Since the last time we checked in on the Purdue Boilermakers, they have posted three wins in four tries. Sounds like a decent winning percentage to me—until you notice that the loss came on the biggest stage imaginable (a 76-60 beatdown by Coach K and the Dukies), while the wins were not exactly against A-list opponents (quick, name the Arkansas-Pine Bluff mascot?!?).
Since Purdue's goal this year is to win a real championship (not just the "Knocked Off Every Directional School and In-State Mid-Major" trophy), an 8-2 record with losses to the only good teams on the schedule isn't really cause for hope in West Lafayette.
At least not yet.
Let's take a look back at the Boilermakers' last four contests.
The Purdue students camped out at Mackey Arena for days to get tickets...Dick Vitale and ESPN were there for the "game of the year"...and the Boilers didn't bother to show up. While the crowd was ready to explode at a fast start, Purdue came out sky-high...and then didn't make a field goal until the game was more than four minutes old.
Final score in one of the Big Ten/ACC showcase games: Duke 76, Purdue 60...and it really wasn't that close.
Robbie Hummel led the Boilers with 15 points and eight rebounds, but it's hard to credit anyone in gold and black for a good rebounding performance. After all, Duke won the battle on the boards by TWENTY (49-29). Hard to win games that way.
The Devils also knocked down eight threes in 22 attempts, compared to Purdue's struggle outside the arc (2-13).
ON THE REBOUND
Despite playing shorthanded (Hummel missed the game due to back spasms, and an ill Chris Kramer played limited minutes), the Boilermakers rebounded (literally and figuratively) with a 90-42 beatdown of Arkansas Pine-Bluff on Dec. 6. Purdue controlled the glass 49-33, and the big guys inside put together an admirable performance.
With Hummel unavailable, Nemanja Calasan got the start and responded by posting a double-double (12 and 13). JaJuan Johnson added 20 points and eight boards, and the Boilers coasted to an easy win. All 10 players who saw action scored.
Purdue got its first true road test last week in Coach Matt Painter's old stomping grounds. The Boilers made the short drive to Muncie, Indiana to face the Ball State Cardinals and came away with a 68-39 victory. Highlights were the balanced scoring (four players finished in double figures) and the return of Ryne Smith, who knocked down two three-pointers after missing the previous few games with an infection.
LAST, BUT NOT LEAST
In Purdue's most recent contest, the Boilermakers knocked off a feisty Indiana State squad, 76-62. Hummel led the way with a career-high 25 points, and the Boilers outscored the Sycamores by a touchdown in each half.
While the starting lineup has been a bit of "musical chairs," with Calasan and Johnson both getting chances down low and speedy point guard Lewis Jackson replacing Keaton Grant, everybody in Matt Painter's rotation has been contributing nicely. Jackson had 11 points and four assists in only 26 minutes, and the nice part about Purdue's depth is that they should be able to wear down a lot of teams in Big Ten play this winter.
Saturday features one of the most intriguing games of the non-conference season, when a Boilermaker team known for its defense faces off with the country's greatest scorer. Purdue and Davidson meet in downtown Indianapolis as part of the Wooden Tradition.
Hopefully the location 60 miles from Mackey isn't a true "neutral court"—Purdue fans should be ready for this showdown. With the early losses to Oklahoma and Duke, the Boilers could use a nice (nationally televised) win for their tournament résumé.
I know it's been a couple weeks since I've written, but hopefully this catches you up on what's going on in West Lafayette, and I'll try my best to get you an update each week from here on out. Check out the game Saturday on CBS—I look forward to your comments in next week's edition regarding a Purdue team you should know a good bit about by now!
Carrying on About Purdue Basketball is a weekly column for all sports fans...not necessarily limited to college hoops junkies or the Boilermaker faithful. The goal is to write an in-depth story about the 2008-09 Purdue season, with a new chapter coming each week. COAPB will usually be published each Friday on BleacherReport.com. Contact the writer, Tim Cary, at firstname.lastname@example.org.