© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
BOX SCORE: Purdue 72, Arizona 63
Let's see if I have this right, after the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Bob Knight and his team are going home, Coach K and his team are going home, Lute Olsen and his team are going home and Matt Painter and his Boilermaker team are still playing!! Is that unbelievable or what! As I sat there watching the game tonight, I couldn't help but think about what a great job Matt Painter and his staff have done this year. This team doesn't have overwhelming talent, it doesn't have a lot of depth and it is short on experience, but boy, do these kids compete. Just look at the statistics; Purdue outrebounded a much bigger and more physical Arizona team 39-32 including a 17-7 pounding on the offensive glass. In addition, they won the turnover battle 17-8 and most of Arizona's turnovers came as a direct result of aggressive, "in your face" defensive play from Purdue. I'll bet there weren't a half dozen "talking heads" that gave Purdue a ghost of a chance tonight, and yet, Purdue was clearly the superior team.
The game itself got off to a somewhat shaky start for Purdue as Carl Landry picked up a rebounding foul on Purdue's first possession. Chris Kramer then got things started with a lay-up after a steal and after Landry and Lutz hit three-pointers on either side of a lay-up by Marcus Williams, Purdue took an early 8-4 lead. From here, Purdue went on to take its largest lead of the half (22-16) on Chris Lutz's 3rd successive three-pointer. Purdue then went scoreless for over four minutes and Arizona rallied to take what proved to be their only lead of the game (25-24) at about the six minute mark and then David Teague made an old-fashioned three-point play to put Purdue ahead for good. Purdue held Arizona scoreless over the next three minutes and built the lead back up to seven (32-25) on some excellent offensive play from Chris Kramer. Once again, Arizona came back and they closed to 34-32 before Chris Lutz hit his 4th three-pointer of the first half and Marcus Williams hit two free throws for Arizona to close the half with Purdue leading 37-34.
Purdue scored the first eight points of the second half and held Arizona scoreless for almost seven minutes to take a 45-34 lead before Arizona scored seven straight points to get back into the ballgame at 45-41 with about 12 minutes left in the game. Over the next four minutes, Purdue's only scores came on two Carl Landry lay-ups, but fortunately, Arizona was only able to make two free throws (by Radinovic) in that same time span and Purdue led 49-43 with just over eight minutes remaining. On Purdue's next possession, Chris Kramer was trying to drive the lane as the shot clock was winding down when he slipped and went to the floor. Somehow he was able to maintain his dribble and he recovered and shot about a 12 footer from his knees and the ball went in to give Purdue a 51-43 lead. It was one of the most unbelievable shots I've ever seen. Arizona wasn't done though. They scored six straight points as Keaton Grant missed two free throws and Chris Lutz missed the front end of a 1-1 and with five minutes to go in the game, Purdue's lead was only two. Carl Landry then made four straight free throws for Purdue to push the lead back up to six points and after Shakur's three-pointer cut the lead to 3, David Teague made a pull-up jumper in the lane, Chris Kramer took a beautiful feed from Landry for an easy lay-up and David Teague hit another lay-up and Purdue led 61-52 with two minutes to play. From here, Purdue closed out the game by making their free throws and the final score was Purdue 72, Arizona 63.
Carl Landry – Carl really came to play tonight. Despite being double-teamed every time he touched the basketball in the paint, he scored 21 points (6-of-10 from the field, 8-of-8 free throws) and pulled down 13 huge rebounds including five offensive rebounds. He also added an assist, a blocked shot and three turnovers in 38 minutes of excellent play. Carl was easily the best player on the floor tonight despite all the hype surrounding Arizona's McDonald's AA players.
David Teague – David had a tough night shooting the basketball (he was 5-of-16 including 0 for 6 from three-point range) and in somewhat of a rarity, he did not have a single rebound. David did get poked in the eye during a scrum early in the first half and that may have had an effect on his play. He did manage to pass out two assists and pick up two steals with only a single turnover in addition to playing some very sticky defense on Williams, but I couldn't help thinking that if he would have been "on" tonight, Purdue would have blown Arizona right out of the gymnasium.
Tarrance Crump – I thought Tarrance really struggled tonight. I think he was making some good decisions, but he couldn't make a shot to save his life. He only played 10 minutes and missed all five of his shots, but he did have a steal and no turnovers, so his time on the floor wasn't totally unproductive. Still, I know Tarrance can play better than this and let's hope he is saving his best game for Florida.
Gordon Watt – Like Tarrance, Gordon couldn't make a shot (he was 1-for-7 from the field and 0-of-2 from the free throw line), but Gordon made his presence felt in the paint with nine rebounds (seven of them offensive rebounds) to go along with an assist, three steals and no turnovers in 23 minutes of hard-nosed physical play. Even though Gordon only scored two points, his toughness and hustle were keys to Purdue's win tonight.
Chris Lutz – Chris came out on fire and hit all four of his three-point attempts in the first half. For some unknown reason, Arizona didn't seem to think Chris would hurt them because he was wide-open on three of his four attempts and Chris really made them pay. He cooled off in the second half and ended up missing all three of his shots, but he hit four of his five free throws down the stretch and added four rebounds, three assists, a steal and a turnover in 29 minutes of very good play.
Marcus Green – Marcus was quietly effective tonight off the bench with two points, four rebounds (including three offensive rebounds), two assists and no turnovers in only 13 minutes of play. Marcus is still struggling with his shot, but I like the way he sticks his nose in underneath and he's doing a good job of rebounding the basketball.
Chris Kramer – I can't say enough good things about the way Chris played tonight. I know his legs are bothering him, but you could never tell it by the way he played. He set the early tone for Purdue at the defensive end by intercepting a pass and taking it in for a lay-up and he was literally all over the floor during the game. He finished with 16 points (7-of-10 from the floor), two rebounds, three steals, one assist and only one turnover in 31 minutes of terrific play. Chris is a perfect example of the kind of player every good team needs and I couldn't help but think that if Arizona had him and could get their players to play as hard as Chris does, they would be very hard to beat.
Keaton Grant – Keaton also struggled tonight. He was 0 for 3 from the field and missed all four of his second half free throws to end up scoreless for the night. He did have five rebounds, two steals and two turnovers in 22 minutes, but I thought he looked nervous and his play suffered as a result. Hopefully, he'll bounce back on Sunday.
Purdue now moves on to play the team almost everyone has picked to win this year's NCAA Tournament. In my view, Purdue has absolutely nothing to lose in this game and I think the coaching staff and the players are all looking forward to the game. I've seen Florida play a couple of times this year and when they are "on", I don't think there is a better college basketball team in the country. However, they are also very capable of playing with little emotion or apparent effort and if Purdue would happen to catch them on a day when they aren't "on", I think Purdue is very capable of playing them nose to nose. No matter what happens in the Florida game, this season has been an excellent season for this Purdue team. I'm very proud of the way this group has represented Purdue University and it's been a pure joy to watch this group of players come together as a team and play so well down the stretch. I think the coaching staff has proved that they know what they are doing and I think it's just a matter of time before Purdue regains its stature as one of the best programs in the Big Ten. Personally, I can't wait!!