Message Received, Loud and Clear. #15 Purdue 84, Illinois 78. Matt Painter threw everyone on his team other than E’Twaun Moore and Robbie Hummel under the bus over the weekend in comments he made about the lack of hustle and energy from his players during the Boilermakers’ recent three-game losing streak. It’s a tried-and-true coaching strategy, and it seemed to work tonight as his team used a strong second half run out of the game to take control of this game and make Painter look like a genius. Examining the players that Painter referred to in his diatribe, he conspicuously omitted JaJuan Johnson from a preferred starting lineup (composed entirely of Moore and Hummel clones), and that slight resulted in a dominant 24/12/2 blks evening for the big man. When JJJ plays up to his abilities on the offensive end, Purdue is nearly unbeatable, going 8-1 in the last two seasons when he breaks twenty points. When he’s held under ten for the game, the Boilermaker record is 6-6 over the same period, including all three losses this season. Additionally, usual starters Keaton Grant and Chris Kramer were relegated to bench duty tonight, but 7/9/3 assts between the two of them show that they were focused on defense and hustle stats. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening was sophomore guard John Hart coming off the bench to contribute a career-high 14/2 in eighteen inspired minutes of action. Believe it or not, tonight was Hart’s first minute of action in a Big 10 game — nice debut, young fella! Illinois played well enough to win the game on the defensive end, but like so many other Illini games over the year, they simply couldn’t get enough production aside from Demetri McCamey (28/9) and Mike Davis (17/15). Freshmen guard duo DJ Richardson (12/2) and Brandon Paul (5/3) shot 6-18 from the field, which was surprisingly their best combined output in three weeks, but Illini fans have to be wondering what happened to the pair that combined for 34 points in the big comeback at Clemson in early December.
Watch Out, ACC. #18 Georgia Tech 66, #16 Clemson 64. The Ramblin’ Wreck moved to 3-2 in the ACC with its third win in eleven days over a ranked team (nevermind that pesky loss to UVa sandwiched in between). And while the win is very nice and worth talking about on its own merits, what we really want to discuss is that the nation’s #2 incoming recruit, Derrick Favors, may have awakened from his season-long slumber to serve notice that the second half of the year may be a somewhat different story for his opponents. His numbers weren’t Michael Beasley or Blake Griffin-esque (17/14/3 blks), but they do represent his best all-around performance of the season (career highs in pts and rebs), and had he made his FTs (1-5) he would have broken the 20-point barrier as well. As Favors said after the game, he is ‘playing better,’ and if he is putting it all together just in time for the home stretch of the season, Georgia Tech suddenly becomes the most interesting team in the ACC. Gani Lawal added 16/10 for Tech and Zachery Peacock (6/5) hit the game-winning FTs with 3.2 seconds remaining.