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BOX SCORE: Purdue 64, No. 2 Wisconsin 69
As everyone knows, Purdue has struggled on the road for the past three years. In the prior two seasons, these road struggles were primarily due to Purdue just being out-manned by most of the teams they faced. This is not the case this year and Purdue’s road woes have been primarily caused by a failure to value each possession, an inability to effectively guard the three-point line and not taking care of the basketball. Going into tonight’s game I was anxious to see if Purdue’s team had made any progress in solving some of these issues and I was fully aware that they might do a better job and still lose because Wisconsin is an excellent basketball team.
After watching tonight’s game, it’s easy to see why Wisconsin is now 18-1. They are extremely well coached, they value each possession, they do a very good job of taking care of the basketball and they have a variety of offensive weapons that make it difficult for a team like Purdue to match up with them. They have good size up front and they use that size effectively on the boards. Finally, they have one of the best (if not the best) players in the Big Ten in Alando Tucker. In Purdue’s case, I thought they did a good job of defending Wisconsin, but they had several possessions in the first half where they took a shot way too early in the shot clock (they did not do a very good job of valuing each possession) and they lost both the turnover battle (Purdue had 14 turnovers, Wisconsin had 7) and the rebounding war (Purdue had 33 rebounds, Wisconsin had 36). On the plus side, Purdue finally held an opponent in check from the three-point line (Wisconsin was 3-of-17) for the first time since the Big Ten season started. I think the thing that impressed me the most was that Purdue never quit and gave Wisconsin all they wanted despite having two players foul out and three others finish the game with four fouls.
As for the game itself, Purdue got off to a slow start, but so did Wisconsin and the game was tied at 13 midway through the first half. I think Wisconsin missed their first nine shots before Tucker scored on a nifty drive with about six minutes gone in the half. It was during this stretch that I thought Purdue missed a real opportunity to get a nice lead and I thought the chief problem was that Purdue shot the ball too quickly and took a couple of ill-advised three-pointers. From here, Wisconsin finally got going and managed to take a 28-19 lead with about four minutes to go in the half. Purdue countered with a nice 11-2 run to end the half despite the fact that Carl Landry was on the bench with two personals. The two players who sparked Purdue during this run were Gordon Watt (two baskets and a three-pointer) and David Teague (one basket and two freethrows). Gordon Watt started the second half the way he left off the first with two nice inside moves for baskets and Purdue led by five early. Purdue managed to maintain a lead for the first several minutes of the second half until Chappell hit his second three-pointer of the half with about 13 minutes to go to put Wisconsin up 40-39. I might point out that going into this game, Chappell was only 1-of-4 on three-pointers for the season and you have to give him credit for stepping up and hitting shots when Wisconsin needed them. From here, Wisconsin kept extending the lead and with six minutes to go they led 56-45. Then, Purdue rallied and managed to cut the lead to four (68-64) on a Carl Landry rebound basket, but by then there were less than five seconds to go in the game and Purdue was out of time and the final score was 69-64 in Wisconsin’s favor.
Carl Landry – Carl got off to a good start in this game and I think he had 10 points at the half and was giving Wisconsin fits inside. The only problem was that he had picked up two fouls and I’ve noticed that when Carl gets into foul trouble he has a tendency to lose his aggressiveness. He ended the night playing 33 minutes and scored 16 points and added six rebounds and a steal. However, he also had six turnovers (almost as many as the entire Wisconsin team) and he missed the front end of two one-and-one free throw opportunities in the second half that really hurt. I think it’s also safe to say that Carl won’t be sending this officiating crew any flowers because he appeared to get hammered several times with no call at all.
David Teague – David was limited to 29 minutes tonight because of foul trouble and he eventually fouled out. However, when he was in there he was very effective at both ends of the floor and he was primarily responsible for holding Alando Tucker in check. He finished with 11 points (on only seven shots) and added five rebounds, an assist and a turnover in what I thought was one of his better games this year.
Tarrance Crump – Tarrance did a few good things tonight, but he had a hard time staying in front of his man at the defensive end on occasion and had trouble finishing his drives to the basket. Frankly, it’s not hard to see why his playing time has diminished. Still, he managed to play 22 minutes and hit a big three-pointer late in the second half to get Wisconsin’s lead under 10 points. He finished with three points, four rebounds, one assist and one turnover and I thought his play was a big improvement over some of his recent efforts.
Gordon Watt – I thought Gordon probably played the best game he’s played in the Big Ten this year. I think he took a couple of three-pointers I’d rather not see him take, but he basically dominated whoever Wisconsin used to guard him. He ended up playing 33 minutes and scoring 18 points and adding five rebounds, two assists, one block and two turnovers. Hopefully Gordon will use this game as a springboard to more success the remainder of the year.
Marcus Green – Marcus didn’t play a lot tonight (10 minutes) because I think the match-ups just weren’t there defensively. He missed his only two shots, but he did have four rebounds and an assist.
Chris Lutz – Chris finally broke his three-point drought with a nice three-pointer late in the game, but he only played 12 minutes primarily because Wisconsin doesn’t really have anyone that Chris can defend effectively. This is evidenced by the fact that Chris manage to pick up five fouls in the 12 minutes he played and he really had trouble trying to guard either of Wisconsin’s two guards.
Chris Kramer – Chris struggled a bit offensively in this game (only one point but still managed to make a positive contribution with three assists, one rebound, two steals and only one turnover in 28 minutes of play.
Keaton Grant – I thought Keaton played one of his best games of the year tonight and certainly the best game he’s played since the Big Ten started. He had 10 points, five rebounds and one turnover in 24 minutes of play and if he ever figures out how to stay out of foul trouble (he had four tonight) I think he’s going to do a lot of good things for this Purdue team.
Dan Vandervieren – I thought Dan did what he’s supposed to do tonight. He came in and gave Purdue some solid minutes in the post and ended with two points, two rebounds and one turnover in nine minutes of play. Dan’s very much a work in progress, but I think he’s improving as the season goes along and I think he will surprise some folks before his Purdue career ends.
In summary, this game was one of those games that Purdue COULD have won, but they just aren’t good enough yet to win against a team that is as good as Wisconsin. If you look at the box score, you’ll see that Wisconsin outscored Purdue 22-10 from the free throw line and that was ultimately the difference in this game. The reason Wisconsin got to the free throw line so much more than Purdue did (Purdue had 25 fouls, Wisconsin had 11) is because Wisconsin’s guards were aggressive taking the basketball to the hole and Purdue’s guards had a hard time staying in front of their man. In addition, Alando Tucker is very hard to guard and while David Teague did a nice job on him, he was still hard for David (or anyone else) to handle without fouling him. It also didn’t hurt that this officiating crew seemed intimidated by Wisconsin’s crowd. Carl Landry’s first foul (an offensive foul) was clearly a flop by the Wisconsin player (this bad call cost Purdue an easy two points) and they also called a shooting foul on Keaton Grant late in the first half when there was no contact at all and Vandervieren had blocked the shot.
Now, it’s on to Ann Arbor this Saturday for a re-match with Michigan. Since this is a road game for Purdue, it’s hard to feel too confident about winning the game, but I think Purdue is due to break this losing streak soon and I think they couldn’t pick a better time than this Saturday to do it. Six of Purdue’s last 10 games are at home and if they could find a way to get a win this Saturday, I think it would greatly enhance their post-season hopes. If they are going to do it, I think they need to cut down on turnovers, do a better job of shot selection and stop sending the other team to the line. Let’s hope they get it done this Saturday.