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OldGoldFreePress COLUMNISTS | BACK TO MDC'S COLUMNS

PURDUE MENS BASKETBALL:
Purdue 66, Wofford 69

Published: 12/20/2007
Author: MDC
© Old Gold Free Press Columnists

BOX SCORE: Purdue 66, Wofford 69

Purdue’s season long habit in Mackey Arena of "living dangerously" finally caught up with them tonight against Wofford. In previous games against teams that were not highly regarded, Purdue played well enough to win, but even in winning they were not particularly impressive. Wofford came into tonight’s game having lost all 4 of their road games including a 66-57 loss to Elon and a 70-43 pounding by Wisconsin. In the Wisconsin game, they were a woeful 26.9 % from the field. Tonight, against Purdue, they got off to a slow start, but once they got cooking, it seemed like just about every shot they took went in and they ended up shooting 46.2% from the field including a blistering 57.7% in the 2nd half. In addition, when it came down to the end of the game when they had to make plays, they made them. The first one came after Purdue had taken a 66-63 lead with just over a minute remaining on a beautiful steal and lay-up by Chris Kramer. Wofford didn’t panic and after running the shot clock down below 10 seconds, Shane Nichols buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key to tie the game. Purdue called time out with 36 seconds to go in the game (I think there were 21 seconds left on the shot clock) and then tried to run the high pick and roll with Crump taking the ball to the basket. I thought Tarrance made the mistake of committing to the shot too early and he had the ball stripped as he went up for the shot. Tarrance managed to recover the ball, but in his haste to pass it to someone else, he threw it right to Junior Salters of Wofford. Scott Martin did a great job of overtaking Salters and blocking his lay-up attempt after the steal, but Wofford got the offensive rebound only to have the follow-up attempt blocked out of bounds by Robbie Hummel. There were still about 20 seconds to go in the game and Wofford called time-out to set up a play. When play resumed, Wofford worked the clock down to about 5 seconds and then Shane Nichols drove the baseline and threw up a well defended runner that hit high on the backboard before falling through with only 2 seconds to go in the game. Wofford added a meaningless free throw with 0.2 seconds showing on the clock after intercepting the long in-bounds pass and getting fouled and the final score was Wofford 69, Purdue 66.

To say tonight’s game was disappointing would be putting it mildly. Purdue had numerous chances to take control of the game including a point in the first half when they took a 19-9 lead with just over 8 minutes to play. At this point in the game, Wofford had already turned the ball over 8 times and had missed 8 of their first 11 shots from the field. Frankly, I thought Purdue was in control and might be able to blow them out by halftime. Unfortunately, Robbie Hummel picked up his 2nd foul at this point in the game and after he went out the momentum shifted back to Wofford and they scored the next 9 points before Chris Kramer scored on a nice drive to the basket. From there, Purdue would go on to lead by 5, but Wofford kept making plays and finally gained the lead 28-26 on a 3-pointer with about 30 seconds to go in the half. Keaton Grant threw up an air-ball from 3-point range with about 2 seconds to go in the half, but Purdue got lucky and Nemanja Calasan was able to grab the missed shot and lay it in just before the half-time buzzer. In the second half, Purdue was able to regain control and took a 54-48 lead with less than 10 minutes remaining. During the next 5 minutes, Purdue missed 5 free throws (1 by Calasan and 2 each by Kramer and Grant), 2 three pointers (Grant and Hummel) and had a bad turnover (Moore) as Wofford went on a 11-1 run to take a 59-55 lead with just over 4 minutes left to go in the game. Purdue was able to regain the lead after 2 free throws by Scott Martin and a nice 3-point play from Crump, but Wofford came right back with a 3-pointer and a free throw by Salters to lead 63-60 with 2 ½ minutes left in the game. Scott Martin then hit 2 more free throws, Keaton Grant got a breakaway dunk after a great defensive play by Chris Kramer and then Chris stole the ball and scored on a driving lay-up to set the stage for Wofford’s last minute heroics as recounted above.

There are several things that stand out about tonight’s game:

(1) Purdue’s shooting was horrible. They shot a woeful 3 of 16 from beyond the arc and almost every one of them was a wide open shot.

(2) Purdue was horrible from the free throw line. They shot 11 of 20 for the game and several of the misses came at a critical time late in the game (all of the misses were by upperclassmen).

(3) Purdue’s defense leaked like a sieve. They had trouble containing the dribble and Wofford had 17 assists on 24 made baskets. Wofford’s point guard (Drew Gibson) had 13 assists (and only 3 turnovers) in one of the better performances I’ve ever seen from a visiting player in Mackey Arena. When you consider that he came into tonight’s game with 22 assists and 19 turnovers on the year, it makes you wonder why Purdue had so much trouble containing him.

(4) Purdue really struggled with Wofford’s zone. I thought Wofford did a good job of switching defenses and they seemed to catch Purdue off guard every time they went into a zone. I think Purdue is going to keep seeing a lot of zone defenses until they prove that they can consistently knock down open perimeter shots.

