Welcome back for another installment in Talking 10’s “Purdue Week” series. Although most of our articles for “Purdue Week” are focusing on football, this is our weekly chance to check in on all the other athletic success stories going on in West Lafayette.
Let’s take a look at some of the highlights of 2015-16 and how that will project forward for Boilermaker fans in 2016-17. For a program where no league titles have come since 2013, you have to dig deep. But that’s exactly what we are willing to do here at Talking 10.
Without further ado, let’s see where Purdue succeeded the most this year.
(Matt Painter gives 2015-16 a thumbs up, courtesy Cleveland.com)
After a couple of lean years in 2012-13 and 2013-14 by Purdue basketball standards, Matt Painter has the Boilermaker basketball program back among the elite in the conference once again. This past season, Purdue was nearly unbeatable at home, going 17-1 with the lone loss being the Big Ten home opener against Iowa in January.
That strong home record, coupled with a 12-6 overall conference record, was enough to land a Top-4 seed in the conference tournament. Thanks to a couple of upsets, Purdue was heavily favored to make the championship game and that’s just what the Boilermakers did, dispatching Illinois and Michigan. The final came against what appeared to be a future NCAA one-seed in Michigan State, and Purdue played the Spartans very tough before losing 66-62.
Of course, the season would end on a sour note for both these top Big Ten teams, as both suffered surprising first-round exits (Purdue as a 5-seed, MSU as a 2-seed). Purdue’s exit was particularly frustrating, as Little Rock was down by 13 with 3 and a half minutes to play and yet still came back to survive a double-overtime thriller. That’s how it goes in the NCAA tournament, but hopefully Purdue can continue to improve as the team continues to compete again for Big Ten titles.
A.J. Hammons will be a huge missing piece following his graduation, as he anchored the center of this team over the past few years. The most important thing for a physical team like Purdue is to find those big guys to bang around inside, and junior Isaac Hayes will likely need to take a leadership role at center. With transfer guard Spike Albrecht filling in for the graduated senior guards, Purdue should remain (at worst) in the middle of the pack next season.
More likely, though, is that Coach Painter will find a way to maximize his new players to compete again at the top of the Big Ten.
Women’s Track and Field
(Relays, photo courtesy jconline.com)
Aside from Men’s Basketball, the other athletic teams making the most progress for Purdue in 2015-16 were the men’s and women’s track and field squads. Starting with the indoor season last fall, the women finished strong at the Big Ten Championships, ending up with 4 event titles and a second place finish overall.
The 4×400 relay team finished the championships with a new Big Ten record for that event, running away from the closest competition in Iowa and Ohio State. Devynne Charlton also led the team with a gold medal, a silver medal, and a 4th place finish in her events. Although the same good results did not continue at the NCAA Indoor Championships, the women still had a great season before moving back to spring outdoor track events.
When the Big Ten championships came around for outdoor track and field, the men and women again put up some school records and big performances, putting up their best finishes since the early 2000s. The men finished 3rd in the Big Ten, while the women finished 4th overall.
Speaking of the women’s team, the highlight for them was a 4×100 relay which ended with the event title and gold medal. That, added to a 3rd place finish on the second-best time in program history at the outdoor 4×400 relay, resulted in the Top-4 finish for the Boilermakers. Overall, the men and women sent 22 competitors to the NCAA Outdoor Championships as well to follow up on the Big Ten success.
Looking ahead to next year, the women only lose 9 seniors to graduation, so this program could be building to even better team finishes next season. Expect a few more program and maybe even Big Ten records to fall in 2016-17.
Men’s Golf (and August Kim)
(photo courtesy purduesports.com)
Purdue put together some great finishes throughout the men’s golf season, including a 3-1 record at the conference match play championships which ended as a 3rd-place finish. Led by Fernando Barco and Austin Eoff, the team rolled into the Big Ten championships with what appeared to be a real chance at a conference title.
That did not happen, however, as the Boilermakers had a couple of disappointing days and ended up 6th out of 14 teams. Purdue rebounded in the NCAA Regional in Norman, Oklahoma, finishing in the Top 5 and qualifying for the NCAA national championships for the second time in three seasons. The Boilermakers join Illinois as the only Big Ten teams to qualify for this event in the past three years.
Fernando Barco led the way once again in the Regional with a Top-10 individual finish. Unfortunately for the squad, the national championships did not go as well with the team learning some tough lessons in a 29th place finish. On the bright side, the team rallied to not finish in last place, and most of the team returns with valuable experience for next season.
In this regard, expect better finishes next season and likely another NCAA national championships appearance as leaders Barco, Eoff, and Brian Carlson all return along with a highly-regarded recruiting class. Purdue men’s golf is on the way up, perhaps even to competing with Illinois for a conference crown.
Turning briefly to the women’s side, although the team did not put up great performances this season, August Kim single-handedly pushed the Boilers to a third-place Big Ten championships finish by winning the individual title on the back of an incredible 5-under par last round. She earned All-Region honors in the NCAA Regional and qualified for the national championships as an individual for the second time.
Kim finished 32nd in those national championships, which is 28 spots better than when she was a sophomore. She returns next year for one more run at top finishes, and she could be an outside contender for a top finish if she can make her third nationals appearance next season.
Be sure to continue to support and enjoy these other achievements that the student athletes are bringing home to “Boiler Up!” Nation now and in the near future.
Stay tuned next week as we turn the ATC article series back west to Lincoln. Also, check out previous 2016 ATC articles already done (Michigan State, Minnesota). Have a great week!