The Minnesota Golden Gophers are a damn good team. Coached by National Champion Tubby Smith (Kentucky 1998), the Gophers’ full-court press pushed Purdue hard before falling 79-60. This year’s Cornfield Sailors have tied the best start by the Boilermakers in school history, and Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson is suddenly getting ink again. Fourth-ranked Purdue is 14-0.
Minnesota forced more Purdue turnovers than any other team this season. Purdue’s made fewer mistakes this year than any other team I can remember, 7, 9, 10, 6; the Boilermakers have been outstanding in not beating themselves. But Minnesota has been almost as careful handling the ball, with only 12 turnovers average. They forced Purdue into 17 tonight. This Gopher team is going to do some damage in the Big Ten.
Still Purdue won at home by 19. They did it by crashing the boards and shooting well. Four Boilers scored in double figures (Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson, E’twaun Moore, Chris Kramer), with Hummel and Johnson recording double-doubles (11 and 10 rebounds). I can’t remember the last time Purdue had two players making double-doubles; it’s a rare achievement, denoting a well-rounded game.
Minnesota is known for its rebounding, but they only beat Purdue by two in that category. Meanwhile Chris Kramer, Purdue’s Secretary of Defense, scored a season-high 15 points. In his last game against #6 West Virginia, Kramer didn’t score, but tonight he came up big. This was Purdue’s 500th win at Mackey Arena.
The Boilers broke out to an 8-0 lead, then the Gophers stormed back to take the lead, before falling bigtime. Kramer hit his first 3-pointer of the season to close out the half.
This team feels nothing like Robinson’s ’93-’94 team; he was a dominant player. This year’s Purdue squad doesn’t have any first-round NBA draft picks, but it wins just like Robinson’s buddies did.
No doubt coach Matt Painter is going to have a lot to jaw about this week in practice; 17 turnovers, including two straight unforced errors by Johnson in the second half. Purdue’s got plenty of room for improvement as they head to Madison on Saturday to face #20 Wisconsin. The days of wine and roses are over, baby; you’ve got to work hard to beat the Badgers at home. They don’t like you up there. (Wisconsin fans are some of my favorites in the Big Ten.)
Meanwhile this W over the Gophers is a win to savor. Hummel and Johnson with double-doubles, Kramer with 15. Four guys in double figures!
Wow. These Indiana schoolboys are shocking the nation, because they play like a team. “Oh,” the skeptics say, “that’s nice. But wait till Purdue has to play Kansas (Kentucky, Texas, Duke, yadda yadda).” So much of college basketball hangs on a school’s past reputation rather than this year’s play. The traditional powers rule as much by what a school did 10, 20 and 50 years ago as by what they do today. The AP poll is especially bad at this; the coaches’ poll is more reliable. Purdue is ranked 4th by both, but what’s the objective fact? The RPI shows Purdue at #4, Kansas at 7, Texas at 13 and Kentucky at 15. The RPI has West Virginia at #1—the same Mountaineer squad the Boilermakers blew out at Mackey Arena on Friday.
But here’s the best news in this still-young season: ESPN’s latest Bracketology shows Purdue rated the #1 seed going into the NCAA Tournament. This could be the year, baby. This could be the year.++