(Un)Just Win, Baby
This felt like Purdue 2013. The football game. We had lost 20 conference games in a row, we're crumbling at the end, Steve Hull has to run around in the endzone and then take a safety to run out the clock, everything went wrong, but... a win. A desperately-needed win.
As I recall, I was curled up on the floor of my bedroom between the bed and the wall during that Purdue football game. I don't think I believed the game was over for a good 10 minutes. I was convinced that the rules stated that a game can't end on a safety so we'd have to kick it away and then Purdue would run it back for the win.
Much like I felt tonight when Mark Alstork inexplicably ran after the ball after missing the free throw, opening up the chance for a foul on a full-court shot with 0.1 on the clock and three free throws for Indiana. I don't know if he fouled him (I don't think he really even touched him), but I heard a whistle and froze for a moment, thinking that we still hadn't won the game.
Can you blame me? It's been 330 days since we won a conference game in either sport. Even when we win I'm still left to wonder if the clock is really at 0:00. We did absolutely everything we could to lose this game, yet, somehow, came away with a win. You know, things like:
- Made one shot - Kipper's three pointer - in the final 11 minutes. Really, without the officials calling every ticky-tack everything on Indiana we lose this game by 8-10.
- Had an eight point lead with 50 seconds remaining and somehow let that lead slip to two with eight seconds left.
- After IU only made one of two free throws with eight seconds left (that was such a huge miss, because then they had to foul and we could hit two free throws to ice the game), we then missed both free throws giving them a chance to hit a two to send it to overtime or a three to win. AFTER WE LED BY EIGHT WITH 50 SECONDS LEFT.
- They turn it over, Alstork grabs it, there's 0.1 on the clock, he misses the free throw and Underwood smartly tells him to miss the second, and then Alstork inexplicably goes after the ball. The game is over - just miss the free throw and then lay down on the ground because the rules state that you need, what, 0.4 to even attempt a shot, and yet Alstork went after the ball and the IU guy tried to fake a foul.
We did nearly everything someone can do to blow an eight point lead with 50 seconds left. And yet, somehow, we held on for the win. Which means we're now in "a win is a win" territory, which is, like, the saddest place for any fan to be.
Does any of this matter? No. The season is already over, the new coach is finding out who is a good fit for his system and who is not, we return nearly everyone next year and can start to think about the postseason, he now knows his exact recruiting needs and will spend the summer trying to patch every hole - this is and always has been about the future, not the present.
But let's be honest - we didn't deserve to win that game. We hit one shot the final 11 minutes. When Kipper lost the ball driving to the hoop with the shot clock expiring and the official bailed him out with a whistle, I'm pretty sure Archie Miller lost his damn mind. We had some help - Indiana couldn't hit a free throw to save their lives - and despite our lack of defense allowing IU to shoot 56% and our complete meltdown blowing an eight point lead with 50 seconds left... we won.
~takes win, puts it in pocket, feels a little better driving home~
+ I don't want to look it up but I'm pretty sure opposing big guys are something like 25 for 28 the last few games. Morgan was 12 for 14 tonight and Justin Smith was 3 for 3. I don't know enough about defense or rotations but I know that we're getting layup-lined. It's probably not getting fixed this year, but, uh, let's go recruit four athletic bigs this summer, please.
+ That said, I feel like the difference in the game was our "two point guards and three bigs" lineup to start the second half with Kipper at the three. Indiana seemed confused, and we quickly turned a six-point deficit into a lead. We started grabbing rebounds, we started getting to the line, and that run (up until Leron picked up his third and fourth foul back-to-back and had to come out of the game) was probably the reason we won.
Like, we complained so much the last few years about coming out of halftime and failing to show up, so to see us aggressively take the lead from a fairly stunned Indiana was great to see. That's one constant we've seen from this team over and over this season. Out-matched, out-athleted all over the court, but fight and fight and fight some more. Something to build on.
+ Interesting box score tonight. Here's the guard minutes:
- Frazier 34
- Lucas 30
- Alstork 21
- Jordan 17
- Williams 7
- Smith 4
We had all but counted Te'Jon out and then he gets 30 minutes. Underwood praised Mark Smith as "one of the top freshmen in the country" back in November and now he gets four minutes. Da'Monte had been this staple on defense at the end of close games but tonight I think he sat the entire second half.
Could mean nothing, but I feel like my understanding of next year's guard rotations once we add Ayo changes day by day. No idea what it looks like going forward.
+ OK, so now after three games in six days, finally, some rest. Rutgers comes in next Tuesday and, hey, how about a winning streak? On the road to Ohio State after that but then right back here for Wisconsin and Penn State. Now that we've finally broken the losing streak, there are more wins to be had.
And hopefully we can, you know, put the game away when we have an eight point lead with 50 seconds left.