Last night the game was in doubt on several occasions. Each time it seems like the two seniors, JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore, seemed to take control and will the team to victory. For the first ten minutes of the game though we were seeing the Illinois team that everyone thought we would be seeing all season. They were on fire shooting 77% from the floor at one point. Part of that great percentage was the amount of uncontested layups that the Illini had. They were getting open with ease for some reason. I don’t know if the Purdue defense was too keyed up early or what, but they were not looking too good. Illinois ran the score up to 31-18 before Purdue seemed to come to life.
It seemed as if everyone on the team contributed to the 12-0 run that brought the Boilers back to within a point at 31-30. Four different players hit threes to bring the crowd into a frenzy. The run was capped when Ryne Smith took a charge with great positioning. He went crazy jumping up and down and firing up the crowd on his way down the court.From that point on the bad feeling that I had went away. The Boilers had this one.
As much as I want to talk about the seniors the other players stepped up as well. DJ Byrd had a career high 16 points on the night. He was really playing well. He could have had more, but he missed his last free throws. Ryne Smith had eight points, nine boards, and took at least three charges. He is a tough player that is fun to watch because of his enthusiasm. Terone Johnson only had three points, but it was part of that 12-0 run. LewJack had some great moments driving to the hoop as well.
Kelsey Barlow had a good game in McCamey’s head. He really was doing some talking to the Illini guard. The refs went to look at the play after a McCamey free throw to see if Barlow had hit McCamey too hard. I think they could have called something on McCamey for hitting Barlow in the back. McCamey missed his next free throw, and Barlow gave him an even bigger hip check in my opinion. Even away from the ball it was fun to watch Barlow talking to McCamey. I really like watching Barlow play. He really gets some bad fouls called on him though. I don’t know if there was a memo that went out to the refs to watch him or what. He really gets some ticky tack calls on him when the refs are letting everyone else play.
With 3.6 seconds left the lead was big enough that Matt Painter gave his stars the night off letting them get the ovation they deserved. It was a great moment to see the love the players were given as they walked off the floor for the last time during a game. A lot of memories were made on Keady Court. Now it is time to make some more memories in the tournaments. I huge game in Iowa would be nice too.
Play of the Game – It’s senior night so you have to figure that in don’t you? JaJuan Johnson had another big night for Purdue last night. He made some nice plays, but two times that I can remember he beat the shot clock with a tough shot. In the first half he nailed a fadeaway three from the corner as time expired. With about five minutes gone in the second half he did the same thing again from the top of the key. His biggest improvement from his freshman year is his shooting. He really can shoot the ball for a big man.
As the clock was winding down in the first half Terone Johnson anticipated a pass and got a hand on it. The ball went to Lewis Jackson who sprinted down the court. He hit a wide open E’Twaun Moore for a three with about five seconds left in the half to tie the game at 37. The crowd went wild when he hit the shot. He also nailed a tough 3 with the shot clock running down to give the Boilers an eight point lead with 52 seconds left.
The play of the game should have been the monster dunk E’Twaun threw down with about twenty seconds left, but DJ Byrd kept the ball for some reason. Byrd drew a foul and went to the line, but you have to find the senior for the slam. I have never seen E’Twaun so animated on the floor as he was calling for the ball. I don’t know how Byrd did not see him. JJ did take the ball off the rim and put down a nice dunk after the play though.
Gameball(s)- If you have read any of this you already know that both JJ and Smooge are getting the gameball. When two seniors have given so much to the program it is not hard to give it to them. Johnson had 23 points to lead the Boilers on the night. He was big early when the rest of the team was struggling. E’Twaun had 18 and seemed to pick up from where Johnson left off. During the game JJ moved into 6th place all time at Purdue in scoring, and Smooge moved into 3rd all time for the Boilers. That alone should get them the gameball.
With just under two minutes left the two consecutive blocks by JJ and DJ could have been the gameball as well. So many big plays in a close game that could be here.
I was glad to be in the building this year for all of Purdue’s wins except one. It has been fun watching these guys play in front of the home crowd. I was sad last night, but I think I was thinking more about the fact I won’t be in Mackey again until next November than anything else. Purdue has a lot of basketball left to play, and I plan on seeing a lot of it. This was far from the last time I will see these two play in person. Mackey is just awesome with the Paint Crew going wild, and getting the rest of the crowd into the game. I will miss that over the next month as Purdue makes its run.
The hardest part for me last night was watching Robbie Hummel during the post game ceremony. He should have been out there. I am excited to see him run the team next season, but he will do it without three of the guys he came in with.