Even the most skeptical Purdue observer – of which there were plenty to start the season – won’t argue the Boilermakers aren’t a Final Four contender anymore. Not after Sunday’s 76-63 win over No. 2 Ohio State.
Not with E’Twaun Moore (38 points) and JaJuan Johnson (13 and six) leading a defense that forced 18 Ohio State turnovers (roughly one every four possessions) and hounded the Buckeyes into missing 38 percent of their shots, well below their season average of 49.5. Having an offense that boasts an eFG% of 57.3 vs. Ohio State ain’t too bad, either.
With or without Robbie Hummel, Purdue’s no pushover.
Sunday’s victory didn’t establish Purdue as a contender – it’s been a Top 15 mainstay in the polls since early December and even before that at kenpom – it simply cemented it. (Not to mention possibly paying some recruiting dividends.)
After all, it’s not like the Boilermakers (22-5, 11-3) vaulted into second place in the Big Ten standings with one game. They beat the Buckeyes and Wisconsin in a five-day span, back-to-back wins that can match any team’s this season.
Interestingly, Purdue coach Matt Painter doesn’t want to focus on his team’s big week. He must be thinking big picture.
“It’s something that scares you as a coach, to be honest with you,” Painter told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. “You want to keep winning, but winning makes you soft, and now someone is getting ready to knock you off.”
Given that defense hasn’t dropped off much since last season – when Chris Kramer was terrorizing opposing guard, forwards, you name it – and the offense is actually better, Purdue’s a team no one wants to play in March. Hey, you try messing with that defense, guarding Moore when he gets hot or slowing down Johnson.
If there’s one caveat, it’s that the Boilermakers aren’t quite as imposing away from home,
where they’ve lost all five of their games where they’re 14-0. But hey, who isn’t better at home in college hoops?
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