(5) Purdue’s half-court offense was too individual oriented. This is evidenced by the fact that Purdue had only 8 assists on 26 made baskets. I think it’s becoming all too obvious that one of Purdue’s glaring weaknesses is a lack of a point guard that can distribute the basketball effectively.

Individual player comments:

Tarrance Crump – I thought Tarrance played reasonably well tonight and it was a shame that his late turnover proved to be such a key play. Still, seniors are supposed to make plays in crucial situations (like the one Shane Nichols made for Wofford to win the game) and tonight, Tarrance just didn’t get the job done. He ended up scoring 9 points and added 2 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 turnovers in 22 minutes of play. He has now missed his last nine 3-point attempts and is shooting a horrid 21.1% from beyond the arc.

Nemanja Calasan – Nemanja really struggled tonight shooting the basketball. He was only 2 of 7 from the floor and 1 of 4 from the free throw line and most of his misses from the field were from point blank range (he missed his only 3-point attempt). He did score 5 points and added 5 rebounds (4 offensive) and 2 blocks in 18 minutes of play, but I think he’s got to make open shots inside or Purdue is going to struggle against Big 10 teams.

Marcus Green – Marcus had one super nice drive to the basket that he finished with a finger roll for his only points, but he missed his other 2 shots and had 2 turnovers and only a single rebound in a season low 8 minutes of play. I think this was easily the worst game Marcus has played since the Lipscomb game.

Keaton Grant – Keaton led Purdue in scoring tonight with 17 points, but he took a season high 14 shots to do so and he was only 1 of 3 from the free throw line with both misses at a crucial point in the game. Still, Keaton was one of the few players for Purdue that seemed to be able to make a jump shot and I thought he had a pretty good game tonight. In addition to his scoring (I believe 17 points is a career high for him), Keaton had 2 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 turnover in a team high 30 minutes of play.

Chris Kramer – I thought Chris played very well tonight. He scored only 6 points (3 of 7 from the field including 0 of 2 from beyond the arc), but he had 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks, 1 steal and only 1 turnover in 29 minutes of play. Quite honestly, I would prefer to see the ball in his hands at crunch time instead of either Tarrance or Keaton because I think Chris “sees” the floor better than either of them do.

Robbie Hummel – It’s becoming obvious that Robbie Hummel is Purdue’s most versatile player. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Wofford was able to get back in the game after he went to the bench in the first half. Tonight he had 10 points (6 of them on put-backs after an offensive rebound), 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks, 3 steals and 1 turnover in 28 minutes of play. After 10 games, Robbie is Purdue’s leading rebounder at 5.5 per game, his A/TO ratio is 30/11 and he’s got the 2nd highest shooting percentage on the team. I just wish he’d shoot it a little more often (Grin).

JaJuan Johnson – JaJuan got off to a great start tonight with 5 points in the first 3 ½ minutes of the game and then he disappeared from the offense. Sometimes I think JaJuan just isn’t assertive enough in trying to establish position and calling for the basketball. He ended up scoring 5 points and added 5 rebounds and 2 blocks in only 17 minutes of play. He started the 2nd half, but only played 5 minutes as Coach Painter went with a smaller line-up during the last several minutes of the game.

Scott Martin – Scott looked like he might be fighting the flu or something and he really struggled shooting the basketball. He finished the night 0 for 7 from the field (including 0 for 2 from 3-point range) and I don’t think a single one of those shots was contested. To his credit, he did make 4 straight pressure-packed free throws down the stretch, but Purdue isn’t going to be very good this year if Scott has many more shooting nights like this one. He finished with 4 points, 2 rebounds, 1 block, 1 steal and 1 turnover in only 20 minutes of play. One indication that something might be bothering him is that the 20 minutes represent a season low for him other than the Missouri game when he fouled out after only 14 minutes.

E’Twaun Moore – After playing almost the entire first half (19 minutes) and scoring 8 points on 3 of 8 shooting plus 2 free throws, E’Twaun only played 9 minutes in the second half and never took a shot. He finished the game with 8 points, 1 rebound, 2 steals and 1 turnover in 28 minutes of play, but after playing aggressively at the offensive end in the first half, he disappeared in the second. I’m at a loss to try and explain why this happened.

I wish I could say I understand what is going on with this year’s Purdue team right now, but I don’t. I don’t think Purdue lost tonight’s game because of inexperience or because of their youth, I think they lost tonight’s game because they got out-played. You can look at what happened down the stretch and point fingers at a few of the players for not making plays, but the truth is that Purdue lost this game in the first half when they failed to put Wofford away when they had them on the ropes. There was even a point in the second half when Purdue seemed to have control of the game, only to let it slip away. Apparently it hasn’t yet registered with the players that in today’s college basketball world, you can’t afford to take any team lightly. I think the players thought tonight’s game was going to be a relatively easy win and when Wofford started hitting shots and making plays, they didn’t look confident in what they were doing. As a result, they find themselves with a huge mountain to climb if they hope to qualify for the NCAA tournament. I wish I could say I think they’ll bounce back, but after what I saw tonight, I’m beginning to think this could be a tough year. I also think we could find out this weekend just how tough it might be.

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