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That **** was fun.
Going on the road to a tough environment this early in the season presents a myriad of question marks. How good are we really? How well will the kiddos handle the raucous crowd? How will we respond in the most challenging moments? Who will be the go-to player in clutch time?
Apparently the answers are: Maybe pretty good. – Well enough. – So far, so good. – Ehh? Too soon.
On to the thoughts…
- Not sure we can start anywhere other than Andrew Jones. I’m not sure I breathed or blinked as Andrew stepped to the line for those four clutch free throws as he helped to ice the game. Of course, staring Leukemia in the face as you plow through like a champion means little moments like late free throw shots in a basketball game don’t mean ****, but for the rest of us mortals, you’ll forgive us if we watched with the greatest of anticipation. Andrew clearly has a ways to go to get his endurance where he needs it to be. He’s got a sizable road still to blaze to find put his game completely back together. But to see him not even flinch as he calmly splashed four straight foul shots was the kind of catharsis only a dude like him deserves. Good is good, my friends.
- Scoffing at the approbation Shaka heaped on Gerald Liddell a few weeks ago was all too easy. Five months ago, the 6’8″ sophomore was playing 75 seconds per game and looking like a transfer candidate. Tonight he was playing point forward at times, lead the team in rebounding, was second in points, added four assists and shot 5-7 from the floor. Plus, he threw in some competent defense to boot. When he came to Texas from Steele, people were impressed by how comfortably he handled his big frame but tonight showcased a guy who gets the game of basketball. That was a legitimately good game from Gerald and would have been better if Proctor hadn’t hit some tough ass shots with a hand in his face.
- Tonight was the Matt Coleman we’ve been waiting for. Not since his solid game against Nevada in the NCAA Tournament his freshman year have we seen him play with this kind of joy and excellence against a high-level opponent. He showed great patience in his dribble penetration looks. He shot the ball with preparation and body control. He even displayed some of his better moments of dragging Jericho into open dump-off opportunities. Defensively he was active and relentless. As with Andrew last game, we’re not going to get this kind of efficiency often, but man he was good in this one.
- Our defense has some kinks to work out, but you can already tell the attention to detail that Yaklich preaches. Two games in and we’re significantly improved on help spacing and recoveries. We’re overthinking some and it’s not really helping our rebounding because it’s not natural just yet, but this defense has a chance to be pretty good if Jericho can stay on the floor.
- Rapid-fire: big-time for Jase to hit that shot in a moment like that, plus he showed a much more mature/diverse skill set…Baker is going to be pretty dang good once the speed gets more manageable for him, you can tell he gets spacing and sees the floor well…loved the hustle blocks from Jase and Royce, that **** is infectious for a team…fun to see the bench so jazzed towards the end of the game, there was a lot of joy on those faces…
NOT AS GOOD
- Jericho has to show more discipline when he’s away from the basket on defense. He’s so quick and rangy but we are a better team with him on the floor and him missing key stretches because of foul trouble is going to lose us a game or two.
- Hard to criticize the defense at this point, but it’s also confusing to me as to when we are switching or who has the green light to switch or what. The rhymes and reasons are more than a little vague. That will take time, but Purdue left some points on the board by not taking earlier advantage of some sketchy moments from us.
- Plenty of self-inflicted problems with poor decision making leading to turnovers and Ramey’s and Hamm’s shot selection (nitpick but it was a close game and those were ugly shots) and ball control.
- The rebounding is, uhh, not good.
There are plenty of reasons we should have lost this game: we took SIXTEEN! fewer shots from the floor; the Boilermakers had 17 offensive rebounds compared to our 20 defensive rebounds; Purdue hit 50% from three; Sims and Hamm combined for nine fouls and three rebounds in 37 minutes.
But we didn’t lose. And, yes, we beat North Carolina last year to reach 5-0. But this game wasn’t won because of the transcendent performance of Kerwin Roach.
It was won because we hit big shots in key moments.
It was won because for an entire game, whenever Purdue went on a run, we answered with solid playmaking and clutch shotmaking.
It was won because we out-defended them down the stretch and their ability to hit tough shots faltered in the game’s final moments.
It was won because a couple of badasses stepped up and nailed six straight foul shots in the last 30 seconds.
Enjoy it, friends.