BOX SCORE: Purdue 78 - Wisconsin-Platteville 46
As I watched the first half of tonight's game, flashbacks of all the indifferent and sometimes horrid play we witnessed from Purdue over the last few years kept running through my mind.
Purdue got off to a good start and led 11-3 before Wisconsin-Platteville started to take better care of the basketball and get to the free throw line. Purdue, on the other hand, looked lethargic and too often settled for the first available open shot, most of which they missed. The game was tied at 28 with less than 35 seconds to play in the half, before Terrance Crump took the ball to the hole at the end of the half, got fouled and made both free throws for a 30-28 Purdue lead at the break.
Purdue was late getting on the floor after the half, but once play started it was as if a completely different team arrived at Mackey Arena for the second half. Purdue went on a 24-2 blitz during the first five minutes of the second half that featured some excellent defensive pressure as well as some flashes of brilliance on the offensive end of the floor. From there, Painter substituted liberally and the final score was 78-46.
As with most games, there were some things I liked and some things that I didn't like. First, the good.
(1) I loved the defensive pressure Purdue is putting on the ball. Purdue is picking up the ball in the backcourt and applying pressure constantly once the ball crosses the ten second line. Wisconsin-Platteville was forced to start their offense about 30 feet from the basket and while they had some limited success in the first half, they were pretty much throttled in the second half. With guys like Crump, Grant, Green and Kramer, Purdue can put an awful lot of quickness and athleticism on the floor and create a lot of problems for the opponents. Hopefully, this will translate into fewer wide open looks from 3-point land (an area that has been a real trouble spot for the last couple of years) and lead to a much lower 3-point field goal percentage for Purdue's opponents this year.
(2) Watching Carl Landry play is a real treat. This guy is an absolute monster on the blocks when he gets the basketball in the low post and he also is showing a much improved jump shot. Wisconsin-Platteville had no answer at all for him and if his teammates hadn't forgotten Carl was on the floor much of the time, Carl might well have scored 40 or more tonight. It looks to me like Carl is poised to have a terrific senior year and he appears to have no lingering issues with his injured knee.
(3) I'm also encouraged by the way Tarrance Crump played tonight. He can really motor up and down the floor and he also showed some scoring ability from outside I wasn't sure he had. He also appears to be very unselfish and looks comfortable passing the basketball on fast breaks. He had one excellent feed to Marcus Green for an easy basket and would have had another except Marcus missed the bunny. He also applies excellent defensive pressure and had one steal tonight that was textbook when he stripped the basketball from his opponent and took it the other way for an easy two.
(4) I'm also impressed with the play of Marcus Green, Chris Kramer and Keaton Grant. All three of them are excellent athletes with good basketball skills and all three of them showed some flashes of what is to come tonight. At this point, they still have a lot to learn, but each of them has a tremendous upside and I think all three of them are going to make major contributions this year.
(5) I also thought David Teague played pretty well tonight. His shot still wasn't falling as well as I'd like, but David was aggressive offensively and I think he was the leading rebounder with eight rebounds. David is one of the real keys if Purdue is going to have any success this year, and I think it's crucial that he provide not only consistent scoring and rebounding, but leadership as well. From what I can see, he's taken the latter role to heart and I'm hoping the scoring and rebounding will come.
(6) I'm not sure what Matt Painter might have said to the team tonight at the half, but whatever it was, it sure worked. I know the opponent wasn't a world beater, but the first five minutes of the second half were about as good as any five minute period I can remember from a Purdue team in a long, long time. Since the players were the same players that weren't all that impressive in the first half, one can only conclude that Matt's coaching had a significant impact on the way they performed.
Now, things I didn't like;
(1) For the second straight game, Purdue's free throw shooting wasn't much to write home about, particularly in the first half. I'm not sure what it is, because the players look good shooting the ball, but they just aren't making as many as they need to.
(2) For the second straight game, Purdue was out-rebounded by a relatively small opponent. A lot of this can be traced to the fact that of Purdue's four legitimate frontcourt players, two (Watt and Uchendu) did not dress tonight. This means Purdue is forced to play four guards the whole game and there was even a couple of minutes late in the first half when they had five guards on the floor because Landry and Vandervieren were in foul trouble. I think we're going to have to wait and see what happens when Purdue is at full strength before passing judgement, but rebounding is clearly going to be a major area of concern for this team.
(3) I was bothered by the way Purdue played in the first half. Coach Painter said after the game that too many guys were "looking for shots" instead of just running the offense and trying to make sure Carl Landry touched the ball every time down the floor. Hopefully, he's right and it's something that can be corrected, because Purdue cannot afford to play like they played in tonight's first half against Big 10 teams and expect to win many games.
I saved my comments on Dan Vandervieren, Chris Lutz, Bobby Riddell and Chris Hartley until the end because I was not overly impressed with their play, but I wasn't exactly disappointed either. Of the four, I thought Dan Vandervieren probably played the best. He's a big guy with what appear to be decent skills, but he's extremely raw and I think it's going to take some time before he can make a consistent contribution. He had a couple of nice blocks and made a nice basket on a reverse lay-in, but he also air-balled an easy jumper and he was in early foul trouble. Still, not bad for his first game. Chris Lutz continued his struggles from the first game although he had a very nice looking 3-pointer as part of Purdue's 24-2 run that broke open the game at the start of the 2nd half. If I had to guess, I'd guess Chris might end up coming off the bench unless his scoring picks up soon. Both Bobby Riddell and Chris Hartley played tonight and I must confess that I enjoy watching them play. Neither one of them is the most talented guy, but they both hustle, they can both hit a shot if left open and I think it's great that they can both be a part of this team.