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BOX SCORE: Purdue 64, Illinois 47
A wise old coach once said "It's not who you play that's important, it's when you play them" and a good case could be made that the Purdue-Illinois game was a perfect example of that. Illinois came into Mackey Arena this afternoon on the heels of an emotional win last Wednesday against a Top 25 team (Indiana) while Purdue was fresh off an embarrassing second half collapse against a very beatable Michigan team in Ann Arbor. On top of that, Purdue had a whole week to prepare for Illinois, while Illinois had a short week due to their game against Indiana. In addition, Illinois was without one of their best players (Randle is out indefinitely with plantar fascitis in one of his feet). As a result, it appeared to me that Illinois was just not ready to play and I suspect Bruce Weber would acknowledge that and take the blame for it. Purdue, on the other hand, looked fired up and ready to go from the opening tip and while I think some of the credit for that should go to the coaches, I think Purdue's three seniors also deserve high praise for helping to get the team ready.
As for the game itself, Purdue got off to a good start as Teague drove to the basket and scored on Purdue's first possession and then hit a nice jumper in the lane on their second to give Purdue a 4-0 lead with less than a minute gone in the game. Illinois came back with four straight points to tie it after two minutes, but then the roof caved in on the Illini. It would be more than nine minutes before Illinois would score again and during this nine-minute stretch, Purdue ran off 21 points to take a commanding 25-4 lead. During this stretch, Purdue played some of the best basketball they have played all year and the only negative was that Carl Landry picked up two quick fouls near the end of this sequence and went to the bench. With Carl on the bench, Illinois went right to work on the inside with Sean Pruitt and Warren Carter, but Purdue held them off for a while and led 29-8 with about six minutes to play. Illinois then started to click offensively and went on a 12-5 run to pull with-in 14 with over two minutes still to go in the half. Fortunately, while Purdue failed to score the rest of the way, so did Illinois and Purdue led 34-20 at intermission.
Purdue ran a nice play for Carl Landry to start the second half and he was fouled and made both free throws. However, he then committed a cheap foul ten seconds later and once again had to go to the bench. After a couple of free throws by McBride for Illinois, Keaton Grant made a beautiful drive to the hole, hit the basket but was also called for charging. I think this basket came with only about a minute gone in the second half and from here, no other Purdue player would score other than David Teague or Carl Landry until Chris Kramer drove the lane and provided an emphatic exclamation point to Purdue's 17-point victory with a beautiful slam dunk with only 30 seconds to go in the game. During the 18-minute stretch between Grant's basket and Kramer's basket, David Teague had 18 points and Carl Landry had six. David was simply on fire from outside in the second half (5-of-7) and he even banked one in as the shot clock was winding down. Don't be misled by Carl's relatively low output, he picked up his fourth foul with more than 14 minutes remaining in the game and he ended up playing only eight minutes in the second half. It's hard for me to believe that Purdue could beat a team like Illinois by 17 points with only two players doing much scoring (Teague had 28, Landry 17 and nobody else had more than 4) but that's what happened. I think it's amazing.
Carl Landry – As I mentioned, Carl spent much of the game in foul trouble, but he was easily the best big man on the floor while he was in there and Illinois had no answer for him. He ended up scoring 17 points (on 6-of-8 shooting) along with six rebounds, an assist, two steals, a block and only one turnover in 20 minutes of play. It was hard to tell from the stands, but it appeared that at least one (and possibly two) of the fouls called on Carl were of the "ticky-tack" variety. It's pretty obvious that when Carl's not on the floor, Purdue's offense struggles and it was a good thing David Teague shot the ball so well today, or Purdue might have gotten in serious trouble in the second half.
David Teague – I'll tell you what, I don't think there will be another Big Ten guard this year who plays a better game than David played today. He not only scored (28 points) but he was Purdue's leading rebounder with nine, and he essentially shut down Rich McBride at the other end of the floor. He also played a game high 37 minutes and never let up for even one second while he was out there. Everyone knew this was a "must win" for Purdue today and it was great to see David rise to the challenge.
Tarrance Crump – If you look only at the numbers, Tarrance's play today was not overly impressive. He ended up with four points, two rebounds, two assists, one steal and two turnovers in 20 minutes. However, at the defensive end, he was very effective in pressuring the ball and I thought his decision-making was a lot better than it has been when he did drive to the basket. There was one play late in the game where he penetrated the lane and made a beautiful kick-out pass to a wide-open Marcus Green, but unfortunately Marcus missed the shot. Still, a few games ago, Tarrance would have shot it rather than passed it and it looks to me like Tarrance is starting to get things figured out.
