© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
BOX SCORE: Purdue 59, Florida International 44
As I sat there this afternoon watching Purdue play FIU, I got to thinking about what words I could use to describe what kind of play I was witnessing. Words like horrible, atrocious, terrible, lousy and abominable all passed through my mind, but the one that stuck was inept. I mean, how else are you going to describe a first half where both teams combined for 12 made field goals in 51 attempts (23.5%), 25 turnovers, only five assists and a grand total of 39 points? It was unbelievable and I don’t think I've ever witnessed a half quite like it in all the years I’ve been watching Purdue play. The second half was marginally better as both teams combined for 21 made field goals in 52 attempts (40.4%), 18 turnovers, 10 assists and 64 points. Ironically, the major difference in the game came at the free throw line where Purdue was 23 of 25 (a season high 92%) while FIU was only 7 of 11. Those 16 additional free throws were crucial in a game Purdue ended up winning by 15 points (59-44).
I guess I should have known it was going to be a tough day when Robbie Hummel missed an easy runner in the lane on Purdue’s first possession and then turned it over on their next one. On top of that FIU was banking in 3-point shots and before anyone could even get settled in their seats, FIU led 7-0. FIU’s lead eventually reached 16-0 at the 10:45 mark of the first half as Purdue missed their first 11 shots from the field (they also missed their only free throw) and committed 7 turnovers in the first 10 minutes and 20 seconds of the half. Purdue finally scored as JaJuan Johnson got loose on the baseline and took a nice feed from Keaton Grant for a slam dunk. This basket seemed to wake Purdue up and they responded by scoring 19 of the last 21 points of the half to lead 21-18 at the break. During this stretch, FIU committed 9 turnovers and missed all 8 of their field goal attempts. Interestingly enough, the player who gave Purdue the biggest lift was Tarrance Crump who only played the last 4 minutes of the half, but scored 6 points. Apparently Tarrance was sick with the flu and missed the Friday practice, but when Bobby Riddell picked up his 2nd foul, Coach Painter decided to see what Tarrance could do.
The second half was basically all Purdue as they jumped out to a 33-22 lead after about the first 6 minutes and then sealed the win by hitting 12 of 12 free throws down the stretch. Purdue’s biggest lead of the half was 19 (55-36) with about 4 minutes to go and Coach Painter cleared the bench in the last minute.
Tarrance Crump – As mentioned above, Tarrance did not get into the game until about 4 minutes remained in the first half, but when he did, he made his presence felt with 2 baskets, 2 free throws and a steal along with one of his patented turnovers. In the second half, Tarrance continued to make his presence felt at both ends of the floor and he ended the day playing 18 minutes and scoring 12 points to go along with 2 steals and 3 turnovers. I thought Tarrance was a real difference maker in today’s game and it was a good thing for Purdue that he played so well.
Nemanja Calasan – Nemanja really struggled again today. He turned the ball over on two consecutive possessions in the first half, but he came back to hit two free throws and then made a nice basket after an offensive rebound late in the half. He finished with 4 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and those 2 initial turnovers in 17 minutes of play. All of his contributions came in the first half and he didn’t dent the score sheet in 5 minutes of 2nd half play. In all honesty, I'm not sure Nemanja is well suited to come off the bench. He seems to have trouble getting into the flow of the game right away and I'm not sure why.
Marcus Green – I thought Marcus played very poorly today. He started the both halves, so he must be playing well in practice, but it’s not carrying over to the games. Today he missed all 4 of his shots and he’s now shooting a team low 34.8% from the field for the year including 2 of 18 (11.1%) from beyond the arc. He finished the day with 1 point (1 of 2 from the line), 2 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 turnover in 23 minutes of play. I do think he’s playing well at the defensive end, but he’s becoming a huge liability at the offensive end (the other team is hardly guarding him) and unless he starts making some shots, his offensive problems will outweigh any defensive contributions he makes.
Bobby Riddell - Bobby got into the game fairly early in the first half, but he didn't do much of anything to help the team. He ended up playing only 4 minutes and he missed both of the 3-point shots that he took. He also turned it over once and committed 2 personals in that short time. I'm beginning to think they need to change Bobby's nickname from "Buckets" to "Bucketless" because Bobby has missed all 5 of his 3-point attempts this year after making just 2 of 17 last year. I like and admire Bobby Riddell, but I have to admit I've been very disappointed with his shooting.
