BOX SCORE: Purdue 81, DePaul 73
Before I say anything about today's game, I want to take the time to compliment the Purdue fans that made the trip to Maui to support the team. In all three games the Purdue fans in attendance were very loud in their support for the team and other than Kentucky and perhaps UCLA, I don't think any other contingent was bigger than Purdue's. It was great to see such support for this young team.
In today's game, Purdue played a near flawless first half. Offensively they were hitting from all angles (18-of-26 including 6-of-9 from three-point range), and defensively they were able to force DePaul out of any offensive rhythm. As a result, Purdue led 45-26 at the break after leading 45-21 late in the first half.
At halftime, I commented to my friend Jack that I thought DePaul would make a run and they came out on fire to start the second half and quickly reduced Purdue's lead to 12 (45-33) by scoring the first seven points of the half. From there it was a dogfight as both teams stepped up their intensity and Purdue was not able to pull away despite some excellent play from just about everyone. DePaul eventually cut the lead down to six, but both Carl Landry and Tarrance Crump made their free throws down the stretch and Purdue held on for a hard earned 81-73 victory. Judging from the smiles on the player's faces afterwards, this was a game they were very happy to win.
It's a little hard to judge just how good DePaul might be. I think they lost to Northwestern before coming to Maui, but they did give a pretty good Kentucky team a very good game on Monday and they have a number of good athletes on their roster along with a couple of big bodies underneath. I think DePaul is certainly the caliber of team that Purdue needs to beat consistently if they are going to climb back into the national college basketball consciousness, and I think beating both Oklahoma and DePaul as well as playing with Georgia Tech for 30 minutes or so probably surprised more than a few of the pundits. All I know for sure is that this year's team is really a lot of fun to watch play and I think they've proved that they can at least be a factor this year in the Big Ten race. Hopefully Chris Kramer will be back sooner rather than later, because he's one of the key players on this year's team. I think that if Purdue can stay relatively injury free, they will definitely have a shot at an NCAA berth. I think it's also a good sign that this team was able to out-rebound DePaul today (34-27) after out-rebounding Oklahoma 33-26.
Carl Landry – Carl had another dominating performance today. He was unstoppable down low (when he got the ball) unless he turned it over and he even did a great job handling the basketball in the backcourt when DePaul was pressing. He ended the day with 22 points, 10 rebounds one assist and five turnovers in 30 minutes of play. If he doesn't make the All-Tourney team it will be a shame. I'd like to see Carl exercise a little better judgement sometimes, but with the opposing defenses all geared to stopping him, I think a few turnovers are almost inevitable as he tries to gain position inside.
David Teague – I've been a little critical of David's performance in this tournament, but today he really played well. In this game, he was actively looking to penetrate and get shots inside the perimeter instead of hanging around the three-point line the whole game. As a result, he was able to score four points and even more importantly, he pulled down 11 rebounds and passed out four assists in 36 minutes. He did have a couple of turnovers, but if this is the kind of play Purdue can expect from David for the rest of the year, this might indeed be a good year to be a Purdue basketball fan.
Tarrance Crump – It's very hard not to get excited about the way this young man played today. It's almost as if you can see his self-confidence growing steadily with each game and he was virtually unstoppable today. I think Tarrance still gets a little out of control once in a while, but he is so explosive it's just fun to watch him play. Today he played what has to be a season high 34 minutes and scored 20 points while adding two rebounds, two assists and only one turnover in a scintillating performance. I don't normally pick a player of the game, but if I did today it would be Tarrance Crump.
Gordon Watt – After two really good games statistically, Gordon had a quieter game today, but he still scored seven points, pulled down six rebounds and added two assists without a turnover in 29 minutes. I would characterize Gordon's play today as very, very solid. To me, Gordon is the kind of player every good team has. He's a guy that isn't flashy, but he makes plays and does a lot of the little things on both offense and defense that make the team better.
Marcus Green – Marcus had a quiet game offensively, but his only basket came at a crucial time in the game on a beautiful baseline drive and I thought his defensive effort was very good. One of the nice things about having a guy like Marcus on the roster is that he's big enough and quick enough to guard guys taller than he is and I think Marcus's versatility is going to be a big plus for this year's team.
Chris Lutz – Chris started again today and was very effective from three-point range in the first half (3-of-4). He got in foul trouble again today, and that limited his playing time to only 23 minutes today, but there is no doubt that Chris can play a key role for this team as a guy who can open things up inside with his outside shooting.
Keaton Grant – Keaton had a quiet game today with only three points and one rebound in 18 minutes. Still, like Marcus, his size and quickness make him a very versatile player. I think his versatility will make him a key player for this year's team, albeit a player whose production will probably vary from game to game until he gets more experience.
Both Jonathan Uchendu and Dan Vandervieren played today and both made positive contributions. Dan made a nice basket on a beautiful feed from Chris Lutz on a play very similar to one against Georgia Tech when he fumbled the pass out of bounds. It was nice to see some improvement in such a short time. Jonathan only played three minutes, but he made a beautiful baby hook and pulled down a crucial rebound in those three minutes.
In summary, I think this was another good win for Purdue. It was good primarily because everyone who played made some kind of positive contribution and it was good because it is another positive shot in the arm for this team's confidence. I think most of us tend to forget how hard it is to rebuild team confidence after what has transpired the past couple of seasons and I think Matt and his staff have done a tremendous job of keeping these players motivated and inspired. I know a lot of you probably don't get to come to Mackey very often, but I urge all of you to make every effort you can to see this team play. They aren't the biggest team and they aren't the most talented team, but they play really, really hard and they are FUN to watch play.