Gordon Watt – Gordon had somewhat of a quiet game today, but I'd hate to think where this Purdue team would be without him. Offensively, he had one beautiful drive to the basket for an easy lay-up, but he only shot the ball five times and didn't seem all that comfortable shooting the ball. He ended up playing 25 minutes and scored four points, pulled down five rebounds and added one block, one steal and two turnovers. He also did a good job defensively inside, particularly when Carl Landry was out of the game. I don't think Gordon is ever going to be a "big" scorer for Purdue, but I really like the toughness and hustle he brings to the table.
Chris Lutz – Chris didn't play a lot today (13 minutes), but he hit a huge three-pointer late in the first half to keep Illinois from totally dominating the last five minutes of the half. He also added a block and an assist while he was in there and it looked to me like he was more aggressive in looking for his shot than he has been.
Marcus Green – Marcus is really having trouble shooting the basketball. After a solid freshman season (he shot 44-percent from the field last year) and a good start to this season (he was 25-of-54 in the pre-Big Ten season) he is now only 5-of-22 in the Big Ten including his 0-for-4 performance today. The thing is, it's not like he's forcing shots or taking bad shots, he's just not hitting. Both of his three-pointers today were as wide-open as they could possibly be and he had another easy jumper in the lane that rimmed out. He ended up the day scoreless in 19 minutes of play, but he did have three rebounds, two assists and only one turnover while he was in there and I thought he kept his head up despite his shot not falling.
Chris Kramer – Chris had a little foul trouble today and he wasn't his normal disruptive influence at the defensive end of the floor (he didn't have a steal), but he continues to hustle and work hard at the defensive end and other than David Teague, he's clearly Purdue's best perimeter defender. He ended up with four points (he only took three shots), three rebounds, two assists and two turnovers in 30 minutes of hard-nosed play. Let's hope Chris has a breakout game scoring wise sooner rather than later.
Keaton Grant – Keaton did one thing exceptionally well today and that is that he stayed out of foul trouble. He ended up playing 25 minutes and only committed two personal fouls and I was impressed by how well he defended without reaching and grabbing. He ended up scoring four points and added three rebounds and an assist, but he also had four turnovers to negate some of the good he did at the defensive end of the floor.
Jonathan Uchendu – Jonathan got his first action in some time and had one rebound, one turnover and four fouls in only four minutes of play. It's obvious Jonathan's best days are ahead of him because I think he really needs to add some muscle before he can become a consistent contributor for Purdue.
Dan Vandervieren – Dan also got some minutes today in relief of Carl Landry, but he also got into foul trouble (three in only seven minutes) and he wasn't very effective. He did have a rebound, but it appears that his shoulder is really bothering him and I'm not sure how much he's going to be able to help this team down the stretch.
As I went through my summary, I forgot to mention that Bruce Weber picked up a technical foul about two and a half minutes into the second half after no foul was called when Kramer appeared to mug either Pruitt or Carter as they went up for a shot. At the time, I thought it was a good move by Bruce because his team needed some kind of spark (they were down 15 at the time) and sometimes getting a technical might turn the game around. It did seem to help as Illinois ran off the next five points, but Painter quickly got Landry back in the game and after he scored on a nice move in the lane, Illinois never seriously threatened.
Looking at the stats, Illinois shot 25 free throws and Purdue shot only 13. However, Illinois only made 15 of those free throws and Purdue made 11, so any edge Illinois might have had was blunted by their poor accuracy. In addition, Purdue's best player only played 20 minutes (although he was very effective in those 20 minutes) and other than David Teague, nobody else for Purdue had a big game offensively. To further highlight this, Teague and Landry were a combined 16-of-25 from the field and the rest of the team was 7-of-26 (including 1-of-12 from three-point range). With all that, Purdue still managed to win by 17 points and one can only wonder just how good this team might be if they ever get everyone playing like they are capable of playing. One thing's for sure, if they are going to beat a team like Ohio State this next Wednesday, they need to get improved offensive production from a few players not named Teague or Landry. Ohio State survived a scare from Michigan State Saturday (after leading by 20 at the half, they ended up winning by two when Michigan State missed a wide-open three-pointer at the buzzer) and I think they are ripe for an upset this coming Wednesday. Purdue has to hope Ohio State is not hitting from outside. If they aren't, I think Purdue's got a shot at beating them.
P.S. – Just a quick note to pass along my compliments to the Illinois fans for supporting their team today. I'd guess there were at least 2,000 orange clad Illinois fans in attendance today and I think it's great that their fans support them so well.