"You have to play with energy and purpose every time out to compete against Big Ten competition."
That's a quote from an article written by Wisconsin State Journal writer Tom Oates describing why Wisconsin fell to Purdue on Sunday. He wrote about how Purdue won the 50-50 balls and how it was much more physical and aggressive. Sound familar?
Matt Painter has been preaching that sermon every day for months, and the members of his congregation finally heard his words and responded with a resounding, "Halleleujah!"
I can't say for sure that the win will catapult the Boilers to a successful run at the end of the season, but at least there is a template that can be archived for future reference. It's titled, "This is How You Play the Game."
How unrealistic was it to expect Purdue to win? Think about it. Bo Ryan's teams have won 91 percent of their games at the Kohl Center. The Badgers were on a three-game winning streak with a margin of at least 20 points in each game. It was Senior Day, on which Ryan's teams had never lost. Oh, and Purdue was a 14.5-point underdog.
I have to put this among the top five most-gratifying road wins in my 36 years covering Purdue basketball. In recent years, other than winning at Bloomington, nothing beats a win at the Kohl Center. Matt Painter has been at the helm for three of them. He's the only Big Ten coach with a winning record against Ryan.
What does this mean in the long run? Truthfully, I don't have a clue. This has been a whacky basketball season.
Think about this: Indiana beats Purdue by 37 at Mackey Arena, Wisconsin beats IU in Bloomington and Purdue beats Wisconsin by double digits in Madison. Gonzaga is ranked No. 1 this week, but has losses to Illinois and Butler. Those two teams have a combined 13 conference losses.
Think about this: Kansas leads the Big 12, but lost to 1-15 TCU. Penn State is 1-15 in the B1G, but beat fourth-ranked Michigan. Things have been really crazy this year.
I will openly admit that I misjudged the Purdue team early in the season. I was telling our longtime radio engineer, Wes Scott, on Sunday that the one thing I was most impressed by on the Italy trip was the maturity of the young players. That's been a big issue this season. It happens.
The lesson learned in Madison on Sunday was shared by both teams. If you play with purpose and energy, prepare for your opponent earnestly, respect your opponent always and play with passion, you will always compete. Great teams never forget that.