Keaton Grant – Keaton didn’t start and played only 10 minutes in the first half before sitting down for the day. Apparently his knees are bothering him and he was unable to go in the second half. He ended the day with 2 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block and 1 turnover in those 10 first half minutes and hopefully being off this week will be just what Keaton needs to help his knees, because Purdue needs him badly.
Chris Kramer – Chris was another player that struggled shooting the ball today (he was 1 of 7), but he compensated for that by playing some very aggressive on the ball defense that seemed to bother FIU. He finished with 4 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 turnovers in 27 minutes of play and he also took a charge.
Robbie Hummel – Like almost everyone else, Robbie couldn’t throw it in the ocean today from the field (he was 1 of 7 also), but he wasn’t forcing shots, he was just missing shots he would normally make. He did make all of his free throws (4/4) and he was the game’s leading rebounder with 8. In addition, he had 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 turnovers in 26 minutes of play and he also took a charge. On one play in the 2nd half, he made a great steal and was fouled as he drove to the basket. As RRanney has pointed out, Purdue’s crowd has been pretty apathetic for most of these non-conference games when the students aren’t there and when there was very little reaction to this play, Coach Painter stood up and began exhorting the crowd to show some appreciation for Robbie’s hustle. The crowd did give Robbie a nice hand, but it’s a shame it takes the coach getting up and gesturing to the crowd to get them going.
JaJuan Johnson – JaJuan was another player who struggled from the field (he was 1 of 6), but he did a pretty good defensive job on FIU’s big center (I think he was their leading scorer going into today’s game) and I thought JaJuan was a positive factor for Purdue today. He ended up with 6 points, 6 rebounds, 1 block and 2 steals in 22 minutes of play and he almost brought the crowd to its feet with a spectacular dunk off an alley-oop pass from Tarrance Crump on a fast break, but it looked like he might have gotten tripped as he went up to grab the pass and he couldn’t finish the play.
Scott Martin – Scott really should have had a big, big game today. He was only 2 of 8 shooting from the field and all 6 of his misses were on wide open shots. He did make all 8 of his free throws (Scott is now at 75% for the year) and led Purdue in scoring with 13 points. He added 7 rebounds, 1 block, 1 steal and 5 turnovers in a somewhat uneven performance. One of his turnovers came right at the end of the first half after he grabbed a rebound and tried to dribble up the floor in a hurry to get off a last second shot. He ended up palming the ball at midcourt, but FIU missed their last second shot, so there was no damage done.
E’Twaun Moore – E’Twaun was the only player for Purdue (other than Crump) to have a half-way decent shooting day. For the day, E’Twaun was 4 of 9 from the field (2 of 4 from beyond the arc) for 10 points. He added 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 2 steals and no turnovers in 23 minutes of pretty solid play.
Today’s game was just the latest in a string of games that to me highlight one of Purdue’s glaring weaknesses. In the last four games, Purdue has had only 37 assists on 93 made baskets and in their two losses prior to these last four games they had six assists on 24 made baskets against Clemson and nine assists on 25 made baskets against Missouri. To me, this shows just how important it is for a team to have a point guard running the show who can distribute the basketball effectively. After 13 games, it’s becoming pretty obvious that neither Keaton Grant (11 assists, 15 turnovers) or Tarrance Crump (19 assists, 28 turnovers) is going to be that player for Purdue and I think this year’s team is going to continue to struggle all year long unless one of them figures out how to do a better job of getting the ball to his teammates when they are in scoring position. After today’s game, I guess the corollary to this is that perhaps their teammates could do a better job of shooting the basketball when they do get open (Grin).
I was also looking at Purdue’s Big 10 schedule today and noticed that five of Purdue’s first eight games are home games (Michigan, OSU, Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa) and the three road games are MSU, Iowa and PSU. What this tells me is that it is extremely important that Purdue get off to a good start in the Big 10. I think Purdue needs to win at least six of these first eight games to have any chance at an upper division finish in the Big 10 this year because if they don’t, they will have a huge mountain to climb in the last 10 games of the Big 10 season with six of those games on the road. January is traditionally the time when good teams start to come together and it will be very revealing to see how Purdue does in the next four weeks. I think Purude's chances in these first eight games will improve dranatically if everyone can get healthy. It seems like a long time since Purdue has played a game where all nine of the players in the primary rotation were healthy.