 78: What ended up as a 22 point victory, was absolutely not indicative of the reality of this game, as Purdue cruised to an easy victory, defeating the overmatched Ivy League squad. It was Ivy League vs Jaden Ivey, as the latter led the way with 22 points, followed by 16 by Zach Edey, as the Boilers cruised to the round of 32.
#6 Texas 71, #3 Purdue 81: A bruising matchup against the Chris Beard led Longhorns, started with uncharacteristic hot shooting Texas squad, as they jumped out to a quick lead. The Boilers stormed back with a 20-0 run, to take a 14 point lead. In classic Purdue fashion, no lead is safe, as the Longhorns again stormed back. The slugfest ended with late Purdue flourish, knocking out the physical Texas foe. Trevion Williams played like a grown man, scoring 22 points with defenders climbing all over him. Jaden Ivey added 18, most of which in the second half.
Break It Down:
The Boilermakers did what they needed to do in order to keep on dancing. While the usual suspects in Ivey, Edey, and Williams put up some impressive numbers in the two victories, the tipping points came from some of the supporting cast.
Eric Hunter Jr. has been the rock that Purdue has been built on for the past few years. National talking heads who haven’t watched Purdue all season have ragged on Purdue’s guard play. They haven’t been paying attention. Look no further than Hunter. He is as steady as they come.
Ethan Morton may have “only” scored 8 points against Texas, but they were huge. Two huge threes demoralized Texas, but what hurt the Longhorns the most was his defensive presence. Morton showed a defensive edge that made Marcus Carr nervous at times. Without that effort, Purdue wouldn’t be marching to the Sweet 16.
While it is cliche to say that things are starting to “click” at the right time for Purdue, it appears that things are getting into lockstep. Ivey is doing his strut. Edey is flexing. Williams is spinning his defenders. For at least one weekend, things are groovy in Boilertown.
What Went Well:
- Defense is moving back in: In the two games this weekend, the much maligned Purdue defense has been a positive. While an impressive defensive showing against Yale isn’t particularly unexpected, doing it against a high level Texas squad who are fighting for their lives is an excellent sign.
- Turnovers harsh the vibe: Although there were quite a few in the first half, Purdue ended the Texas game with only 12 turnovers. This is right in the wheelhouse of where these Boilermakers need to be. This has been a key all year, and good to see Purdue take care of the ball against a nasty Texas defense.
- When the goin gets tough, the tough get going: Why was Chris Beard the boogey-man for the Boilermakers? Other than his winning tendencies against Purdue, historically Chris Beard’s teams will punch you in the mouth. They are the epitome of hard nosed, never say die, take it at you opponents. Texas kept swinging haymakers at the Boilers, and Purdue swung back. As the game got stressful, the Boilermakers stretched it back out. A key defensive stop, a tough rebound, a three from the corner, or a hard dunk… Purdue had an answer for everything Texas threw at them. That is what they need.
Big Man on Campus:
Jaden Ivey put up 40 points in his two games this weekend, including some absolutely killer threes down the stretch against Texas. While there were some turnovers here and there, those will happen when the ball is in his hand so frequently.
When Purdue was struggling early in the second half, Ivey rocked the rim with a vicious dunk. When the Boilermakers needed him, Ivey frustrated the Longhorns with his quickness taking the ball to the hole. When Purdue needed him, he rose to the occasion.
We know what can happen with someone with the skills that Jaden has decides to take over a game…
A Look Ahead:
Wouldn’t you know it, the #3 Boilermakers are now the highest remaining seed in the East Regional, due to some unforeseen circumstances.
Purdue has advanced to the Sweet 16 once again, and will take on national sweetheart #15 Saint Peter’s, for the right to advance to the Elite 8. Yes, #15 seed Saint Peter’s. While this seems like a fortuitous development in the bracket, clearly the Peacocks have shown that they willing and able to take down a top ranked squad. All that being said, Purdue should be favorites in the Friday night matchup.
The winner of that game will advance to the Elite 8, and will play the winner of #8 North Carolina vs #4 UCLA. Lots of blue blood in that matchup.
Keep on dancing Boilers! I want to write two more of these columns!
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