I know this will get me accused of not having taken off my "rose colored glasses", but I actually thought Purdue played some of their best basketball of the season tonight. They couldnít sustain it for 40 minutes, but for the first 10 minutes of the game, Purdue played about as well as Iíve seen them play in the last three or four years.
Only some torrid 3-point shooting by Wisconsin in the early going kept Purdue from opening a huge first half lead. Purdue played with energy, they played with enthusiasm, they forced Wisconsin out on the perimeter and they had some excellent decision-making and movement in their half court offense. Purdue actually led 16-9 with about 13 minutes to go in the first half and then in quick succession Wilkinson hit a three, Butch hit a three and Landry picked up his 2nd foul with 11 minutes left. He sat out the remainder of the half and Purdue scored only 12 points in the remainder of the half, but still trailed by only four at the half despite the fact that Wisconsin had hit 8-of-10 from beyond the arc.
The 2nd half was more of the same as Landry picked up his 3rd foul after about three minutes with Wisconsin leading by four. From there, Wisconsin again went unconscious from outside the arc, hitting five straight three-point shots (four were by Morley) to open up a 50-37 lead with about 12 minutes left and Purdue never really challenged again. The story of the game can pretty much be summed up by the shooting statistics. Wisconsin shot the ball 28 times inside the arc and made 10 for 20 points while Purdue shot the ball 45 times from inside the arc and made 28 for 56 points. Wisconsin shot 22 times from three-point land and made 14 for 42 points while Purdue shot the ball only nine times from beyond the arc and made 1 for 3 points.
Think about that, Purdue actually made 5 more field goals than Wisconsin did and still lost (Wisconsin had an edge in FT's only because Purdue had to foul to stop the clock at the end of the game). It wasnít just one guy for Wisconsin either. Six different players made three-pointers and Zach Morley (who was shooting just over 40% from three-point range coming into the game) did most of the damage hitting 6-of-8. While Iím discouraged over the result, Iím actually happy with the way Purdue played, particularly at the offensive end of the floor. They shot 53.7% from the field, they turned the ball over only nine times, they had 19 assists on their 29 baskets and they held Wisconsin to a draw on the boards (24 each). On the negative side was their continued ineptitude at the free throw line where they were a woeful 9-of-17 and their perimeter shooting which was an abysmal 1-of-9 from three-point range.
Brandon McKnight Ė I thought Brandon had another solid game tonight and it looked to me like Purdue bogged down offensively when he was not on the floor. He did miss his only two FTís at a critical juncture early in the 2nd half but he had seven assists and only 2 turnovers and scored 10 points on 5-of-12 shooting I thought he did a reasonably good defensive job on Chambliss until late in the game when Purdue was fouling to stop the clock.
Andrew Ford Ė Andrew started again tonight and missed his only shot (a three-pointer) but he did make a nice pass to Kiefer for an easy lay-up and did a good job handling the ball. I just hope Andrew realizes how lucky he is to have a coach like Gene that rewards him for all the hard work he's put in.
Carl Landry Ė Wisconsin really had nobody who could stop Carl; itís just too bad that Carl stopped Carl by committing some pretty silly fouls. Carl did get some of his points late in the contest when Wisconsin wasnít putting up much of a defensive effort, but his 23 point, three rebound (or better) performance is something Purdue is going to have to have every game out if they are going to win any Big 10 games. Carl did get caught trying to double team Wilkinson in the 2nd half and Wilkinson passed to Landryís man (Morley) who promptly buried another three-pointer.
Matt Kiefer Ė Matt came off the bench and did some good things and some bad things including one pass that sailed about three feet over everyoneís head. He did hit Purdueís only three-pointer and was active and aggressive going to the basket. He struggled defensively because he had to guard guys like Morley and Wilkinson out on the perimeter and still sag back and help clog the middle and heís just not quick enough to be very good at it.
Gary Ware Ė Gary started both halves, but hardly ever touched the ball in the post unless he was blocking a shot or grabbing a rebound. I think Purdue would like to get him posted up because in past games heís shown some good offensive moves with his back to the basket, but for some reason they werenít able to get it done tonight. I think a lot of that is on Gary, but he didnít really play all that much tonight and therefore didnít have a lot of opportunities.
David Teague Ė To me, this was by far Davidís best game of the year. He was active at both ends of the floor and he wasnít firing up a lot of three-point shots for a change. He shot 9-of-16 from the field with two FTís for 20 points and was also Purdueís leading rebounder for the game with six. If he ever finds his three-point stroke and he continues to make intelligent decisions inside the arc he just might become the player we all thought he was going to be this year.
Bryant Dillon Ė I thought Bryant played OK tonight. It doesnít look to me like Bryant will ever be a big scorer, but heís a decent defender and he handles the ball pretty well.
Charles Davis Ė Charles played a little in both halves and looked more comfortable out there than he did last Saturday. He had only been in the game a short time when he grabbed a rebound and put it back in. Unfortunately, thatís the last time he really had any chance to score, but I think heíll give Purdue some quality minutes as a back-up before the season is over.
Xavier Price Ė Xavier had one really nice move in the lane in the first half, but he missed the shot. Still, I liked the way he was aggressive with the ball and he also made some nice passes for baskets tonight (he had 4 assists). Xavier is very much a work in progress, but I think he definitely has the ability to be a solid Big 10 player for Purdue.
As I mentioned earlier, despite the loss, there were some encouraging signs tonight. Wisconsin is a pretty good team that is well coached with several guys who can all score, rebound and defend. When they shoot the ball like they shot it tonight, they will be very hard for anyone to beat, let alone a team like Purdue that just doesnít have a lot of offensive firepower. Going into the game, Wisconsin was shooting 37.8% from the three-point line and while I suspect their looks tonight were a little more open than normal, 14-of-22 shooting from beyond the arc is pretty incredible even if nobody is guarding them at all. I think most people would agree that 50-percent shooting from beyond the arc is exceptional and if Wisconsin had merely been exceptional tonight instead of incredible the game would essentially have been even. Iíve watched Purdue play a lot of games in Mackey and I canít ever remember seeing an opposing team hit as many three-point shots as Wisconsin hit tonight. I suppose itís not a record, but it has to be close.
Looking at Purdueís schedule, itís hard to see a lot of games that Purdue might win. Obviously this Saturdayís game against Illinois is going to be particularly difficult and Purdue faces the very real possibility of starting out the Big 10 season 0-2. Following the Illinois game is a road game against Minnesota, a home game against Indiana and then a two-game road trip to MSU and Iowa. If Purdue can find a way to play for 40 minutes like they played for about 25 or 30 tonight, I think they can possibly win both the Minnesota and Indiana games and at least give Illinois a game. Playing well for 40 minutes is a tall order for this team, but after tonightís game I think that at least the possibility is there. If itís going to happen, Landry has to stay out of foul trouble, Teague has to play the way he did tonight, everyone has to do a better job of shooting free throws and a couple of players other than Teague or Landry have to step up and score some points. I guess what Iím saying is that I think this team is going to surprise some folks before the Big 10 season is over, I just hope itís sooner rather than later (Grin).