© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
BOX SCORE: Purdue 75, Northwestern 68
As most of you know, I thought Purdue would have to play well today to defeat Northwestern. Northwestern doesn't have very many good players, but they are very well coached and they play a style of basketball that is not only fun to watch, it's also hard to play against. If they get ahead late in the game, they can be difficult to beat because they are very good a milking the shot clock and then drawing fouls. I think the keys to beating them are taking care of the basketball, making the most of second chance opportunities and making sure none of their players not named Doyle or Coble has a big game offensively. In today's game, Purdue had 15 turnovers, which isn't as good as it could have been, but still good enough. They also out-rebounded Northwestern 39-19 including an 11-0 whipping on the offensive glass and this ultimately proved to be the difference in the ballgame. Purdue also did a good job of defending everyone except Doyle and Coble and even those two both had career games (Coble had 24 and Doyle had 26), nobody else hurt Purdue much at all.
Purdue started the game with Kramer missing a wide-open 15-footer in the lane and then having Gordon Watt miss a lay-up in transition after a Northwestern turnover. They followed that with a missed three-pointer by Teague, and another missed jumper by Kramer. Fortunately, Northwestern couldn't capitalize and when Teague made both his free throws after being fouled on a drive to the basket, Purdue led 2-0 after about two minutes. Keaton Grant then scored on a beautiful drive and after Northwestern tied the score at 4-4, Teague hit the first of his four first-half three-pointers to give Purdue a 7-4 lead. From here, the game see-sawed back and forth with Northwestern taking what would prove to be their last lead at 10-9 before Teague hit another three-pointer to give Purdue a 12-10 lead at the 12-minute media time-out. Chris Lutz then hit a three-pointer after the time-out and Purdue went on to lead by as many as 11 (35-24) before settling for a 38-28 lead at the break.
Purdue came out playing really hard to start the second half and after Landry dunked after a steal by Teague, Purdue led 42-28. Unfortunately, Carl got hit with a technical foul for hanging on the rim after his dunk and since it was his third foul, he had to sit down. Northwestern hit both free throws and then went on an immediate 13-4 run to pull within three points (46-43) at about the 14-minute mark. Chris Lutz then hit the biggest shot of the game (a three-pointer) to give Purdue some breathing room and Purdue then began to pull away behind some great play by Gordon Watt, two three-pointers by Chris Lutz, two baskets by Teague and a basket by Grant to lead 68-49 with seven minutes to play. Northwestern then managed one last run to get within five points (71-66) with less than a minute to play, but Keaton Grant stepped up and hit two big free throws to get the lead back up to seven and Purdue held on for a hard fought 75-68 win.
David Teague David played another fantastic game today. He was largely responsible for Purdue being able to take a 10 point lead at half-time with 18 points in the first half. He cooled off in the second half, but he still finished with 26 points, eight rebounds, two assists, three steals and three turnovers in 39 minutes of play. About the only negative for David today was that the player he was trying to defend (Coble) had a great day, but I thought David made him take some tough shots and when the game got close at the end, he shut Coble down with only two free throws in the last six minutes or so.
Carl Landry Carl had a really rough day at the office today. He was pretty effective when he was in there with 13 points, (including 5-of-5 from the free throw line), five rebounds (four of them offensive rebounds), two steals and two turnovers in only 20 minutes of play. Carl only played 20 minutes because he got into foul trouble and eventually fouled out. I will say that of the four personal fouls he was whistled for, at least three of them were of the "cheap" variety and it's surprising that a player of his stature in the Big Ten doesn't get more respect from the officials.
Tarrance Crump I thought Tarrance had a pretty good game today with five points, two rebounds, three assists, one steal and a single turnover in 20 minutes of play. Tarrance still makes some questionable decisions on occasion (like the shot he took five seconds into the shot clock at the end of the first half with less than two minutes remaining and Purdue leading by seven points), but today the shot went in so it turned out to be a good decision (Grin).
Gordon Watt Gordon was quietly effective today with seven points, five rebounds, one assist, one steal and one turnover in 35 minutes of play. All seven of those points came during a five minute stretch of the second half when Purdue was taking control of the game with Carl Landry on the bench and they came at a time when Purdue really needed an offensive spark.
Chris Lutz After being pretty much non-existent against Iowa, Chris really made his presence felt today with 15 points, four rebounds, five assists and zero turnovers in 24 minutes of play. When Chris plays like this, Purdue is a very difficult team to defend and his play was clearly a difference maker for Purdue today.
Marcus Green Marcus seems to be mired in one of the worst shooting slumps I've seen a Purdue player have in some time. Today he only took one shot, but he was so wide open he could have dribbled the ball three times before he shot it. Of course, he missed. However, Marcus contributed in other ways with four rebounds, an assist and a freethrow in only nine minutes of play. I'm beginning to think Marcus isn't going to get untracked this year, but if he does he could be a huge plus for this team over the next couple of weeks because I don't think the opponents are paying much attention to him when Purdue has the basketball.
Keaton Grant I thought Keaton showed some signs today he's perhaps shaking off the malaise that seems to have affected his game lately. He had a couple of nice moves to the basket for scores and his two freethrows with less than a minute left were huge freethrows. He ended up with six points, two rebounds, one assist, one steal and six turnovers in 19 minutes of play and except for the turnovers I thought it was one of his better games in awhile.
Chris Kramer After the Iowa game, I was hoping Chris would become a more consistent scorer for Purdue, but today his shot wasn't falling and he ended up with only two points in 33 minutes of play. However, he also added five rebounds, four assists, one steal and two turnovers during that time. Chris appeared to turn his ankle late in the game, but I think he came back on the floor a little later, so hopefully he'll be okay for the Minnesota game on Wednesday.
Bobby Riddell got into the game to shoot a 1-and-1 freethrow when Chris Kramer was hurt. Unfortunately, Bobby missed the front end and a chance to be a hero.
Jonathan Uchendu didn't play because apparently he was arrested earlier this week for public intoxication. I don't know all the particulars, but it's very hard for me to understand how someone can let their teammates down like this. Sometimes I wonder if guys like Jonathan realize what a great opportunity they have and how easy it is to screw it up. I'm not too old to remember what it was like to be on a college campus, but for crying out loud, if you're going to drink, do it somewhere that the police aren't going to get involved. You'd think after what happened to Tarrance last year, everyone else on the team would have gotten the message about drinking, but apparently Jonathan had to learn the hard way.
With today's win, Purdue has put itself into position to finish 9-7 in the Conference and 20-10 for the regular season. I don't think either of the two remaining games is going to be particularly easy to win, but let's just say I like Purdue's chances if they continue to play the way they did today. I haven't followed all the discussions about potential BTT seeding very closely, but I think Purdue has at least a decent chance at a 4/5 seed and, failing that, most likely a 6 seed. Frankly, I wouldn't mind a 6 seed if it means Purdue could win another game and then perhaps get another shot at Indiana, but I'd rather play in the 4/5 game and take my chances against a MSU or an Iowa. Either way, I think Purdue needs at least one and maybe even two wins in the Big Ten Tournament to make sure they are included in the NCAA tournament on Selection Sunday. Having said that, and being fully aware that I will be very disappointed if Purdue DOESN'T make the field this year, I'm still very proud of this team and this coaching staff for the job they've done this year. I don't think anyone believed this team was capable of a 20-win season before the year began, and now that they are so close to making it a reality, I wanted to take the time to congratulate everyone involved for what they have accomplished so far.