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August 4, 2012For those Boilermakers of years passed who participated in Saturday's first-ever Purdue Alumni Game in a sweltering Mackey Arena, the priority was probably to enjoy themselves.
Winning did matter, though.
"If you're on Gene Keady's side," Todd Mitchell said, "it's always important to win."
The former Boilermaker coach has Lewis Jackson to thank.
The recently graduated point guard made a three-pointer as time expired, carrying Keady's Black team to a 73-70 win over Matt Painter's Gold team, in front of a crowd of more than 6,300.
After the game, Jackson stood in Mackey Arena's tunnel and got a congratulatory pat on the shoulder from teammate Troy Lewis, roughly a quarter century his senior.
"Now," Jackson said, "I can say I got a win with a legend."
Jackson was the hero, trumping a late three by the Gold team's David Teague, putting Team Painter up three in the final minute, before Jackson hit not one, but two, triples from there on out.
"I thought (my shot) was the icer," joked Teague, who expects to sign a contract soon to play in Argentina this season after splitting last season between leagues in Italy and the Ukraine. "He stole my glory a little bit, but it was really fun.
"When it gets down to it, everybody wants to win. But LewJack, man, he threw a monkey wrench in our plans with those back-to-back threes. He surprised us with those threes."
While Jackson made the game-deciding shot, some of those who came long before him starred as well.
Lewis, one of the program's five 2,000-point scorers, made three threes, matching Jackson. Forward Brett Buscher scored 10 points, his mid-range jump shot looking not unlike its form from when he played in the early 2000s.
Chris Kramer scored eight points for Keady, while Marcus Green added nine.
NBA player Brian Cardinal scored five points.
"It was great to play in Mackey again," said Cardinal, who said he hopes to play at least one more year in NBA, though he remains unsigned now. "It was fun to come back, see the fans, see the kids and reminisce with past teammates and old friends and play under Coach Keady again.
"He didn't yell and scream as much as he usually does, but being out there with him again and with my past teammates was awesome."
One of those former teammates was Brandon Brantley, who starred for Painter's Gold team, scoring 14 points. Matt Kiefer scored 10 and Chris Reid eight.
Having coached Jackson through his college career, Painter knew what he wanted to do in defending the Black team's final possession, calling for his team to switch screens on Jackson to keep him out of the lane.
Painter got what he wanted: A contested jump shot for Jackson, who sank the shot over Brantley's outstretched arm.
"Sometimes living with the percentages can still get you beat," Painter joked.
Following the alumni game, the current team held three 10-minute scrimmages with Purdue's shortage of "playmakers," according to Painter, mandating that the teams be switched up each session. By "playmakers," he was talking in part about point guards, where the Boilermakers are thin.
But Ronnie Johnson used the abundance of minutes given him to impress.
The freshman, unofficially, had 13 points and four assists between the three sessions. D.J. Byrd led all scorers with 17.
But it was the team's frontcourt that stood out.
A.J. Hammons scored 11 points and was credited with five blocks. Forwards Jacob Lawson and Donnie Hale combined to grab 19 rebounds. And big man Sandi Marcius looked improved, with 11 points and nine rebounds, his highlight being a sequence in which he forced a turnover at one end by fronting Hammons, then ran the floor, took a pass from Ronnie Johnson in transition and dunked with two hands over a helpless defender.
But there was certainly some roughness around the edges for a team that leaves for Italy early this week.
"We took poor shots," Painter said. "I don't think there's ever been a clean first scrimmage, ever, in the history of basketball."
As a team, Purdue made just 7-of-23 free throws, according to unofficial stats.
That is an issue the Boilermakers will want to see turned around during their four games in Italy.
This time of year, of course, there are a lot of areas of concern, particularly for a team as new as Purdue is.
"I want to see us battle through things," Byrd said. "It's going to be tough and it's going to be hot there. We're going to have an eight-hour flight over there and a lot of things going on. We just need to be able to focus on games and play through being tired and things like that with guys who don't have a lot of experience. If we can play hard and try to outwork the other teams, that'll be the biggest thing."
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