WOW!!! What a fast-paced three days of Big Ten Tournament action. We awoke on Sunday morning courtesy of a wake-up call at 7:45 a.m. Just enough time to get dressed and mosey down to breakfast at the hotel restaurant. Promptly at 8:30 a.m., the bus departed from the hotel to shoot around. Bus rides to shoot are typically when we listen to our music and make light conversation with one another. Today was different. Today, we were full of excitement and a lot of chatter! As we arrived to the Sears Centre, we were on a mission to put in the game plan and re-familiarize ourselves with the arena.
Sometimes when you’re used to playing in a certain city for years at the tournament, you forget what the venue is called. So long story short, walking into the arena, I yell out “Hello Bankers, we meet again!!!!” As I said this, Chantel Poston says “Sam….we are in Chicago. We aren’t playing in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.” I guess sometimes it’s important to be aware of your surroundings. We laced up our Nikes and gathered around center court and Coach V reminded us of the circle that connects us all. That has been a HUGE theme for our team this year. She gave us a rundown of how shoot around was going to be and off we went to form shooting! I won’t bore you with the details of everything we did in that hour we had, but let’s just say….WE WERE READY!!!
A few players (6) went to get ice-cold garbage-can-pools after shoot around in the locker room. With many yelps and screams of displeasure, we each endured seven very loooooong minutes of what felt like pins and needles sticking us. We all knew the importance of fresh legs for the championship game though, and we really needed the whirlpools. Three games in three days is no joke!
After shoot around, back at the hotel we watched an inspirational video about two brothers who do triathlons together. The younger brother has a rare type of autism and his older brother literally runs triathlons while pushing or towing his brother. It was amazing and the entire team was left speechless. Coach V’s message was to show that no matter how tired we might be today on the court, we can remember the video and gain strength and determination through that.
We watched film and clips of Michigan State to refresh our minds of Michigan State’s style of play. We players had our own thoughts…we didn’t need to be reminded of their personnel or plays they run. We remember. We lost a heart-wrenching game less than two weeks ago; we needed NO reminders. As film rolled on, players shared their thoughts and insight on MSU players and how we were going to defend the plays they run. Ironically, it was the scouting report to the T! Film finished with a highlight pump up video of our successes throughout the year. From big shots to big blocks, each of us was shown doing what we do best! A stellar pregame meal was presented and we chowed down; yet another thing we are really good at.
With an hour of “free time,” we went to our rooms, packed our bags, and got dressed for the big game! In the hotel lobby, there was a pep rally send off as we boarded the bus. We thanked our fans for showing their support and went to get mentally prepared for the task ahead. The attitude on the bus was something I will never forget. Each player had their headphones on, zoning out and getting focused in their own way. With our police escort, we felt really special.
Fired up and ready, we entered the Sears Centre for one last time. Game time. Statement time. Our time.
Now, you should understand that we have MANY different personalities on this team and we are quite goofy most of the time. Not one player showed any sign of nerves or being anxious; we were ridiculously loose and filled with an energy that may have looked like we were just care free and going to practice. But hey, that’s just how we work!
Carrying that attitude into the game from the tip was what really set got our offense and defense off to a great start in more ways than we could’ve imagined.
From start to finish, we played with poise, intensity, fearlessness and a bounce in our steps. The next thing we all know, WE WON!!!! It is such an incredible feeling to win a B1G Tournament championship, but make it back-to-back, and you have an entirely indescribable feeling. From all of the 6 a.m. workouts to running the timed mile test, we knew all of that hard work paid off in this moment. With many hugs and laughs we celebrated, with confetti falling, a back-to-back title in OUR new city, Chicago. Thanks to all of our fans, family, our band, media, and everyone on staff at the tournament that made this championship very special!! We have a lot more track to cover, so we will keep this Boilermaker train going full steam! Boiler up, Hammer down, and HAIL PURDUE!!!
Sam Ostarello #32 @ostartweeter