I thought both teams looked a little “tight” at the beginning of today’s game and Louisville got the best of the early going by being aggressive on defense and forcing 5 Purdue turnovers in the first 5 plus minutes of the half to lead 9-5. Purdue finally got going with a steal and lay-up by Marcus Green and tied the game 9-9 on a jumper by Scott Martin with almost 14 minutes to go in the half. Purdue took their first lead of the half (12-9) on a 3-pointer by Keaton Grant, but Louisville came right back to tie the game on a 3-pointer by Williams and the game went back and forth from there until Purdue went on a 9-0 run to take a 24-16 lead with just under 5 minutes to play in the half. Louisville managed to cut the lead to 4 (29-25) with less than a minute to play in the half, but Robbie Hummel got loose for a lay-up on a beautiful feed from Nemanja Calasan and Keaton Grant buried another 3-pointer just before the half-time buzzer to give Purdue a 9 point half-time lead (34-25).
At the half, my thoughts turned to what happened in the Clemson and Missouri games and I was concerned that Purdue might let this game slip away after a pretty good opening half. Purdue showed no signs of any letdown early in the half and they quickly took a 36-25 lead on a nice basket by JaJuan Johnson off a feed from Robbie Hummel. Shortly thereafter, Robbie went down with what first looked like a serious leg injury, but turned out to be a severe cramp in his leg. He went to the sidelines for a minute or two and then returned, but his leg cramped again and he was taken to the locker room with about 16 ½ minutes to play in the game. At the time, Purdue still led 39-30 and didn’t appear to be in any trouble. When Chris Kramer hit a 3-pointer about 30 seconds later, Purdue took its largest lead of the game 42-31 and when Marcus Green followed with a short jumper after a wonderful offensive rebound with roughly 14 minutes to play, I thought Purdue might cruise to victory. However, after a Louisville timeout, Louisville really stepped up their defensive pressure and went on a 13-2 run over the next 5 minutes or so to make it a 46-44 game with just over 8 minutes remaining. At this point, Tarrance Crump drove the lane and hit one of his patented floaters to get the lead back to 4, but Louisville answered with a breakaway dunk by Smith. Chris Kramer then got a dunk after a nice pass from Tarrance Crump and he followed about a minute later with what I thought was the game’s biggest shot; a 12-15 foot jumper that gave Purdue some breathing room at 54-48. Following that basket, Keaton Grant started cramping and Tarrance Crump was allowed back in the game even though he had just been replaced by E’Twaun Moore and no time had elapsed. This turned out to be a big break for Purdue as Tarrance immediately stole the ball and scored a lay-up to put Purdue ahead 56-48 with 6 minutes to go in the game. From here, Louisville would cut the lead to 4 (57-53), but Purdue managed to hit just enough free throws down the stretch (including both ends of a 1-1 by Scott Martin with just less than 4 minutes to play and Purdue leading by 4) to close out the game 67-59.
Tarrance Crump – I thought Tarrance had some very good moments today, but he offset most of them with some equally bad decisions in the half-court. After watching Tarrance play now for more than a year, I think that is just the way it’s going to be for him on most days. Today he had 6 points, 2 rebounds, 5 a*s*sists (a season high), 4 turnovers (also a season high) and a steal in 23 minutes of play. I keep hoping Tarrance will become more of a steadying influence on is younger teammates, but so far, it hasn’t happened.
Nemanja Calasan – Nemanja struggled again today for the 3rd game in a row. He seems to have trouble getting started and if he misses his first shot he looks like he starts pressing. He did have a beautiful a*s*sist today on nifty pass to Robbie Hummel, but he only played 13 minutes and he finished with 2 points, 2 rebounds and a turnover to go with that lone a*s*sist. I think the key word with Nemanja is patience and it’s worth remembering that he has only played in 6 Division I games. I also think he’s going to be more of a factor in Big 10 games when the opposing teams are going to have more big bodies than most of the teams Purdue has played in the pre-Big 10 part of the season.
Marcus Green – I thought Marcus played really well for Purdue today. He was a force defensively and on the offensive glass (3 offensive rebounds) and he wasn’t shooting (and missing) perimeter jump shots like he has been prone to do in Purdue’s earlier games. He finished with 4 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 turnovers in 11 very productive minutes. He did miss his only 2 free throws (he’s now shooting a woeful 45.5% on the year from the free throw line), but Marcus played today exactly like I think he needs to play for Purdue to be successful.
