Holy shit! What a goddamn game.
It’s taken me until noon Friday to calm down a little bit after a thoroughly satisfying Thursday night of hoops. I went to bed after 1:00, and slept only fitfully between the lingering adrenaline and the trips to the bathroom caused by that last beer at 12:30. This morning my pulse was still a wee bit fast, so I threw my camera over my shoulder, drove to a couple nearby nature parks, and spent two hours walking and snapping pics.
And still, when I start thinking about last night’s beatdown at the Sprint Center, my heart kicks a little quicker.
Sweet 16 games are normally brutal, stomach-churning, soul-crushing games that leave you in a puddle regardless of the result. But last night was the exact opposite of that. A team that clicked in every way for 30 minutes and absolutely destroyed a really good team.
All week long I had been worried about how KU would handle Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas, and how our approach with them could lead to wide-open shots by Purdue’s collection of excellent shooters. And for 10 minutes those fears seemed justified.
Then Matt Painter did something dumb – doubling Landen Lucas in the post – KU hit a couple shots, the defense ratcheted up, and a switch was flipped/fuse lit. Every shot started rimming out for the Boilers, they started throwing the ball away, somehow KU started getting every rebound, and KU’s shots began raining down from all around the arc.
Still, it was a two-point game five minutes into the second half and Biggie was yapping first at Lucas and then at the entire KU bench after he drained a couple 3s.
More than any strategic change by either coach, that was the turning point. Four minutes later the game was effectively over, as Frank Mason took over, Landen dunked all over the Purdue D, and LaGerald Vick turned in the greatest dunk in KU’s NCAA history. I mean, a 360 in a still fairly tight game? Gigantic stones to even attempt that. One beat writer Tweeted that, had he missed it, Vick likely would have found himself tackled and choked by Bill Self before the ball hit the floor.
The game went from 2 points to 14 in a blink. Then to 20 when Devonte Graham started hitting everything. And finally 32 freaking points over the champion of a power five conference in March.
And thank goodness. I have a lot of Purdue friends, and while they were all good natured with me this week, losing to them in March, in Kansas City, would have been terrible. Bookend that with a loss to Indiana in the season-opening game, and I might have to burn all my KU gear. Or at least never wear it here again.
100, 90, and 98 points through three games. I think this team is rolling. BIFM is BIFM. Josh Jackson finds a way to impact the game every night. Devonte Graham is hot as hell. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and LaGerald Vick have turned into a great, two-headed monster at the 3-spot. Dwight Coleby is providing solid minutes. Hell, KU has blown open the last two games with Landen Lucas on the bench fighting foul trouble each time, which I think was our biggest fear in both games.
Momentum shifts quickly in March. All it takes is one bad shooting night, or a couple tough foul calls, to derail a team. But, man, this team looks absolutely locked in.
Oregon will be a great challenge in the Elite 8. Like KU, they lost to a #2 seed in last year’s Elite 8 and seek redemption. Like KU they’re playing without a very important big man. Like KU they play mostly four guards and love to run and bomb from deep. I’d love a repeat of the last time these teams met in March, that wonderfully entertaining regional final in Madison in 2002. That Oregon team though they could run with KU. And they did for about 30 minutes. Then the wave crested and crashed and wiped the Ducks off the court.
I’m going to keep basking in the glow of last night probably into tonight. But then the nerves will kick back in again and I’ll be miserable until around 8:50 tomorrow night when the game begins.
I did pay close attention to the local media this morning. Words and phrases that stuck out: “avalanche,” “destroyed,” “embarrassed,” “a whole different level of talent and basketball,” “worst Purdue loss in years.” Nice.
The other three games last night were exactly what the Sweet 16 is normally about. I think fans of all six teams had to have felt drained afterward. And for the three losers, those losses will sting extra hard. Absolutely brutal possessions by Michigan, West Virginia, and Arizona on their last chances with the ball. It’s one thing to lose a heartbreaker. It’s another to spend all summer thinking about the shots those games ended on.