If youíve followed my game summaries this year, you have no doubt noticed some common themes for this yearís Purdue team. These are:
(1) Either Carl Landry, Matt Kiefer or both will get in early foul trouble.
(2) Purdue will not shoot free throws well.
(3) Purdueís guards will not shoot the ball well from the field.
(4) Purdue will go long stretches without scoring from the field.
(5) Someone will have a breakdown at a critical juncture in the game.
In tonightís game, there were a few signs that Purdue is making progress in some of these areas, but some of the same old problems continue to rear their ugly head.
(1) Tonight both Landry and Kiefer stayed out of foul trouble. As a result, Landry was on the floor for 31 minutes and Kiefer was on the floor for 34 minutes.
(2) Purdue shot miserably from the free throw line making just 16 of 29.
(3) Purdueís guards were a combined 6 for 20 from the field including 3 for 9 from 3-point range. The only good news in this is that the guards only took 20 shots out of a team total of 47. I suspect that may be the lowest percentage of shots by Purdueís guards in any game this year.
(4) Purdue went from the 8:37 mark of the first half when they led 21-16 to the 16:38 mark of the 2nd half when they trailed 40-27 with only one basket and 4 free throws. Their only basket in this stretch came when Carl Landry stole the ball just before halftime and scored. Thatís 11 minutes and 59 seconds with only one hoop. It was very reminiscent of the long scoring drought in both the Indiana and Illinois games.
(5) There were a number of breakdowns at critical times tonight. One of them occurred on the last play of the first half when after calling time out with 8 seconds left (after Landryís steal) to set up the defense, Purdue let Shannon Brown dribble the length of the floor and score a virtually uncontested lay-up as time expired. Another came after a nice Purdue comeback had cut the MSU lead to 1 with about 8 minutes remaining when Andrew Ford threw a lazy pass that was picked off by Shannon Brown for a dunk at the other end. Purdue never got closer than 3 the rest of the way. However, neither of these blunders were nearly as costly as Purdueís failure to block out when Paul Davis missed the 2nd of two free throws, MSU rebounded and Maurice Ager hit a 3-pointer to give MSU a 6 point lead late in the game.
Brandon McKnight Ė I really liked the way Brandon played tonight, I just wish he could make his easy shots. I know he missed two shots from less than 5 feet that were uncontested and I think he missed at least 2 other wide-open 10 or 12-foot jump shots. I keep thinking that one of these nights, Brandon is going to have a game where virtually everything goes in, but after 15 games Iím beginning to wonder. MSUís guards (Shannon Brown and Maurice Ager) are both lightning-quick and MSU does a good job of keeping them in motion and running off screens. I thought Brandon did a pretty darn good job of fighting through the screens and putting pressure on his man.
Andrew Ford Ė After Andrewís big game against Indiana, I was hoping heíd keep hitting his open 3-pointers to at least keep the defense honest. Unfortunately, tonight he missed both of his attempts, although both of them were essentially wide-open shots that he just has to take. Andrew played 19 minutes tonight, primarily because Bryant Dillon got in foul trouble trying to stay up with MSUíS quickness. It looks to me like Gene has decided to go with Bryant and use Andrew in relief.
Carl Landry Ė Carl was unbelievable tonight. MSU had nobody who could guard him effectively and he ended up with a career high 31 points on 11 of 12 shooting including 1 of 2 from 3 point range to go along with 9 rebounds (6 offensive), 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block and only 1 turnover in 31 minutes. Carl got 2 or 3 of his baskets on sheer individual effort after either making a steal or chasing down a rebound. I did think Purdue did one of their better jobs of getting him the basketball tonight and hopefully he'll continue to get more touches.
David Teague Ė David probably took less shots tonight than in any game all year and still scored 13 points. For the night he was 3 of 7 from the field including 1 of 3 from 3-point range (both misses were good looks, he just missed them) along with 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 3 turnovers in 37 minutes. David probably had the most difficult defensive assignment because he had to chase Maurice Ager all over the court and I think he wore down in the 2nd half (Ager played only 25 minutes to Davidís 37). Hopefully David will continue to show the good shot selection he displayed tonight.
Matt Kiefer Ė I thought Matt played well tonight. He battled Paul Davis (who is one of the big 10ís best big men) most of the night in the post and more than held his own with 9 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 turnovers in 34 minutes. Matt even stayed out of serious foul trouble and that was probably the most pleasing aspect to his play.
Bryant Dillon Ė I thought Bryant did a good job handling the ball against MSUís pressure. He only scored 2 points on 1 of 3 from the field, but he had a rebound, 3 assists and no turnovers in 23 minutes.
Charles Davis Ė Charles played quite a bit in the first half and had a lay-up off a nice feed from Kiefer. He missed his other two shots and also missed both free throws, but he had 3 offensive rebounds, an assist, a steal and 2 turnovers in 13 minutes. In all honesty, at least when Charles is in the game he makes things happen although the results arenít always good. Heís been a nice addition for Purdue.
Chris Hartley Ė Chris played for some reason tonight and Xavier Price didnít. Iím not sure why, but Chris did have an assist in his 6 minute stint.
Gary Ware Ė Gary played only one minute, didnít cover on a simple pick and roll and let his man get an easy lay-up. He spent the rest of the night on the bench as I think Gene loses patience quite quickly with guys that keep making the same mistake over and over.
For those of you that havenít seen MSU play, they feature a deep, aggressive team with 10 guys that are playing 10 or more minutes and another (Naymick) who plays just less than 10 minutes a game. Six of those 10 guys average in double figures and they are a hard team to defend because they have several guys that can hit the 3-pointer and a very good post player in Paul Davis. They arenít a great team because they donít have enough quality big guys, but they are certainly capable of beating just about anyone on a given night. To be honest, I thought that Purdue had about as much chance to win this game tonight as I do of being elected Governor of Indiana. When MSU took a 13-point lead early in the second half, I thought the game was over. Surprisingly, the Purdue players never quit and played some of their best basketball of the year to give MSU all they wanted. If Maurice Ager hadnít gotten hot just when MSU needed him, they might very well have gone down tonight to a Purdue team that canít match their talent and canít match their depth. My hatís off to the Purdue players and the coaching staff for the effort they continue to bring night after night. They need a win in the worst way and if they keep playing like they played tonight, I think theyíll get it sooner rather than later. I keep looking for signs that this group has gotten down, but if anything, Iím seeing more effort and hustle, not less.