BOX SCORE: Purdue 90 - Northern Colorado 58
Tonight’s game started slowly and I think the score was tied at eight after the first six or seven minutes before Purdue went on an impressive run to lead 28-10 with less than ten minutes remaining in the first half. This run was fueled primarily by some aggressive defense on the perimeter coupled with some hot three-point shooting from Purdue. Purdue then spent the remainder of the half continuing to shoot quickly and relaxing somewhat defensively. The result was that Northern Colorado cut the lead to eight late in the half before Purdue scored a couple of baskets to go up 39-27 at the break.
Just like they did in the second exhibition game, Purdue came out and dominated the first five or six minutes of the second half. I don't remember the exact sequence, but I know it included two free throws from Landry, a steal by Teague leading to an easy basket, a steal by Crump for an easy lay-up, a three-pointer from Watt and another steal leading to a driving lay-up from Kramer. I think Purdue scored 11 straight points without Northern Colorado even getting off a shot and ended up with a 13-0 run to take complete command before Northern Colorado could score. The keys to this victory were pretty simple, Purdue's defense completely shut down Northern Colorado's offense and Purdue shot the ball really well from outside -- 11-of-25 from three-point range. Purdue's starting line-up of Landry, Watt, Kramer, Teague and Crump looked very good, particularly on the defensive end, and there was no noticeable fall-off when Green, Lutz and Grant were substituted into the line-up. It's hard to tell a whole lot from a game like this because Northern Colorado was completely outclassed, but it is clear that this year's Purdue team possesses a lot more offensive weapons than any Purdue team in several years and they have more overall team speed and quickness than any Purdue team I've ever seen. I'm still concerned about the woeful free throw shooting (15-of-26 tonight) and a lack of size up front, but considering that tonight's game was the first game all year where essentially all of the key players were able to play together, the coaching staff appears to be doing a great job of getting these guys to play together and to play hard.
Carl Landry – I thought Carl had somewhat of an off night tonight (if you can be "off" and still score 18 points). I'm not sure what it was, but it looked to me like he was having a hard time getting his motor running at full speed. He did have one spectacular drive to the basket where he just over-powered his defender, but he picked up two offensive fouls relatively early in the 2nd half (albeit after the game was decided) and he seemed content to sort of "float" around instead of establishing good position on the low block. It doesn't help that the other guys sometimes seem to forget he's out there and I'd really like to see him touch the ball at the offensive end more times than he does.
David Teague – I thought David played his best game of the year tonight. He was hitting from outside (3-of-6 from three-point range) and he also had three rebounds, two steals and an assist along with a single turnover in 25 minutes. The thing I really like about what David is doing so far this year is that he's not forcing things and he's really working his tail off at the defensive end of the floor.
Tarrance Crump – I thought Tarrance did an excellent job of putting defensive pressure on the basketball tonight. Even though he was only credited with a single steal, I'm pretty sure he stripped the ball cleanly on two separate occasions and took it in for an easy lay-up both times. I also noticed that Tarrance had no assists in 20 minutes of play and it's obvious he's having trouble running the half-court offense. I also noticed that when Tarrance re-entered the game after his first rest of the 2nd half, he immediately put his head down, took the ball to the basket and tried to create a shot. After play stopped, Bobby Riddell immediately came in for Tarrance and Coach Painter had an animated "discussion" with Tarrance before he sat down. Since Tarrance did not play again, one can only surmise that Coach Painter has decided to let Tarrance know that he is going to play Coach Painter's way, or he's going to sit. I don't think it's anything to be concerned about, but it's pretty clear that Tarrance has a ways to go before he becomes a top-flight point guard. I think the good news is that Tarrance has an excellent set of skills and it's only a matter of time before he finds his comfort zone.
Chris Lutz – Chris came off the bench tonight and played extremely well. He was hot from the perimeter (4-of-6 from three-point range) but he also had two steals and two assists in his 23 minutes of play and I think he should be a valuable "spark" off the bench this year because he's solid defensively and he seems to have worked very hard at cutting down on his turnovers.
Marcus Green – I continue to be impressed by the improvement in Marcus's game from a year ago. He had a tough time from the freethrow line tonight (2-of-5), but he was a force on the boards with five rebounds and he added two steals and one assist with only a single turnover in 19 minutes. Oh, and he nailed his only three-point shot of the evening. Marcus is another guy that I think will be the kind of player that can give Purdue some real "spark" when he comes off the bench this year. He can shoot the basketball, he can rebound, he can defend and he's a versatile player that can help Purdue in a lot of ways.
Gordon Watt – This was my first time to see Gordon play in person and I came away impressed. He's clearly going to be a big help on the boards (nine rebounds tonight including four on the offensive glass in only 19 minutes) and it looks like he's a pretty decent defender as well (three steals tonight). I thought he looked a little uncomfortable at the freethrow line (3-of-6), but he nailed an open three-pointer and he appears to have confidence in his shot. I'm anxious to see how well he and Landry complement each other at the offensive end as they get experience playing together, but I think Gordon is definitely going to help Purdue this year.
Chris Kramer – It's hard to believe that this kid is only a freshman. Chris seems to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time and he's been very impressive so far this year. Tonight he only scored six points, but he had five rebounds (three offensive), five assists and two steals in only 20 minutes. About the only negative were his three turnovers, but once he learns to slow down a little bit and let things come to him instead of trying to force them, I think he could be a special player for Purdue.
Jonathan Uchendu – Jonathan continues to surprise me. He's very raw and very slender for his height, but he's got more skills than I was led to believe by some of the recruiting "experts". I’ll be surprised if he has very many more games like tonight's (10 points, three rebounds, one steal and two blocks in 16 minutes) this year, but based on what I've seen so far, he at least has the ability to provide some capable back-up minutes this year. He seems to have a nice shooting touch, he's agile and he shows ability to block shots. He's probably a year or so away from being a consistent contributor, but I like his upside.
Keaton Grant – I sort of saved the best for last in a way. I've watched this kid play three games now and I think he has the potential to become one of Purdue's all-time great players because I haven't seen very many freshmen at Purdue who have the complete skill package that this kid has. Tonight he scored 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting (including 2-of-3 from three-point range) and he added two assists and four steals in only 18 minutes of action. Like Chris Kramer, Keaton has a tendency to get out of control on occasion (three turnovers tonight), but I think the number of his mistakes will subside as he gets more experience. What impresses me the most about Keaton is his hustle and enthusiasm. There was one play tonight midway through the second half where Keaton dove for a ball going out of bounds, deflected it off a Northern Colorado players shin and kept possession for Purdue. It was just a little thing, but I couldn't help but think it's those little things that oftentimes make the difference between winning and losing.
Both Bobby Riddell and Chris Hartley played tonight and while neither of them scored, they both made positive contributions elsewhere (Riddell had a rebound and two assists, Hartley a rebound). I also noticed that Dan Vandervieren was sitting on the bench in street clothes and appeared to have one of his ankles either in a walking cast or a boot of some kind. There was no pre-game show tonight, so I'm not sure what happened with Dan.
In summary, I like what I'm seeing so far. It's true that the competition has been less than imposing, but Purdue has dominated these teams like they were supposed to and that has not often been the case these past few years. It looks to me like we will know an awful lot more about where this team might be headed after they return from Maui and after they play Virginia in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. I also think it's important for everyone to keep in mind that this team should be a lot better in January and February than they are going to be in November and December. They appear to have more talent than any Purdue team in several years and I think the challenge is going to be getting everyone on the same page by the time the Big Ten season rolls around. If they can, this just might be the year that puts Purdue back on the college basketball map again.