Keaton Grant – I thought Keaton was a real warrior for Purdue today. He played through some obvious pain in his legs and his outside shooting was a major factor in Purdue’s victory. He finished with 12 points (all from 3-point land), 4 rebounds, 1 a*s*sist, 2 blocks and 2 turnovers in a team high 32 minutes. Keaton is now shooting 53.6% from beyond the arc on the year and his outside scoring is crucial for a team that lacks a consistent inside presence.
Chris Kramer – I thought Chris had a relatively quiet 1st half (only 4 points), but he really got going in the 2nd half and he made several key plays down the stretch that were instrumental in Purdue’s win. He finished with 14 points, 3 rebounds, 4 a*s*sists, 4 steals and only 1 turnover in 30 minutes of play off the bench. I was a little surprised that Chris didn’t start in today’s game, but I’m beginning to think coming off the bench might be the best way to utilize Chris’s energy and intensity. It’s also obvious that Chris is playing with some lingering pain in his legs from the off-season surgery (he was visibly limping at times), but he seems to be able to play through it without letting it affect him.
Robbie Hummel – I thought Robbie was outstanding for Purdue today. He was Purdue’s leading scorer with 15 points and he just seems to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. As I mentioned earlier, he suffered severe cramping in one of his legs during the 2nd half and that limited his minutes to 29, but in addition to his scoring, he grabbed 5 rebounds, passed out 3 a*s*sists, blocked 2 shots and had only a single turnover in those minutes. On the season, Robbie now has 24 a*s*sists and only 9 turnovers and he and Chris Kramer are the only 2 Purdue players with more a*s*sists than turnovers.
JaJuan Johnson – Today’s game was not one that played to JaJuan’s strengths. Louisville played most of the game with a 4 guard line-up and when I saw JaJuan matching up with a player several inches shorter than he is early in the game, I knew his minutes would be limited. Still, JaJuan had several nice plays in today’s game and he finished with 2 points, 5 rebounds, 2 a*s*sists and only 1 turnover in 16 minutes of play.
Scott Martin - Scott got in foul trouble again today for the 3rd time in the last 4 games and the foul trouble really limits his effectiveness. He ended up playing only 22 minutes and he finished with 11 points, 3 rebounds, 1 block and a single turnover in what was a pretty good outing considering his limited playing time. After 8 games, Scott is Purdue’s leading scorer (11.8 ppg) and 3rd leading rebounder (4.4 reb/gm) and it’s very important that Scott learn to stay out of foul trouble IF Purdue is going to be a factor in the Big 10 race this year.
E’Twaun Moore – E’Twaun couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean today (he missed all 5 of his shots) and I thought he never really got into the rhythm of the game. Apparently, the coaching staff thought so as well and E’Twaun played only 24 minutes (his 2nd lowest total of the season). He did manage to score 1 point on a late free throw and he also had 4 rebounds and a single turnover, but this was clearly E’Twaun’s least productive game of the year. Hopefully, he’ll bounce back starting next Monday night.
I know Louisville was banged up and was missing 3 key players for today’s game, but I think this was still a very good win for Purdue. I thought Purdue did a very good job of handling Louisville’s press for most of the game and I also thought Purdue’s defense was very effective in forcing Louisville into a perimeter oriented offense (more than half (30/59) of Louisville’s shots were 3-pointers). Purdue also won the rebounding war (40-36) and had 16 assists on 22 made baskets (their best percentage so far this year). When March comes around, this win should still look pretty good to the Selection Committee because I think Louisville should go on to have a good season in the Big East unless they have more personnel losses. This Purdue team still has a long way to go before they are worthy of being selected for a tournament berth, but I think they continue to get better with each game. I’d like to see them improve their free throw shooting and find a way to get Calasan and Johnson more involved in the offense, but I think those things will come with time and if they do, this team has a chance to be pretty good.
P.S. - Note to Brad - For the first time ever, I had trouble getting this posted because of the word a*s*sist. I hope you can do something about it because it's a pain in the you know what to go back and add the asterisks.