On a night that required greatness, Smith answers the Cousy snub and Purdue perseveres
These aren't your father's Northwestern Wildcats, who pushed the No. 2 Boilers to the edge in overtime.
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Braden Smith was angry. Of course, he was angry. The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame had just revealed its 10-man watch list for the Bob Cousy Award, given to the top point guard in the country, and Smith’s name was nowhere to be found.
Did he play with a chip on his shoulder Wednesday night in Purdue’s epic 105-96 overtime victory over Northwestern at Mackey Arena?
“I’d say so,” he said with a broad smile.
In a game that rated as an instant classic, one that matched Northwestern’s ridiculous shot-making and Purdue’s gritty persistence, Smith finished with 16 assists, tying for the highest mark in the Big Ten in 15 years. His on-court leadership was on particular display in overtime, when he handed out four assists and scored a basket as the Boilers went six-of-six.
When Smith was asked directly about deriving an edge from this week’s Cousy snub, he demurred, insisting he’s more about winning than individual awards – which, of course, sounds great and is something of a fib. Damned right he was mad, and he was right to be mad, because if Smith isn’t one of the top 10 point guards in the country, something is desperately amiss. (If you want to take it a step further, how did Maryland’s Jahmir Young fail to make the list as well?)
I asked Matt Painter if Smith played like one of the 10 best players at his position Wednesday night.
“Bob Knight said that basketball is watched by millions and understood by few,” he said. “So if you think he’s the 11th best point guard in the country, I hope you get a (coaching) job in the Big Ten. At least we’ll get two wins.”