Here's to you, Dolla Dolla Billz. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Under Matt Painter, Purdue has developed a reputation across the leagues as one of the toughest teams in the Big Ten. They pride themselves on hustle plays and intense ball pressure. But Penn State last night displayed their new 'ATTITUDE' under Coach Chambers for 40 minutes in a game where it seemed like the teams switched jerseys. It was Penn State getting dribble-penetration and balanced looks on offense. It was Purdue who looked lost whipping the ball around the arc. It was Penn State who was forcing turnovers and contesting every shot. It was Purdue who let one man hit 7 threes. It was Penn State dominating the lane and owning the boards. And it was Purdue who was seemingly never in the game (except for one brief moment in the second half).
Reading the Purdue frustration on the internet has been more gratifying than it should. I certainly don't hate Purdue and admire their program. But welcome to what it's been like playing you the last 5+ years. Obviously no one saw this coming. It's even harder to believe this occurred without Penn State's lone senior, Cammeron Woodyard (who didn't dress with a hamstring injury), along with promising freshman Trey Lewis (who apparently didn't practice hard enough this week to play).
The stars of the game were no doubt Billy Oliver and Matt Glover. Billy finally had the game some of us believed he was capable of having, raining three after three for 21 points. He probably would've had more if he hadn't been in foul trouble. Most of his looks were set up beautifully by Tim Frazier, but Billy deserves props for finding the open spots on the floor.
Then you have Matt Glover, who was an absolute beast all over the floor. He was constantly around the ball and put up one Chris Kramer-like stat line: 2 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals. Glover was quickly becoming one of the more criticized players in recent weeks because of his atrocious season offensively, but he's clearly the toughest defender we have. As Matt Painter said:
"If we could get somebody to play as hard as (guard) Matt Glover ... he clearly played harder than anybody that was attempting to guard him. He made a lot of hustle plays for them. That's something we've really prided our program in in terms of doing whatever it takes.
There is going to be a lot of discrediting of this performance out there. We will read all about how Purdue laid a gigantic egg. So is life of a basketball team that is never going to get any respect. But if PSU can shoot like they did last night, they'll be a tough out at the BJC. We can only hope Oliver is able to bottle up his confidence from last night and unleash it going forward. Regardless, these young guys are all-in with Chambers and the effort continues to be there night in and night out.
From a numbers perspective, obviously the shooting was great to see (only the fourth 50%+ eFG% performance of the year). They also continue to dominate the glass in the Big Ten, ranking 2nd in both Reb% in Big Ten play behind OSU. It was a complete performance all-around as Penn State went wire-to-wire in the victory.
Purdue's backcourt of Lewis Jackson, Ryne Smith, Anthony Johnson, and Terone Johnson, who combined average well over 30 points a game, finished with just 9 total. Smith was particularly cold from the floor (1-7 from 3), despite hitting 6 threes the last time he was in the BJC. The senior Jackson had likely the worst game of his career with 0 points and was continually beat on defense by Tim Frazier (who had a great game himself, with 15 points, 9 assists, and 5 rebounds).
I would be remissed if I didn't mention the contributions from Nick Colella, Jonathan Graham, and Sasa Borovnjak. The big men combined for 12 points and 7 rebounds from the 5 spot, which is exactly what this team needs. They both made some strong post moves and were instrumental in PSU's dominant inside game (outscored Purdue 26-8 in the lane). Colella also deserves some credit for stepping up in Woodyard's place and playing 17 strong minutes with no turnovers and a made 3-point basket. He made an impact right away drawing a charge on Robbie Hummel that energized the PSU bench.
Speaking of, I had the joy of sitting behind PSU's bench for this one, and I'm glad I got to experience that. It's so great to see this team so invested in defense and attitude. This is a great change that will allow for greater success down the road.
Next up for the Nits is a home date with the very good Indiana Hoosiers on Sunday.