BOX SCORE: Purdue 79, Missouri 62
Before I comment on the game, I want to say a few words about Missouri. Frankly, I was very impressed with how hard Missouri played at both ends of the court, particularly in the first half. For me, it's difficult to find the words to express just how difficult it is for a team to prepare for and play against the kind of full court, trapping defense that Missouri plays. Ill just say that I think Missouri is well coached and that I think they are going to get better as the season progresses. I dont think they are a team that's going to contend for the NCAA Championship, but I think they will be very hard to beat at home and I think they will be a factor in the Big 12 Conference race.
Before the game started, I thought the only way that Purdue could win today was to control tempo, minimize turnovers and shoot the ball well from the field and the free throw line. I also thought Purdue would have a tough time containing them on the boards and that there was a possibility that Purdue's defensive pressure would cause them a lot of problems in the half court. As I feared, Missouri's press gave Purdue fits in the first half and at one point Purdue threw the ball away on three consecutive possessions, all three turnovers resulted in easy lay-ups for Missouri and Missouri led 17-16 midway through the first half. Following a Purdue time-out (I think it was their third of the half), they seemed to regain their composure and regained control with an 8-0 run. From there, play got ragged again and Missouri was able to eventually tie the game at 39 at the half. Purdue's main problems in the first half were turnovers (they had one two of which eight were steals) and an inability to hit free throws (they were a miserable 5-of-15 in the first half).
Missouri started the second half with an easy basket and I thought, "here we go, Purdue's going to throw away a game they should win". From there, the game went back and forth for a few minutes and Purdue led 45-44 before going on something like a 12-0 run to finally break open the game. What was impressive about this stretch was that Purdue physically imposed their will on Missouri with a tenacious half-court defense that had Missouri completely out of sync. Purdue eventually stretched their lead to 20 and won by a final score of 79-62. The keys to the twond half were much improved free throw shooting (13-of-16), fewer turnovers (nine versus two and three of them came way after the game was decided) and a suffocating defense that Missouri could not solve. The other big plus for Purdue was that they won the rebounding battle 40-31 which was a very pleasant surprise.
Carl Landry I can't begin to tell everyone reading this how well Carl is playing. Today he had 23 points, 12 rebounds, one assist, two steals and two turnovers in 34 minutes of play. About the only negative in Carl's play today was the fact that he hit only 9-of-18 free throws, but the positive side of that is that he shot 18 free throws. I also like the way Carl is playing smart on defense and staying out of foul trouble without losing his aggressiveness. He's been on the floor numerous times in the past three or four games going after loose balls and as good as his offensive game is, his defensive efforts have been excellent as well.
David Teague Today was one of those days when David's shot was not falling (he was 1-of-7), but at least the shots he was taking were what I would consider good shots. David also struggled at times with the superior quickness of Missouri's guards (David had four turnovers), but he continues to do a lot of little things (two rebounds, three assists and one steal) that make him a valuable part of this team. Quite honestly, I think it's a plus that Purdue can beat a team like Missouri by 17 points with David having an off day offensively.
Tarrance Crump I was very impressed with the way Tarrance played today. He ended the day with 14 points, two rebounds, three assists, two steals and five turnovers in 28 minutes of play. He hit all of his free throws (4-of-4) and showed a nice mid-range jump shot. I think the thing I liked the most about the way Tarrance played today was they way he kept hustling even after he made a mistake and he really made his presence felt on the defensive end of the floor.
Gordon Watt Gordon's another guy that I thought played extremely well today. His line was eight points, 10 rebounds, two assists, two blocks, a steal and a turnover in 26 minutes of play and he made a number of outstanding individual plays that were very impressive. For example, one of his assist's came on a beautiful entry pass to Landry for an easy dunk and both of his blocks were highlight reel material.
Chris Lutz I thought Chris played very solidly today. He didn't shoot a lot (only four shots) but he scored 9 points, pulled down two rebounds and had two assist's and two turnovers in 21 minutes of play. His long three-pointer as the shot clock was winding down late in the game was the final nail in Missouri's coffin. I think it's also important to note that Chris has really picked up his play since early in the season and he seems to be playing with a much higher level of confidence than I've see from him before.
Marcus Green Marcus didn't play a whole lot today (at least partly because Gordon Watt played so well), but he hit a nice three-pointer in the first half and added one rebound and two turnovers in his 11 minutes of play. I think Marcus will probably be one of those players that will be up and down this season, but he's got a lot of upside to his game and I think he's another guy that can help this team win even if he doesn't score a lot of points.
Chris Kramer All I can say about Chris's play today is WOW!! This kid is amazing to watch play and today he made a number of outstanding plays at both ends of the floor. For example, shortly after entering the game, he came out of nowhere to wrestle a rebound away from Missouri's big center. He also had a couple of drives to the basket for lay-ups where he seemed to "will" the ball into the basket and all three of his steals were plays where he showed excellent anticipation. He ended with 10 points, four rebounds, three assists, three steals and two turnovers in 24 minutes and his play was a very big part of why Purdue won today's game. One other thing, late in the first half, Chris stole the ball and had an easy breakaway lay-up, but instead of taking it all the way himself, he unselfishly passed the ball to a wide-open David Teague for a dunk. I think it's this kind of unselfishness that excites me the most about this year's team and it appears to me that nobody on the team cares anything at all about individual accomplishments.
Keaton Grant I thought Keaton did some good things in today's game including a nice put-back of a missed shot in the first half. He ended up playing 18 minutes today and scored six points, pulled down two rebounds and had two turnovers during that time. One of the reasons that Keaton didn't play more was because he got into foul trouble, but I think he's playing solidly at both ends of the floor and I think it's just a matter of time before he has a big game.
Jonathan Uchendu Jonathan didn't play much (five minutes), but he scored two points and had a single turnover when he was in there. He also kept an offensive rebound alive after a missed free throw and I think it was Watt who turned it into an easy bucket.
Dan Vandervieren, Bobby Riddell and Chris Hartley all played sparingly and Vandervieren got credit for an offensive rebound while he was in there.
As most of you who read these reports know, I rarely comment on the coaching staff. However, there were a couple of things I wanted to comment on about today's game because I think they reflect positively on the job this coaching staff is doing. First, I really like the way Matt is managing the team's minutes. He's using Uchendu and Vandervieren primarily in the first half in an attempt to keep Carl Landry fresh and out of foul trouble. He's also rotating his other seven primary players (Watt, Crump, Kramer, Green, Lutz, Grant and Teague) without any noticeable fall-off in defensive pressure. Secondly, I think Matt's making some astute coaching moves. An example occurred today in the second half at about the eight-minute mark. At that point in the second half, Carl Landry had not had a break and he was obviously tired. Missouri took a time-out with a little over eight minutes remaining and Matt got Carl out of the game. At about the 7:30 mark, there was a TV timeout and the result was that Matt effectively got Carl about four or five minutes of rest with only 35 seconds or so having elapsed on the game clock.
I'll close with the thought that next Saturday's game is a huge game for Purdue. For one thing, the game should get more national attention than normal just because it's part of a double-header featuring Greg Oden and company and because anything associated with John Wooden is going to get noticed. Secondly, Butler is still going to be a Top 25 team even though they lost tonight and any time Purdue can beat a Top 25 team, it's another step forward on the road back to national recognition. I'd like to think Purdue has a pretty good chance to beat Butler, but it's always been hard for Purdue teams to play well coming off of Final's week and I think it's difficult to gauge just how much of an impact that might have on this year's team. I also think Butler will be more fired up for this game than normal, particularly after losing to Indiana State tonight.