I have had a couple great moments in the United Center. One of them is any time you hear the National Anthem during a Blackhawks game. Hearing it during a crazy standing room only crowd before a Red Wings game is awesome. Another great moment was watching Jordan drop 55 on the Bullets in 1997. It was game two of the playoffs, and the Bulls were not playing well. Michael just put them on his back to lead them to the victory. That was my first Bulls game so I picked a great one to attend. The best moment in the Madhouse though was watching the Sox clinch the World Series on the jumbotron. I wanted to experience the game as though I was there, and the party that ensued was great. Today was just another addition to that set of memories.
I had a great seat thanks to a fellow Knucklehead over at GBI. After watching the first two games from the upper level it was great to see the game up close. I was also sitting by the Paint Crew which I thought would be pretty awesome. They bring it to every game so I had no doubt that they would bring it last night. All twenty of them did last night. That is the one problem with giving tickets away to the big boosters is that most of them are old. I am on my way to being old myself so I don’t mean to knock them, but they just don’t have the enthusiasm of a college student. It would have been nice to have a few more students together to really bring it. On a side not sitting by college students can really make you feel old. I almost asked for a walker on my way out of the arena last night.
On to the game. Purdue won the opening tip on hustle. It was a poor throw that neither player could get to so it fell to the ground. Ryne Smith came rushing in to take it away from a St. Peter’s player. After that things went a little slowly at the beginning of the game. This seemed to be the pattern on the day. It might be first round jitters. I know that it technically isn’t the first round (don’t get me started), but it took a while for both teams to crank it up. Purdue has had some slow starts this season so you really can’t tell what was the cause. The Peacocks already had a game under their belt so I don’t think they could have had jitters. They certainly weren’t nervous to play Purdue because they had never heard of them before.
A quiet crowd was awakened when Terone Johnson threw a perfect alley oop pass on the inbounds to Johnson for the stuff. Purdue methodically pulled away in the first half. They forced some turnovers, and had others just given to them. One pass comes to mind that hit both D.J Byrd and Terone Johnson who were standing next to each other. The had zero chance of getting through, and started a break that resulted in a Byrd three.Purdue held St. Peter’s to 17 points in the first half. They really played some tough defense on them.
Purdue had the lead up to 27 in the second half before the started getting a little careless. The lead dropped into the teens forcing Matt Painter to play his guys a little longer than I am sure he would have liked. Either way JJ and Smooge did not play the last four minutes of the game, and we got to see the walk ons get some time. Patrick Bade even got into the game and pulled down 3 boards in just three minutes.
E’Twaun Moore had a split game he scored 19 points including a record breaking three, but also had seven turnovers. He was 7-15 from the field. He did not have his best game, and still finished with 19. That is not too bad. He also became the Purdue leader in three pointers made with 243. He still has an outside shot at getting to 2nd place all time at Purdue in points scored. He is just 68 points away from #2. Jumbo Heroes does a good job of tracking both JJ and E’Twaun’s run at Purdue history here. They keep it simple which is great for an OLS major like myself. I thought that E’Twaun wanted out of the game early on because he might not have been feeling good. The guy next to me said that he was probably just bored. He was probably right as E’Twaun took the ball and flew to the hoop for an awesome basket just seconds later. Maybe that is why he turned the ball over so much.
JaJuan Johnson had a boring 16 points and 16 rebounds. He really could have had much more, but only went 6-16 from the floor. He missed ten shots leading a St. Peter’s player after the game to brag about the great job they did against him. I never got the impression that St. Pete’s did a great job on him. JJ seemed to own the paint. He had 16 rebounds, and I really thought he had a shot at twenty. Of course the game was out of hand so he was pulled early. I was really hoping for a showing last night that would put him very much in the minds of the Player of the Year voters. St. Peter’s coach did have some kind words for him saying that even if you double team him he just tries that fadeaway.
Ryne Smith played 27 minutes last night without scoring a point. He was 0-4 from behind the arc, and was emphatically blocked on his only attempt inside the arc. He used a pump fake (they bought it!) to get some room and what I thought was a clear run at the basket. After missing a shot at the other end Ryan Bacon came out of nowhere to block the shot and then cuss on camera. Smith does play good defense so you can’t really judge him solely on his offensive numbers.
Terone Johnson did a good job at the backup point position last night. He had eight points and four assists in 25 minutes. He did have 3 turnovers, but for a freshman playing for the first time on the big stage he seemed very poised. I think that we will see some great things from this kid before it is all said and done. He has a weird jump shot, but it seems to work for him.
