© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
BOX SCORE: Purdue 59, Iowa 78
As I sat there last night watching Purdue self-destruct in a game that had such huge NCAA tournament ramifications, I couldn't help but think that this year's team has gotten about as much out of what they have as any Purdue team in recent memory. In truth, this team lacks experience, they lack size, they lack depth and they lack any kind of consistent scoring from anyone not named Teague or Landry. Frankly, the thought that they still have a shot at winning 20 games during the regular season is amazing to me. If Chris Kramer hadn't picked the Iowa game to show people what he is capable of doing, this game would have been one of the worst losses Purdue has ever experienced.
As is the case with most games on the road, the keys to winning at Iowa included taking care of the basketball, shooting free throws well, neutralizing the other team's strengths and keeping "role" players from having big games. In last night's game, Purdue failed miserably at three of these four things and that's why they lost. As evidence of Purdue's struggles, consider that Purdue had 19 turnovers and they shot an abysmal 13-of-27 from the free throw line. In addition, they allowed Iowa's "role" players (Tate, Louby, Freeman, Henderson and Gorney) to combine for 47 points and 19 rebounds. About the only thing Purdue did well was to limit Adam Haluska to 11 points in 32 minutes, but his two three-pointers at the end of the first half were mortal blows that Purdue never really recovered from.
The game started badly for Purdue as Iowa ran off the first seven points and Purdue struggled in the half-court and kept turning the ball over. Purdue did manage a couple of runs to keep it close through most of the first half, but Iowa finished the half on a big run after Landry picked up his second foul and led by 13 before Chris Kramer hit a big three-pointer just as the first half ended. Purdue never got anything going in the second half and missed opportunity after opportunity at the free throw line to keep the score manageable and perhaps give themselves an opportunity to steal a win down the stretch. It didn't help that Gordon Watt picked up his 4th foul just seconds after an inspired stretch of play got Purdue within striking distance and when he fouled out within seconds of his return later in the game, it spelled the end for Purdue's chances.
David Teague – David has played exceptionally well over the last month or so, but the Iowa game will not go down as one of his better efforts. I thought he did an exceptional job of defending Haluska, but Purdue needs him to also be effective at the offensive end to have any chance to win, and David's offensive performance last night was marred by five turnovers. He did manage 13 points, but I think it's safe to say he can play better than he did last night.
Carl Landry – Carl really struggled all night. In the first half, the officials basically let Iowa mug him inside and when they finally started calling fouls in the second half; Carl couldn't make a free throw to save his life. He ended the game shooting the ball only six times (making three) and he was a woeful 3-of-9 from the free throw stripe with most of those misses coming in the second half. In addition, I thought Carl let the officiating get to him and his frustration caused him to ge into foul trouble and he eventually fouled out.
Tarrance Crump – I didn't get to see either the OSU or Indiana games, but from looking at the box scores from those games it looked like Tarrance had finally figured out how to be an effective offensive force for Purdue. Perhaps he has, but he sure didn't show it last night. He did have one nice three-pointer, but other than that, his 21 minutes on the floor were remarkably unproductive and his defensive play was a huge negative.
Gordon Watt – I thought Gordon played pretty well last night until he fouled out. In 24 minutes he had one point, two rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block and two turnovers and it was his energetic play in the second half that sparked Purdue's only real stretch of effective play. Still, it's hard to help your team when you are sitting on the bench and Gordon needs to figure out how to play without fouling to be an asset to this team.
Chris Lutz – It's hard to figure out what must be going through Chris's mind when he's playing. Last night he played 16 minutes and didn't score and that's just not acceptable when your primary role is to come in and provide some instant offense. Chris appeared to spend the majority of his time at the offensive end moving aimlessly around the perimeter without any real purpose and it's hard to see what he's trying to accomplish when Purdue has the basketball. To say his play was disappointing is putting it mildly.
Marcus Green – Marcus is a player who appears to have regressed rather than gotten better. His outside shooting is pathetic, he struggles from the free throw line and he looks like anything but a Division I talent. It's hard to believe that this is the same player that lit up Mackey Arena last February with his play against Michigan. If it was just one game it would be one thing, but it seems like Marcus has been mired in this slump for so long that I'm beginning to wonder if he will ever be a significant contributor for Purdue.
Chris Kramer – Chris was the only player on Purdue's roster last night who played as if the season was hanging in the balance. He started the game strong by making two three-pointers in the first four minutes or so and he ended with a career high 19 points in 33 minutes. It's amazing to me that a freshman can play with such intensity and poise while his older, more experienced teammates all seemed to go into shells during this game.
Keaton Grant – Keaton had a really, really bad game last night. He only played 11 minutes, but during that time he managed to miss all five of his shots from the floor and five of his six freethrow attempts. He did have three steals, but he also had three turnovers and no assists and it's hard to believe he can play that poorly and still keep his spot in the starting line-up. Of course, it's not like the cupboard is brimming with enticing alternatives.
I know there is a school of thought that says if Purdue wins out and wins at least one game in the Big Ten Tournament that they will still make the NCAA tournament. Frankly, I don't believe that. In my view, the only way Purdue can still make the NCAA tournament is to win out and then make it to the semi's of the BTT. I suppose it's still theoretically possible for Purdue to finish 9-7 and get a four or five seed, but in that case I think the 4/5 game is essentially a "play-in" game for Purdue and in all honesty, I don't think that scenario is very likely. I'll also say that if Purdue plays against Northwestern the way they did against Iowa, Northwestern will beat them easily. I think Northwestern is the most well coached team in the Big 10 and it's a shame that Bill Carmody doesn't have the kind of talent that allows them to win big. As of this writing, I think Northwestern is 13-14 and I find it absolutely incredible that they are even competitive with any of the other Big 10 teams. I don't mean that to be a slam on the abilities of their players, but I honestly think they don't have a player on their roster that would start for any other Big 10 school. Still, they play the game in such a way that they almost always have a chance to win and I think Purdue is going to have its hands full this Saturday.