Once again, I come away from a loss with mixed feelings. I thought Purdue played hard tonight and I even thought there were some positives in defeat. For one thing, Purdue finally showed an ability to make some free throws when they absolutely had to make them. They got off to a bad start (I think they were 1 of 5) but finished with 12 of 17 for the night and I don’t think they missed at all in the 2nd half. The problem is, they aren’t getting to the line often enough, but until tonight that was a good thing (Grin). Another positive tonight was the rebounding effort and Purdue actually did a pretty decent job on the boards (they won the battle 37-31). In fact, if they had done a better job of chasing down some long rebounds and loose balls off missed shots, they would have killed NC State on the boards. A final positive was the fact that both Landry and Kiefer did a better job of avoiding foul trouble. Landry played 37 minutes with only 3 fouls and Kiefer played 29 minutes and picked up 4. That’s a lot better than they did Saturday against UC.
On the negative side, Purdue had 20 turnovers to only 11 for NC State and in the end analysis; those turnovers were the difference in the game. Of those turnovers, at least a half dozen were of the moving screen variety and more than half of the total (12) came from our two best post players (Kiefer had 8 and Landry had 4). Purdue also had another absolutely woeful shooting night from the field. They followed Saturday’s woeful 31.2% effort against UC with a slightly improved (but still horrible) 33.3% effort tonight. Part of the problem is they are getting too many shots blocked (UC blocked 9 of 64 and NC State blocked 8 of 54) and part of the problem is that David Teague is really struggling to find any kind of shooting rhythm (he’s a combined 3 of 25 in the last two games). Unless David regains the form that made him Purdue’s 2nd leading scorer last year, I think Purdue is going to have trouble beating anyone. In addition, I thought Purdue’s perimeter defense was horrible. It’s true that NC State shot only 8 of 29 from beyond the arc, but of those 21 misses, at least half were completely wide open looks as Purdue often appeared confused as to who was supposed to rotate or they were slow to close out on a stationary shooter. Finally, Purdue is not getting any scoring from their bench. If you take away Andrew Ford who only played 1 minute (and got credit for a shot on what appeared to be an ugly, ugly lob pass at the end of the first half), Price, Carroll and Ware played a combined 40 minutes and were 2 of 4 from the field for 4 points and that’s just not enough points for Purdue to be competitive. They did do an excellent job rebounding the basketball (a combined 11 rebounds) so it wasn’t all-bad, but each of these guys has to find a way to score.
Brandon McKnight – If you look at Brandon’s line, he had a pretty good game tonight. He had 14 points (only 5 of 14 from the field though), 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 turnover and 1 steal in 36 minutes. He also made a super drive to the hoop late in the game to cut NC State’s lead to 4 and then forced a turnover with an excellent defensive play to give Purdue a last gasp chance to pull out a win. Purdue couldn’t convert the opportunity, but I really liked the way Brandon stepped up and made a play when Purdue needed him to.
Matt Kiefer – I think Matt continues to make progress. Obviously 8 turnovers is pretty dismal, but most of them came when Matt was at least trying to make a positive play and he did have his best rebounding game of the year with 9 rebounds and he hit all 6 of his free throws and had 2 steals. I think the key for Matt is just finding a way to play relaxed. It looks to me like he’s trying so hard that he’s playing tight instead of just going out and having fun.
Bryant Dillon – Bryant started again tonight at the point and played 26 minutes. He followed his 1 for 5 shooting from the UC game with an 0 for 4 night tonight and it looks to me like he just doesn’t have a lot of confidence in his jump shot because the shots he’s missing aren’t hard ones. I think you can also see why Purdue’s offense is struggling when you look at the fact that Dillon has played a total of 52 minutes in the last two games and has only 2 assists against 5 turnovers. When your point guard doesn’t score, he at least needs to do a good job of distributing the ball and to this point; Bryant just isn’t getting the job done. Of course, if Teague could make a shot, Dillon’s numbers might not look quite so bad (Grin).
Carl Landry – Of all the things that have happened so far this year, Carl’s play has been the most impressive. Tonight he had 18 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocked shots in 36 minutes. About the only negative were his 4 turnovers, but his continued good play is one of the reasons someone might be optimistic about this team’s future.
David Teague – David had another horrid shooting game tonight. At this point, one has to wonder whether it was a good thing for him to come back from his broken hand until he could play without a bandage. I suppose one could make the argument that he would probably have struggled no matter when he came back and by getting started early, it only hastens the date when he’ll be back at full strength. I surely hope so because Purdue’s not going to win many games with him shooting like he has the last two games.
Gary Ware – Gary only played 3 minutes tonight and while he pulled down 2 rebounds in those minutes, it’s pretty obvious he’s just not on the same page as the rest of the team at either end of the floor. Hopefully he’ll figure it out sooner, rather than later because Purdue needs him to step up and contribute some offense when he’s in there.
Matt Carroll – Once again, I liked the energy and effort that Matt Carroll brings to the team. He’s been in the program 4 years now and he understands what the coaching staff wants him to do when he’s out there. If he can just find a way to get some points, I think he can be a pretty effective backup for Landry and Kiefer. He’s a pretty good rebounder and he sets solid screens, but so far he just hasn’t shown any ability to score.
Xavier Price – For a freshman getting his first taste of playing against a ranked opponent on the road, I thought Xavier did a pretty good job tonight. He played 25 minutes and had 4 points, 5 rebounds 4 assists and 3 turnovers in those minutes. I’m not sure, but I think at least two of those turnovers were moving screens and I think he’ll get that corrected.
Finally, I’ll just close with the observation that while I was proud of the way this team competed tonight and I was proud of the way they fought back late in the game and put themselves in a position to have a chance to win the game. I was really; really disappointed at the lack of execution once they got there. That running one-hander by Teague was one of the worst shots of the year (and there have been a couple of doozies) and I wonder what he could have been thinking. I know that a single play doesn’t win or lose a game, but that one play kind of summed up what’s going wrong offensively so far this year for Purdue. I think that in that situation you have to be thinking about going inside to Kiefer or Landry and hope they can score and get fouled or perhaps hit an open shooter on the perimeter if they get double-teamed. Dribbling the ball at the top of the key and then launching a closely guarded, off balance running one hander from behind the backboard is a recipe for disaster and you’d think a junior who has played a lot in 3 years would know better. It also highlights what one great player can do for you. If NC State is in an identical situation, they’ll get it to Hodge and he’ll make a play. They still might not win, but their odds area lot better than Purdue’s are right now.