DJ Byrd had eight points and three boards last night to help the cause. He is going to get one of those flying rebound slams in the near future. He was close on a couple last night. For some reason he just gets to the rim at the right time. With the right bounce we will get a treat.
Travis Carroll played eighteen solid minutes last night for the Boilers. He is really growing on me. In the preseason I was not too high on him, but he just keeps improving. That is what you want to see out of a freshman. He also has a nice shot that keeps teams honest. His development will be key to the Boilers future.
Normally I feel terrible for the seniors on the teams that exit the tourney. One of the saddest scenes during a game is when the seniors leave the floor for the last time. After all the trash talk all week I never felt that for the Peacocks. It was kind of nice to see them humbled. I know that I shouldn’t feel that way, but I wasn’t the one doing all the talking. As I said in a previous post, St. Peter’s spent all week talking about how now everyone knows where they are located. That is good because it will make the ride home that much easier.
Play of the Game – In a game that was not in doubt for much of it this is hard to pick. I will go with the dunk by JJ on the inbounds pass. With about five minutes gone from the game Purdue had a small lead, and the stadium was dead. JaJuan Johnson curled around a group of players towards the basket and Terone Johnson found him for the slam. It seemed way too easy because it was.
Gameball – I will cheat here again and give this to both JJ and Smooge. They both had a solid game for the Boilers. I could have given this to St. Peter’s for giving us the motivation to prepare. I will start with Moore. As I mentioned above he had seven turnovers which should not get him in this section, but he chipped in 19 points so I will put him here. I think part of the seven turnovers was just a factor of the boredom I mentioned. The team started getting a little cocky, and let St. Pete’s back into the game.
The Boilers did what they needed to do and walked away with the victory. They just have to repeat this process five more times to become National Champions. At this point it doesn’t matter if you win by 100 or 1. You just have to win. The Boilers will face an #11 seed Sunday night, but from what I saw last night this is an #11 with a bullet. That being said Purdue has the firepower to win this game and advance to San Antonio.
I did see four games yesterday so I thought that I would talk a little bit about each one. Yesterday was a long day for sure, but I am not complaining. I saw some good basketball, and had a good day overall. Here is a look at the three games that did not involve Purdue.
Notre Dame 69 – Akron 56: The score shows a thirteen point game, but it never really felt like it. I was pulling for the underdog, but every time they would make a run Notre Dame would calmly answer it. Ben Hansbrough scored fifteen to lead all scorers. He really is a tough player. When he has the ball he reminds me of a running back that initiates contact. He goes right at his defender making things tough for them. Tim Abromaitis scored 14 for the Irish as well. He made all three shots that he attempted from behind the arc. Former Boiler Scott Martin used a late surge to get to double digits with 11. He never really has emerged into the player I thought he would be while at Purdue, but is still a very solid ball player. As I said this really was not much of a game. Akron fans would get excited, but Notre Dame would answer them. It will be interesting to see what they do against Florida State. The most exciting part of this game was at the very beginning when both teams struggled to get the ball in the hoop. They both missed a couple of layups and threes. I have never seen so many shots go in and out in a row like that.
Florida State 57 – Texas A&M 50: This was another game that did not seem as close as the score. Florida State raced to a 7-0 lead. That was due to the fact that A&M didn’t score for over seven minutes. That included two shots at the free throw line. A&M rebounded to take the lead at the half, but Florida State took control in the second half to advance to face the Irish. This was the second year in a row that I have seen Texas A&M in the tourney. Last year I saw them on both days with the famous Chris Kramer layup coming against them. Once again I was in the building to see them exit the tourney.
Virginia Commonwealth 74- Georgetown 56: This game was sort of a surprise. All I had heard about since selection Sunday was that VCU did not deserve to be in the tourney. All they have done since then was to beat USC and Georgetown. Let me rephrase that. They demolished Georgetown. I was shocked when I came home and saw that they were only 12-25 from behind the arc. That is great, but sitting at the United Center it seemed like they made many more than that. VCU came out and really challenged the Hoyas the entire length of the court. They played with a lot of heart, and Georgetown really did not seem to. This was a final score that did not show how bad the beating was. This game was either over at halftime, or shortly after. From start to finish this was an entertaining game though. When VCU was not on the court putting on a show their band was bringing it. They really seemed to have fun last night. Although I do have to ask that the dirty horn player keep his pants on when the play again on Sunday.