Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Purdue's Super Seniors Shine in Mackey Finale
Purdue head coach Matt Painter said when they first arrived on the West Lafayette campus E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson would complain that he was stealing their “whole day, every day.” Painter’s intense practices and workouts proved to pay off on days like Tuesday.
“They’ve had tough days, but they have never made excuses and just continued to work,” said Painter. “They’ve been a pleasure to coach on and off the court. They’ve been great.”
The Purdue seniors capped off their Mackey Arena careers with a 75-67 win over Illinois to give the Boilermakers their first undefeated season at home since 1969.
“I tried to take it as just a regular game,” said Johnson. “It still doesn’t feel like it’s my last game here at Purdue, actually. Maybe a couple of weeks from now it will sink in that it was my last game at Purdue. I don’t know when that feeling will come, but it will come.”
Moore and Johnson played their final game under the bright lights of Mackey Arena and didn’t disappoint in the curtain call.
Johnson led all scorers with 23-points and Moore added 18, including three triples.
Purdue’s seniors are a rarity in college basketball. They are superstars who stayed in school all-four years and turned a struggling program into contenders.
“It was a fast four years,” said Moore. “I tried not to think about it, but I couldn’t help it.”
At the start of the season, Johnson and Moore thought they’d be celebrating their home finale with fellow senior Robbie Hummel. But, Hummel tore his ACL on the second day of practice and is sitting out the season. He will return next year, but in his absence, the 2011 campaign fell squarely on the shoulders of the Boilermakers other four-year men.
Moore and Johnson have carried their team almost flawlessly. The Boilermakers have won seven in a row, are a game out of the Big Ten lead, and are on the shortlist of teams vying for a number one seed in the NCAA tournament.
They are making those who wrote Purdue off after the Hummel injury swallow some crow.
“It says a lot about their dedication and how they want to help this team and go far in the tournament,” said guard D.J Byrd. “That’s the kind of attitude they bring and our players are starting to emulate that, especially towards the end of the season. They’ve seen how it’s paid off for [Johnson and Moore] and I think that will help our team in the long run.”
The Boilermakers made a run to the Sweet 16 a year ago, but fell to eventual National Champion, Duke. Almost 12 months later, Purdue believes they can ride their senior stars to the same destiny as the Blue Devils.
“E’twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson make other players better,” said Matt Painter. “The impact they’ve had is really their development and how they’ve carried themselves.”
Johnson and Moore have become Purdue icons while playing under the rafters where the retired numbers hang of some of the program’s legends like Rick Mount and Glenn Robinson.
And it likely won’t be long until the numbers 25 and 33 drape from the Mackey ceiling, but Purdue’s super seniors hope to leave several more lasting impressions in the Arena they’ve called home for four years, championship banners.
“We can still win the Big Ten tournament and make it to the Final Four, so all of our goals are still intact,” said Johnson.
Purdue’s dynamic duo isn’t in any hurry to end their college careers, but they closed out another chapter like they’ve done throughout their time in West Lafayette, as winners.