Big Ten Tournament: Boilermakers Win, Wildcats Lose, Referees the Story
INDIANAPOLIS—When Friday evening's quarterfinal game between the Purdue Boilermakers and Northwestern Wildcats ended, no one was talking about the final score.
Purdue came from behind to win 69-61, in case you're interested.
Not much discussion about E'Twaun Moore, who only scored 28 points to will his team to a hard-fought victory.
Not a lot of attention paid to Indianapolis native JaJuan Johnson, who merely piled up 22 points and 8 boards in 30 minutes of action.
Not a big deal made of Northwestern's hot first-half shooting (5-9 from behind the three-point line) and subsequent cold second-half performance (3-14).
No, instead (unfortunately, sadly, and disappointingly), the storyline in Conseco Fieldhouse was the officials.
It's been said that the best referees are invisible ones; the men and women who do their jobs, garner barely any notice or attention, and fade into the background.
Whatever the opposite of invisible is (how does "exceedingly, over-abundantly, ridiculously, absurdly, distractingly visible" sound?), that sums up the performance of the men in stripes this evening.
You name it, it went wrong for the officiating crew.
Inadvertent whistle in the last two minutes of a nail-biter? Check.
Intentional fouls, technical fouls, and so much booing that it sounded like it was pumped in to the building over the PA system? Check, check, and check.
(No typo, sorry. That actually is a five followed by a two.)
In case you're not a math major, the 52 fouls average out to 1.3 whistles per minute of basketball action.
(And I have no idea why both teams struggled to get into an offensive flow!)
Purdue and Northwestern combined to attempt 66 free throws before the final buzzer sounded. In other words, the parade to the foul line got so ridiculous, I was halfway expecting a Macy's balloon to pass overhead. (Hi, Snoopy!)
"There were a lot of whistles," Purdue's Chris Kramer said with a shake of his head.
A lot of whistles? That's like saying there's been a lot of snow in central Indiana this winter.
"I don't think I've fouled out of any other games besides today," Northwestern guard Michael Thompson said.
(Of course, all a player had to do to foul out of today's game was play 30 minutes, or so it seemed.)
"It's rough and tumble out there," said Wildcats coach Bill Carmody after three of his starters were disqualified.
Okay, sure, coach. It was definitely a physical game.
But did Northwestern's long shot hopes for their first-ever NCAA tournament berth have to end this way? With a free throw contest?
That's like settling the World Cup over penalty kicks.
(Oh, wait, sorry. Soccer actually does that? My bad.)
My favorite quote about the officiating wasn't a quote at all.
I asked Purdue senior Keaton Grant what he thought of the way the game was called.
He looked at me.
Looked back at me.
Started to say something.
Then, Grant finally laughed and said, "It was cool."
I didn't believe him.
And he didn't expect me to.
"It kind of hurts us a little bit when we're in foul trouble," Wildcats freshman Drew Crawford said.
Don't worry, Drew. It hurt all of us to watch. Talk about 40 minutes of my life—and 52 whistles—I can't get back.
The good news, if there is any: The officiating will be much better tomorrow for Purdue's semifinal against Michigan State or Minnesota.
But that's only because it couldn't possibly get worse.
For more Bleacher Report coverage from the Big Ten Tournament, follow Tim on Twitter at @TimCary.
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