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BOX SCORE: Purdue 62, Michigan State 38
Going into the Michigan State game, I thought Purdue would have a very tough time with them, primarily because I have such a high regard for Tom Izzo and his coaching ability. His teams are always mentally tough and they are always very good rebounding teams. Those two qualities normally make MSU one of the top teams in the Big Ten and almost always a force to be reckoned with nationally. Unfortunately for MSU, this year's squad appears to lack the same kind of athleticism and talent they have had since Izzo became the head coach, but that doesn't mean they are an easy team to play against. Before the game, my biggest concerns were rebounding, controlling Drew Neitzel, keeping Carl Landry out of foul trouble and making sure one of MSU's role players didn't have a career game.
As it turns out, Purdue came away from the game with a decisive edge in all four areas of concern. In the case of rebounding, Purdue not only won the battle, they dominated the Big Ten's best rebounding team in the second half. I think at one point in the first half, MSU had an 8-1 rebounding edge and since the final stats show Purdue with a 32-28 rebound advantage, that means Purdue out-rebounded them 32-20 over the last 30 plus minutes or so. In Drew Neitzel's case, he suffered through his worst scoring game of the season (five points on 2-of-11 shooting) and he also had five turnovers. His chief tormentor was Chris Kramer, but guys like Keaton Grant and Tarrance Crump also did a great job of staying with him wherever he went on the floor. Another big plus for Purdue was that Carl Landry did not pick up a personal foul until well after the game was decided. This allowed him to stay aggressive at both ends of the floor and Carl's play in the first half was extremely important to Purdue's winning this game. Finally, Purdue did an excellent job of playing team defense and not allowing any of MSU's role players to get started. I was a little worried when reserve Maurice Joseph hit his first two three-pointers early in the first half, but he ended up missing his last four shots and also committed four turnovers and was never a factor after his initial success. When all is said and done, I think it was Purdue's ability to shut down MSU's offense that was the key to winning this game.
Carl Landry – As usual, Carl was basically unstoppable inside. MSU tried a variety of defenders and defensive schemes on Carl and nothing really worked very well. He ended up scoring 20 points (on only 13 shots) and adding six rebounds, one blocked shot, one steal, a nifty assist to Gordon Watt for a lay-up and five turnovers in 30 minutes of dominating play against a very strong and physical front line. I really like the way Carl is working hard on both ends of the floor and probably the best thing about his play this year is that he's become a pretty darn good defender. I think it also goes without saying that Tom Izzo is going to be extremely happy to see Carl graduate.
David Teague – "Wow" is about the only thing you can say about David's play in the second half. After a very quiet first half (two points on 1-of-3 shooting), David went off like a roman candle in the second half with 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting including 4-of-4 from three-point range. A couple of his shots came as the shot clock was about to go off and both of them were like daggers in MSU's heart. David ended the night with 20 points, nine huge rebounds, one steal and one turnover in 30 minutes of play, In addition, he helped hold Raymar Morgan to just nine points in 35 minutes and I thought his defensive effort was one of the difference makers in this game.
Tarrance Crump – I continue to be encouraged by Tarrance's play of late. Against MSU he only played 15 minutes, but he made the most of those minutes with four points, one rebound, five assists, two steals and only two turnovers in addition to some scrappy defense on Drew Neitzel. Tarrance still gets a little out of control on occasion, but in the past few games he has at least started to look for a teammate when he drives to the basket instead of just shooting the ball every time and it's starting to pay off as evidenced by his assist total.
Gordon Watt – Gordon spent much of the game in foul trouble, but he managed five points, four rebounds, one assist, one block and three turnovers in 18 minutes and I thought he held his own against some of MSU's big, strong inside players.
Chris Lutz – After a slow start to the Big Ten season, Chris has gradually worked his way back into becoming a very effective role player for Purdue. Against MSU he had eight points (on only five shots), a rebound, an assist, a steal and zero turnovers in 23 quietly effective minutes. He didn't get credit for a blocked shot, but I thought he got a piece of one during the second half with an excellent defensive effort.
Marcus Green – Marcus didn't score, but he helped out in other ways by picking up a rebound, two steals and a blocked shot in 18 minutes of play. I think the thing people tend to forget about Marcus is that normally he draws a defensive assignment against a guy considerably bigger and stronger than he is and I thought he did a wonderful job last night at the defensive end of not letting his man establish inside position. He also had the game's most embarrassing moment when he took a beautiful pass from Landry and then missed a wide-open dunk.
Chris Kramer – Chris's primary assignment in this game was to stay with Drew Neitzel. Given that Neitzel was held to only five points, I would have been happy if Chris had not scored at all, so his five points, three rebounds, one block, one steal and one turnover in 29 minutes were just icing on the cake.
Keaton Grant - Like Marcus Green, Keaton did not score, but he was effective in other areas as evidenced by his three rebounds, three assists, two steals and two turnovers in 19 minutes of play. I think it's also important to note that Keaton did not commit a single personal foul and yet he was effective at the defensive end.
Jonathan Uchendu – With Dan Vandervieren's injury, Jonathan is getting more minutes and while it's obvious he still has a long ways to go before he's a consistent offensive contributor, Jonathan does a nice job of being active and aggressive at the defensive end and I think he's got a very good future ahead of him if he wants to put in the hours of work it's going to take to get bigger and stronger and improve his skills.
As the season winds down, it's great to see Purdue put itself in position to secure an NCAA bid for the first time in several years. Even though this year's MSU team is not in a class with some past Tom Izzo teams, they are still highly regarded in all of the computer rankings and beating them should be a huge plus for Purdue come selection Sunday. At this point, I like Purdue's chances to gain a berth in the NCAA tournament, but there are no easy games in the Big Ten and I think Purdue is going to have to continue to play like they did against MSU if they are going to reach that abjective. I also think Matt Painter and his staff are to be congratulated for the fine job they've done in molding this team into a competitive unit. There's no question that this team had an awful lot of question marks heading into the season, and I think the fact that almost all of those questions have been answered positively shows what a good job this coaching staff has done.