West Lafayette, IN – For the second game in a row the Purdue Basketball team needed a second half comeback to win a game. It seemed as if, the Michigan Wolverines, who were hitting lots of threes in the first half, were going to shoot Purdue into a loss. Michigan was 6-11 from deep in the first half including three straight from Spike Albrecht. The Boilers were trailing by 8 at the break and had to once again dig deep and fight to beat the Wolverines 64-51.
According to some of the Purdue players at the press conference, the Michigan players were trash talking on the way back to their respective locker rooms. Purdue guard Rapheal Davis said that teams were saying they had Purdue beat. The Boilermakers took that to heart and came out of the locker room jacked up.
With an eight point Michigan lead, Purdue needed to come out ready to play to cut into the lead. The Wolverines were shooting well and making Purdue pay for over helping on defensive rotations. Second half went a lot better defensively for the Boilermakers. Purdue was able to hold Michigan 4-22 shooting including 2-9 from deep. The Wolverines just couldn’t buy a basket for the last 20 minutes.
Purdue on the other hand, played some of the best basketball of the season in the last 20 minutes. Their defensive intensity stepped up a notch by contesting every shot and even forcing Michigan to miss a couple easy layups simply by hustling back on defense. On the inside AJ Hammons was unstoppable. Michigan didn’t have anyone that could match up with Hammons’ ability down low. They did manage to keep Isaac Haas on the bench all game dealing with foul trouble. However Hammons played better when he was in there, he finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds in a game that Purdue needed him to dominate.
Hammons didn’t win this game by himself though. He had help specifically from Vince Edwards and Jon Octeus. Edwards seemed to always be around the ball no matter where it was. Whether that was grabbing the 50/50 balls or winning a rebound. Edwards used his size to take advantage of smaller Michigan defenders. Edwards finished with 16 points and 8 rebounds going with 0 turnovers. Octeus had an equally impressive performance. I cannot say it enough on how important the Octeus pick up was for Matt Painter. Octeus is the proven floor general that has been using his high basketball I.Q. to make the correct play. It isn’t always the flashiest or most exciting play but that doesn’t matter. Fundamentals is what will win Purdue games. Octeus finished the day with 13 points 8 rebounds and 0 turnovers.
Purdue now sits at 10-5 and 2-0 in conference play. The biggest game of the season is up next against the #4 Wisconsin Badgers in Madison, Wisconsin. Players like Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker will provide difficult match-ups for Painter and the Boilers to handle. If there is anyone in the Big Ten that knows how to win in Madison though, it is coach Painter and Purdue. Purdue has won three games in the last six trips to Madison which is something that not many Big Ten coaches can say. Purdue will be heavy underdogs in this game but if they can limit what Kaminsky and Dekker do then there is a small chance at pulling off the upset. Regardless, lets celebrate this win and Purdue sitting in first place in the Big Ten while we can.
Nick Konkel is the Purdue Athletics Correspondent for Indiana Sports Report. You can follow him on Twitter @nkonkel and Indiana Sports Report @IndySportsRep