Game #9-206: Purdue Boilermakers at Eastern Michigan EaglesDecember 8, 2012 2:00 pm
Basketball in southeastern Michigan is a rich and diversified affair. A fan can enjoy small or large school basketball featuring teams from the Big Ten, Horizon, MAC, and Summit League, all of which call the area home. Frequently, I enjoy this hoops cornucopia with my eleven-year-old half-brother Aaron, an area resident. As with many boys of that age, his number one semi-sport related interest is professional wrestling, but he seems to enjoy accompanying me to college hoops in various barnstorming tours around the state. On this day, he and I were set to see Eastern Michigan host Big Ten opponent Purdue in a wonderful home get for the Eagles.
I asked him a bit about the game beforehand, and he answered with a humorously blunt honesty.
CRAIG: What do you know about this matchup today between Purdue and Eastern Michigan?
AARON: Most likely that Purdue is going to win.
CRAIG: What else do you know?
AARON: Um...that EMU has a great team...?
CRAIG: Do you know anything about EMU's team?
AARON: [Laughs] No.
CRAIG: Do you know anything about Purdue's team?
His primary source of excitement for this particular contest came from our second row, center court seat location. I learned early on that it's exponentially tougher to entertain a kid in the upper deck than a kid within spitting distance of Coach Painter, so I made sure to buy our tickets for this contest the second they went on sale. Much to my pick-your-seat surprise, two seats in the second row were open, and I snagged them immediately.
On his favorite part of mid-major hoops: "I mean, it's always fun to be close to the court and stuff."
When we arrived at our seats, it was hard to ignore the empty ones all around us, painted in wide strokes around the arena. Apparently hosting a Big Ten team doesn't draw the crowd that it used to, although the 2 pm start time didn't help matters. A handful of miles up Washtenaw/Stadium, the Michigan Wolverines were finishing their thrashing of the Arkansas Razorbacks
, and anyone trying to pull double duty would have to be a latecomer. Had the start time been at 3 pm or later, I would have attempted it. Instead, I chose near-courtside Big Ten-MAC over upper deck Big Ten-SEC. I would learn very quickly that I made the right choice.
Conditioned by years of experience in mid-major inevitability, each Purdue basket from the opening tip onward seemed to signal the end of the Eagles. When EMU had scored two total points in the opening 8:32, I had already written off any hope of Eastern being competitive, let alone combative. Aaron commented on the ugliness of the game, but remained optimistic about the home team's chances.
He continued to cheer for the Eagles, attempt his patented finger twinkling free throw curse on any Boilermaker player foolish enough to draw a foul, and generally remain optimistic about a middling MAC squad's chances against a far superior opponent. I was simply happy he was entertained, especially after a spilled popcorn tragedy that threatened to derail his whole event before it began. Soon I was entertained as well, especially when the Eagles mounted a furious (for this offensive abomination of a contest) 6-0 run to close the half, making it 20-19 Purdue at the break. Aaron left our seats to explore the concourse, and soon returned with a poster board sign.
"I made a sign, but I don't like it. I tried to draw the Eagle, but it doesn't look very good."
As a rule, Aaron is a pretty good artist, especially in the foundational blocks of cartooning and freehand replication of trademarks. I thought the Eagle looked fine, but he was unsatisfied and kept the poster board tightly rolled as the second half began.
The Eagles jumped out of the gate with a superhoop to make it 22-20 EMU, which was about the diametric opposite expectation for the first basket of the second half. Although I was entertained, I remained decidedly pessimistic about Eastern's chances. But as Aaron's grin continued to grow with the Eastern lead, I started to visualize the ol' Ken Pomeroy win probability graph swing to the home team's advantage. With a nine point lead and 11:16 remaining, I admitted to Aaron that Eastern may have a chance, although they'd likely blow it down the stretch. In actuality, math had given them a pretty good chance about four minutes prior
, and the win probability at my eureka moment stood at over 58%.
By this point, Aaron had been sucked into it. Every time the Eagles would stretch the lead, the Boilermakers would Third Law their way back into striking distance. With 23 seconds and the ball, down only two points, Purdue heaved up with a contested three that was way off the mark. Eastern gets the rebound. Aaron's sign, self-conscious Eagle and all, is lifted with all of his might. The Eagles call a timeout, only to inbound the ball to notoriously bad free throw shooter Da'Shonte Riley (39% on the season as of 12/27). Riley goes to the line and rattles home the first. The sign again shoots up. Matt Painter does the Tobias shuffle
. The second free throw doesn't matter. Purdue's buzzer-beating heave doesn't matter. My first Red Line Upset had arrived in grand fashion.
After the game, Aaron called home to say that we were on our way back.
"Mom! The Eagles won! Can you believe it?"
at EASTERN MICHIGAN 47, PURDUE 44
PURDUE 4-5 (0-0) -- M. Rolls 4-9 1-3 9; T. Johnson 4-11 1-4 12; R. Johnson 4-13 3-4 11; A. Hammons 4-10 3-6 11; D. Byrd 0-5 2-2 2; A. Johnson 1-3 0-0 3; D. Hale 0-3 1-2 1; J. Lawson 0-1 0-0 0; D. Anthrop 1-1 0-0 2; R. Davis 0-0 0-0 0; J. Simpson 0-0 2-2 2; T. Carroll 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 14-47 12-20 44.
EASTERN MICHIGAN 6-2 (0-0) -- D. Harrison 2-6 0-0 4; G. Bryant 1-8 0-3 3; J. Sims 3-7 0-0 7; D. Riley 2-4 1-4 5; D. Thompson 3-9 0-0 8; J. Ross 1-6 2-2 5; M. Balkema 1-3 0-0 2; J. Harris 1-2 1-3 3; R. Lee 2-8 0-3 4; A. Harper 1-2 4-4 6. Totals 17-55 8-19 47.
Three-point goals: PUR 4-14 (D. Byrd 0-5; T. Johnson 3-7; A. Johnson 1-2), EMU 5-18 (J. Sims 1-4; A. Harper 0-1; G. Bryant 1-3; D. Thompson 2-6; R. Lee 0-2; J. Ross 1-2); Rebounds: PUR 44 (T. Johnson 8), EMU 31 (D. Harrison 11); Assists: PUR 9 (A. Johnson 3), EMU 9 (J. Ross 5); Total Fouls -- PUR 19, EMU 16; Fouled Out: PUR-D. Byrd; EMU-None.