Edit (bobbyjack)- added Box score
I'm not kidding myself. The better, deeper team won tonight. The home team wilted down the stretch. Purdue is the number 5 team in the nation and their performance tonight demonstrated why.
Alabama's pressure defense and hot shooting helped them build a 16 point lead while the Boilermaker's second leading scorer and rebounder sat on the bench after picking up his third foul with more than ten minutes to go in the first half. Purdue used its depth and constant pressure on Alabama's point men to keep Bama from scoring a single bucket in the last 8 1/2 minutes of the game. When the Tide defense did force missed shots in the second half, the Boilermakers always seemed to be in position to grab the rebound and make a put-back shot.
Two crucial calls took some wind out of Alabama's sails while Purdue was making its run. Green picked up a blocking foul on what looked like a clear charge. Perhaps Green was set up too close to the basket under the new rule, but he clearly was set for more than the required length of time. The second was a "no call" when defensive specialist Chris Kramer fouled Torrance on a steal. Instead of Torrance shooting free throws, Kramer's layup padded Purdue's then slim lead.
The officials did not make the difference in this game. Several other close calls went Alabama's way earlier in the game, and the Tide probably could not have scored toward the end if LeBron James had been on the court with them. Purdue's experience and depth were the difference and Alabama did well to have stayed in front of them for as long as they did. Still, the loss must be a bitter pill for the team to have to swallow.
I'd estimate the crowd to have been well in excess of 12,000, including perhaps 1,000 Purdue fans. The visitors, a mixture of both traveling students and adults, encouraged their team enthusiastically throughout the game. I applaud them for that and enjoyed chatting with several of them before the game started, including Chris Kramer's parents.
It was really good to see so large a crowd show up for this important game on a cold rainy night when when most of the students already had headed home to enjoy their Christmas break. I hope this means Coach Grant will continue to schedule big name teams and that the fans will continue to support his efforts.
I'd say Alabama's performance tonight was similar to what we saw api do on the football field late last month. They showed up strong, spirited and well prepared. They gave a valiant effort against a better team and came very close to winning the game. Superior depth and talent won out in the end. I'm sure Coach Grant will use this to help the team continue to improve, as they have done throughout the season.
Congratulations, Purdue. You earned it. I hope your team enjoys tremendous success this season and plays it's way to the Final Four.