© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
BOX SCORE: Purdue 79, Texas A&M Corpus Christi 61
I missed the first couple of minutes of tonight’s game because I was attending a dinner with my family to observe my mother and father's 64th wedding anniversary and we (my dad, my wife, my sister Jeanne and my oldest son Jeff) weren't able to get away quite soon enough to make the start of the game.
When I got to Mackey Arena, the score was 5-3 in Purdue's favor and I could see Carl Landry badly miss a three-point shot as I walked past one of the entrances. Texas A&M-CC scored the next four points and led 7-5 at the first media timeout. Purdue then went on a 15-0 run over the next seven minutes that was largely fueled by some excellent play from Tarrance Crump and Carl Landry. From here, the rest of the first half was marked primarily by Purdue’s poor marksmanship from three-point range and a strong defensive effort that helped keep Purdue from squandering the advantage they had gained.
Interestingly enough, one of the key performers for Purdue in the latter stages of the first half was Dan Vandervieren with six points, three rebounds and two blocked shots as he came on to relieve Carl Landry. Purdue also received a huge three-pointer form Chris Kramer at the buzzer to lead 37-24 at the break.
Purdue started slowly in the second half, but then caught fire and when Keaton Grant hit a three-pointer to give Purdue a 16 point lead (49-33). After several minutes, I thought the game was pretty much over. Unfortunately, some of the Purdue players apparently felt the same way because over the next five possessions, Texas A&M – CC scored 12 consecutive points to cut Purdue’s lead to four. After trading baskets, Purdue went on another run and eventually led by 20 points before settling for a 79-61 hard-fought victory.
The keys to victory for Purdue tonight were essentially the same things that have been key for them all year. They took very good care of the basketball (only seven turnovers, two in the first half), they played excellent defense (Texas A&M – CC had 22 turnovers) and the coaching staff did another fine job of spreading the minutes around and keeping guys fresh. Nobody played more than 28 minutes. I thought it was also important that Purdue responded positively when Texas A&M - CC made their run in the second half to cut the lead to four. I've seen a lot of Purdue teams wilt when something like that happened and it was good to see how resilient this team was and how positively they responded. On the negative side, Purdue continued to shoot poorly from the free throw line (18-of-27) and I thought their shot selection was poor at times (particularly during Texas A&M – CC’s 12-0 spurt in the 2nd half) with way too many quick three-pointers.
Carl Landry – Carl was extremely efficient tonight with 21 points in 21 minutes. He also added eight rebounds, one turnover and one unbelievable blocked shot against their seven-foot center). On defense he took a charge and he battled their big man toe-to-toe. He also picked up a technical foul for something he said to one of the officials after being knocked to the floor on a shot and he continued to struggle at the freethrow line (9-of-15). It was a rugged game tonight as the officials really let them play, but Carl deserved the technical and he must do a better job of controlling his emotions.
David Teague – David played a strong game tonight despite going cold from the field during much of the first half (he was 2-of-7 including 1-of-6 from three-point range). He ended up with 13 points (he hit 3-of-4 shots in the second half including 2-of-3 from beyond the arc), three rebounds, three assists and a turnover in 27 minutes. He also picked up a technical foul late in the game, although I’m not sure what it was for. One hopes that Purdue's seniors will do a better job down the line in controlling their emotions.
Tarrance Crump – Tarrance made a number of nice plays tonight and finished with seven points, two rebounds, two assists, one steal and zero turnovers in 21 minutes. He had one shot that bounced around the rim for what seemed like 20 seconds before it finally fell and I thought that he used good judgment on most of his shots tonight. Tarrance also does a nice job of putting pressure on the basketball at the defensive end.
Gordon Watt – Gordon had one of those games tonight where he was good at times and bad at times. For example, early in the second half he made a bad pass that led to an easy lay-up for the opponents and then followed this up by taking a wild shot after driving the lane; which led to another easy basket. Then, on the next possession, he stole the ball and scored on a driving lay-up as he was fouled. He ended up with 10 points, only two rebounds, one steal and one turnover in only 16 minutes and it sure looked to me like Gordon wasn’t really as "dialed in" tonight as he normally is. I will say that he passed up several opportunities to launch a three-pointer early in the shot clock tonight as Texas A&M – CC seemed to dare him to shoot as they sagged off on Carl. To me, this was a sign that Gordon is getting better at shot selection.
Chris Lutz – Chris only shot it twice tonight making 1-of-2 from three-point range. While I really like the fact that Chris isn't forcing anything, I'd also like to see him getting open more often. He ended up with three points, one rebound, two assists, one steal and a turnover in 22 minutes and I think Purdue needs more production than this from Chris if they hope to beat some of the better Big Ten teams. I will say that when Chris does get open, he's been very good at squaring up and burying the three-point shots he does take. I just wish he'd get open more often!
Marcus Green – Marcus had a tough night shooting the ball (0-for-6) but he did a lot of little things (five rebounds, two assists, two steals and only one turnover) in his 17 minutes of action. For the most part I thought the shots he took were good ones. One of his assists was a nifty feed to Dan Vandervieren for an easy lay-up and it appears to me that Marcus has really worked hard on improving his ball-handling skills.
Keaton Grant – Keaton had a very good game tonight with 10 points, four rebounds, four assists, two steals and only one turnover in a team high 28 minutes of play. Keaton's confidence appears to be growing rapidly and I think it's just a matter of time before he has a big offensive game.
Chris Kramer – Chris made a couple of plays tonight that were unbelievable. He had one assist on a bounce pass to Dan Vandervieren that appeared to go through a hole about the size of a grapefruit and he made an unbelievable catch of a pass from Crump on a fast break and then made the shot as he was off balance and driving to the hoop. He ended up with only five points, one rebound, three assists and a turnover in 26 minutes, but his hustle and persistence at the defensive end were a big part of Purdue's win tonight.
Dan Vandervieren – I have to say that this was by far the best I've seen Dan Vandervieren play so far this year. He scored (10 points on 5-of-5 shooting), he rebounded (four rebounds including three offensive boards in 15 minutes), he defended ( two blocks and a steal), he took a charge and he set some mean picks (one at the end of the half enabled Chris Kramer to get open for his three-pointer). On top of that, he maintained his energy for an extended period of time and his play was very instrumental in Purdue's victory. I don't think Purdue can expect this kind of productivity from Dan every night, but it was certainly nice to see him play so well against a pretty decent big man.
Jonathan Uchendu had a nice rebound and both Bobby Riddell and Chris Hartley played but didn't score.
In summary, I think this goes down as a solid, but somewhat lackluster win for Purdue. Purdue played well in spurts, but had too many periods of play where they shot the ball too quickly and appeared to lose concentration. Of course, a part of that could no doubt be due to everyone being anxious to get home for the holidays, and also because no matter how much the coaching staff preaches about how tough Texas A&M – CC is, it's hard for the players to take them seriously. Fortunately, since Purdue's next opponent, Indiana State, is the only team to have beaten Butler, Purdue should have no trouble getting mentally prepared for the game. I personally think this next game is very important for Purdue because it's the only chance for them to get a true road win before they head to Minnesota to start the Big Ten season. I think it's important for this team to have confidence that they can beat teams away from Mackey Arena.
P.S. - Merry Christmas to everyone who has been faithfully reading these reports and offering such wonderful words of encouragement. These reports are truly a labor of love for me and I very much appreciate the support I have received from everyone here.