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OldGoldFreePress COLUMNISTS | BACK TO Guest_Columnist'S COLUMNS

PURDUE MENS BASKETBALL:
Purdue 65, (18) Butler 68

Published: 12/23/2006
Author: MDC
Old Gold Free Press Columnists

BOX SCORE: Purdue 65, (18)Butler 68

I didn't get to see anything but the last 15 minutes or so of today's game, so I'm going to post only a few brief comments. I'll try and go back and watch the tape and perhaps have some more things to say after that, but for now here are my quick thoughts.

(1) To me, the difference in the game was turnovers. Purdue ended up turning the ball over 19 times (to Butler's 13) and I don't think Purdue is good enough to beat a team that is as good as Butler unless they take better care of the basketball.
(2) In games like this one, the team that usually wins is the team whose star player plays the best. For Butler, A.J. Graves was simply sensational (at least in the last 15 minutes) and he finished with 25 points, two rebounds, two assists, three steals, one block and four turnovers in 39 minutes. Purdue's star player, Carl Landry, apparently got off to a bad start and never found any rhythm. He ended with as many turnovers (five) as he did shots along with five rebounds and one assist. I think it's also pretty obvious that Purdue will have a hard time beating a good team as long as Carl struggles like he did today because Purdue simply has no effective back-up available for him. I also don't think Purdue will beat very many team with Carl only shooting the ball five times and Purdue simply has to find a way to get him more opportunities.
(3) For Purdue to be a good team, every one of the top eight players has to produce, Today, in addition to Carl having an off night, two of Purdue's key players (Lutz and Grant) failed to score and one more (Green) had only three points. At least Keaton hit the boards (nine rebounds) and passed out four assists and Green had a couple of steals, rebounds and blocks, but Lutz was a total non-factor with three turnovers to go with his bagel from the field.
(4) Chris Kramer is the real deal. I know he made a bad decision late in the game that hurt Purdue, but he had 12 points, one rebound, four steals and two assists with only two turnovers in 29 minutes and I really like his aggressiveness in attacking the basket and the way he anticipates things on the defensive end of the floor.
(5) I thought Gordon Watt played his best game of the year. It wasn't just his 20 points, it was also his aggressive rebounding (nine rebounds), his defense (three blocks) and his clutch three-pointer late in the game. Hopefully Gordon can build on today's game and use it as a springboard for some outstanding play the rest of the season.
(6) I'm not sure if the officiating was as ragged in the first half as it was in the second, but I thought the officials had an off day today. It looked to me like Landry got away with at least two offensive fouls during the latter part of the game and yet Keaton Grant was getting nailed for fouls if he so much as breathed on a Butler player. I also thought Butler got the benefit of the doubt on two key rebounds that went out of bounds and were awarded to Butler. One of the calls was so bad that even the TV announcers commented on it.
(7) I was proud of the way Purdue kept hanging in there and making it a ball game every time Butler threatened to take control. I thought Purdue put themselves in a position where they could win the game and then failed to make the plays necessary to finish it off. On the other side, Butler played just well enough to keep control of the game, and when the chips were down they were able to make the plays necessary to secure the win. I think their NIT experience served them well as they executed down the stretch much better then Purdue did.
(8) In my opinion, Purdue was not ready to win a game like this one. They had a couple of close calls in Maui, but I think this was the first time they faced a tight ballgame in front of a large crowd and they simply did not know how to react. That's okay though, because I think this will be the kind of game that the coaching staff can use as a teaching tool.
(9) Today was one of the few times all year where I thought Purdue showed some selfishness on the offensive end of the floor. I thought Butler did a nice job defensively, but it looked to me like too many Purdue players were trying to do too much individually instead of staying with-in the flow of the offense.

One final note - I was impressed with the way Butler played. I think they have an excellent scheme and their players play well together. They are clearly a team where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. I also think they are better than Purdue right now. However, I think Purdue's best days lie ahead of it and I'd love to see Purdue get another shot at the Bulldogs come tourney time. Now, the challenge for Purdue is to take care of business in the next two weeks and go into the Big Ten schedule on a roll. I think ISU will be a tough test for Purdue, but it's a winnable game unless Purdue starts playing as individuals instead of as a team.

After watching the entire game:

(1) Butler is really good defensively in the half court. I think Purdue helped them out a little by standing around some, but Butler plays half court defense like they have six guys on the floor and I came away impressed with how well they cover up and help each other. They don't put a lot of pressure on the ball (like Purdue tries to do), but they really make it hard to get a good look at the basket.
(2) I thought Purdue played pretty well on the defensive end for most of the game. They had a couple of breakdowns (most noticably when both Teague and Landry left the same man unguarded and he drove to the hoop only to be rejected by Watt), but for the most part they made Butler take tough shots including a couple of "prayers" that Butler just threw up that somehow went in. The guy that really hurt Purdue in the 1st half was Michael Green and Graves just killed Purdue in the second half after being pretty well contained (mostly by Teague) in the first half. Some have noted that Butler hurt Purdue with the dribble-drive and pitch back to an open three-point shooter, but I thought Purdue actually did a reasonable job of making sure the open shooter was somebody other than Green or Graves (it was usually Crone) and, to me, that's not all that bad a strategy when the guys taking the shots are 2-of-10 and Green/Graves are 6-of-12.
(3) I was surprised at how lethargic Carl Landry looked. He sure didn't play with the same level of intensity he has been playing with of late and I thought a lot of Purdue's problems getting him the ball were because he wasn't working as hard as he needed to.
(4) I give major kudos to Coach Lickliter for sticking with A.J. Graves in the first half when he picked up his second foul. To me, that single decision probably did more for saving the game for Butler than any other coaching decision he made. As most of you know, I supported Coach Keady right up to the bitter end. However, one of the things he used to do that always drove me mad was to automatically pull a player in the first half after he received his second foul. I understood the logic behind this move, I just seldom agreed with it and I think what happened yesterday would be Exhibit Number 1 for sticking with a guy even though he's supposedly in foul trouble. There's no question that the guy who makes Butler go is A.J. Graves and without him they are no better than an average team. Coach Lickliter should be commended for realizing that and leaving him in there.

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