Sunday, February 25, 2018 8:30 pm
Final observations: Purdue vs. Minnesota
DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette
WEST LAFAYETTE — Tonight really couldn't have been scripted any better. Purdue led almost the entire game and ran away with it in the second half, so much so that Matt Painter was able to pull all four of his seniors from the game as a group with four minutes to go. Talking to the media after the game, it was clear how much that moment meant to Vincent Edwards, being able to come out and get one last ovation from the fans (I put his comments about that in my recap video and I highly suggest you watch it).
This game was always going to be more about honoring the four seniors than the basketball game. Watching all four speak after the game, and then watching the reaction from the fans, it's obvious how much the larger Purdue community has embraced this group, and how grateful the seniors are for that support. The arena was still almost completely full when they gave their speeches after the game. Not one student from the Paint Crew left their seat.
Of course, the basketball that was played today went very well for Purdue, about as well as could be expected in Vincent Edwards' first game back. Other than one brief Minnesota run in the first half, the Boilermakers were in total control the whole way, especially on the defensive end. They finished with nine blocks and nine steals and forced 13 Minnesota turnovers while committing just five of their own.
After a month of close games, it was good for Purdue to get a blowout victory and allow the starters to rest a bit in the final minutes. They'll have four days off between now and their next game and the Boilermakers should be almost completely healthy by the time they take the floor in New York for the Big Ten Tournament.
It's difficult not to think of today's game as an ending for this season. The finality of the Senior Night speeches and the emotional players made it seem as if the year was already over. In fact, the real season is about to begin. Purdue has legitimate Final Four aspirations and it played today like a team capable of reaching that goal. After the game, Painter drew one of the loudest cheers of the evening when he said he believes the seniors' best basketball is ahead of them. If that's the case, this could end up being one of the last teams standing in March.
In the end, though, today was about the seniors. Nearly 90 minutes after the final buzzer sounded, after the players had given their speeches and had finished talking to the media, both Isaac Haas and P.J. Thompson were in the tunnel signing autographs for fans who still had not gone home.