© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
BOX SCORE: Purdue 66, Minnesota 47
As most of you who read these summaries know, I've always tried to stress that one of the keys to winning road games is taking care of the basketball. I didn't think either team played all that well tonight, but fortunately for Purdue, it was obvious that none of the Minnesota players paid much attention when their coaches tried to teach them this key point. When you consider that Purdue's second leading scorer (David Teague) was held to a season low two points and that Minnesota out-rebounded Purdue 34 to 26, it's amazing that Purdue won this game easily. The reason it was an easy win is because Minnesota turned the ball over 28 times. Sixteen of those turnovers were steals by Purdue with many of those steals leading to a fast break dunk or lay-up at the other end. Another huge factor in Purdue's win tonight was the effective way they neutralized Minnesota's best players. If you will recall, when Purdue played Minnesota in January, McKenzie scored 23 points, Abu-Shamala scored 14, Coleman had 13 and Tollackson had eight which accounted for 58 of Minnesota's 65 points. In tonight's game McKenzie had 10 points (and also 10 turnovers), Abu-Shamala didn't score (he only took one shot), Coleman had 10 and Tollackson had 16 for a combined total from these four players of 36 of Minnesota's 47 points. In truth, the only one of these players who really hurt Purdue was Tollackson and Carl Landry's play more than neutralized his.
The game itself was never in doubt as Purdue jumped out to a 9-0 lead as it took Minnesota more than six minutes to score. After Minnesota did score, Purdue quickly took the lead up to 11 after baskets by Landry and Grant and Minnesota was never able to cut the lead below nine the rest of the game. Tarrance Crump ended the first half with an excellent runner in the lane after Carl Landry's offensive rebound and Purdue led by 14 (33-19) at the half. I think Minnesota managed to get the lead down to 11 fairly early in the second half, but then Carl Landry pretty much took over the game for Purdue (I think he scored 11 straight points for Purdue at one point) and Purdue essentially cruised to victory without much opposition from Minnesota.
David Teague – David has been carrying this Purdue team on his back for the past several games and tonight he finally stepped aside and let someone else handle that task. I'm not sure how much truth there is in this, but the people sitting around me said that David has been sick with the flu and it sure looked like something was bothering him tonight because he didn't have his normal energy and he was clearly winded on several occasions. Perhaps the best evidence of this is that David played only 26 minutes tonight and scored just two points. He added four rebounds, one assist and two turnovers along with some sticky defense against Abu-Shamala, but to say he was way off his game tonight is putting it mildly.
Carl Landry – It's hard to imagine a Purdue player having a better all-around game than Carl had tonight. He led the team in every statistical category (including turnovers) with 25 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, 6 steals, three blocks and three turnovers in 37 minutes. My only criticism of Carl's game tonight is that I thought he settled for outside jump-shots way too often instead of setting up down low. But when you produce like Carl did tonight, criticism like that sounds pretty hollow.
Tarrance Crump – Tarrance didn't score much tonight, but I thought he did a very good job of putting defensive pressure on whoever Minnesota had handling the basketball and while he wasn't credited with any steals, his play was instrumental in disrupting what Minnesota was trying to accomplish. Tarrance ended with two points, two assists and one turnover in 18 minutes. I think there was only one instance tonight where I thought he made a poor decision when he took the ball to the hoop.
Gordon Watt – I thought Gordon had a solid game tonight with eight points, three rebounds, two assists, one steal and two turnovers in 25 minutes of play. I think Gordon is capable of doing a better job of rebounding the basketball than he showed tonight, but I think he did a decent job on Coleman defensively and I think his toughness is a huge plus for Purdue.
Chris Lutz – With David Teague struggling, Purdue needed Chris to step up tonight, and he did. Not only did he score (10 points), but he defended (four steals and a block). In addition, he had a rebound, an assist and only one turnover in 23 minutes of play. Chris seems to be playing with much more confidence than he was earlier in the Big Ten season and I think his improved play is one of the biggest reasons that Purdue has a chance to reach the 20-win mark.
Marcus Green – It was great to see Marcus finally have some success. Tonight I thought he did a nice job of finishing when he got opportunities to score underneath and he also did a nice job of rebounding. He ended the night with six points, four rebounds, one assist and one turnover in 19 minutes of play and I think it's his most productive game in some time. Marcus did miss two wide-open three-pointers, but both shots came in rhythm as part of the offense and I think sooner or later he's going to start knocking them down.
Chris Kramer – I suspect there are a lot of players that wouldn't have been playing tonight if their ankle was as sore as Chris's. In many ways, Chris had kind of a quiet game tonight, but he ended up with six points (all lay-ups or dunks after steals), one assist, three steals and two turnovers in 25 minutes of play. Chris is another guy (much like Gordon Watt) who doesn't necessarily light up the stat sheet, but whose toughness and hustle play an important role in Purdue's success.
Keaton Grant – I thought Keaton also played pretty well tonight. He ended up with seven points, one rebound, one assist, two steals and two turnovers in 23 minutes of play. Included in those seven points were a high arching three-pointer that hit nothing but net and making both of his free throws. Keaton is still very much a work in progress, but I do think he's back to making progress after a stretch there where he had seemed to hit a "wall".
Hopefully, Purdue will shake off tonight's game and execute the half-court offense against Northwestern this Saturday more efficiently than they did tonight. I don't know if anyone else besides David Teague is being bothered by some sort of flu bug (it looked like more than one player was dragging tonight), but let's hope everyone is ready to go Saturday. I think Iowa's loss to Penn State tonight means Purdue has at least a decent shot at getting into the 4/5 game in the Big Ten Tournament. It looks to me like Indiana will finish third at 10-6 (even if Illinois beats Iowa to finish 10-6, I think Indiana holds the tie-breaker with Illinois) and Purdue will finish no worse than a tie for fifth if they can beat Northwestern. It seems to me that the ideal scenario for Purdue would be to have Illinois beat Iowa, Wisconsin beat MSU, OSU beat Michigan and Purdue beat Northwestern. If that happens, I think Purdue finishes all alone in 5th place at 9-7 and MSU, Iowa and Michigan all tie for 6th at 8-8. However, my guess is that Iowa will beat Illinois and Michigan will upset OSU. I'll be surprised if Michigan State beats Wisconsin, but since Wisconsin is without Brian Butch, it's hard to predict how that's going to affect the game. In this scenario, I think Purdue, Illinois, Michigan and Iowa all finish 9-7 and MSU finishes 8-8. In that case, I think Purdue is 2-2, Iowa is 3-1, Illinois is 2-3 and Michigan is 2-3 against each other, so Iowa would get a four seed, Purdue would get a five and Purdue would play Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. Even If Michigan State upsets Wisconsin and makes it a five-way tie for 4th place, I think Purdue ends up in the 4/5 game. I suppose there is a scenario where Purdue ends up not getting a four or five seed even if they beat Northwestern, but I'm too tired right now to try and think what it is (Grin). I guess that if Illinois beats Iowa, Michigan State loses and Michigan wins, Purdue ends up tied with Michigan at 9-7 and Michigan wins the tie-breaker by virtue of their win over Ohio State. Maybe I'm not so tired after all (LOL).