© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
BOX SCORE: Purdue 65, Michigan 58
I was worried about today's game because when you look at Michigan's roster, they have some very talented players and it seemed to me that they were overdue to play a good game. Michigan's freshman star (Manny Harris) is as good as advertised and in addition, Michigan has some other talented players like Udoh, Coleman and Sims. On top of that, Michigan plays a lot of half-court trapping zone and I thought Purdue might struggle against it. Fortunately, Michigan waited until the 2nd half started to begin playing good basketball and Purdue used their 14 point halftime lead as cushion that enabled them to come away with a hard fought 65-58 victory. This win represents the first time Purdue has opened Big 10 play with a victory since they beat Northwestern 82-68 to open the 2002/2003 Big 10 season.
Purdue got off to a very poor start and both Kramer and Hummel had bad turnovers in the first 4 minutes. Luckily, Michigan wasn’t much better and the game was tied 4-4 at that point. Michigan grabbed a 6-4 lead on Coleman’s only basket of the first half, but Kramer hit a 3-pointer, Moore stole the ball and scored in transition and then scored again on a wonderful feed from Hummel after Calasan grabbed a nice offensive rebound. Purdue then went more than 6 minutes without a point, but Michigan could not capitalize (they only scored 4 points in that time) and Purdue led 11-10 with about 8 minutes left in the half. JaJuan Johnson then scored 5 straight points for Purdue including a nice 3-point play off a good feed from Moore and the score was 16-10 at the Media timeout that came with about 7 minutes to go in the half. Michigan cut the lead to 4 (16-12) on two Harris free throws and after Johnson and Harris traded free throw, Kramer buried his second 3-pointer of the half to give Purdue a 20-13 lead with just under 6 minutes to play. Neither team scored for the next 2 minutes and after 2 Marcus Green free throws, Keaton Grant hit back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers in about a minute and a half as Purdue expanded their lead to 14 (31-17) with 2 minutes left in the half. Harris then hit a well-defended 3-pointer (Green was all over him), but Marcus came right back with a 3-pointer of his own and Purdue led 34-20 at the half.
At halftime, I went down to see my dad and we agreed that Purdue if Purdue would come out strong at the start the 2nd half, they could probably put the game out of reach. Unfortunately, it was Michigan that came out blazing after the break and after they outscored Purdue 14-2 in the first 4 minutes of the half, it was a ballgame again at 36-34. During this 4 minute stretch, Purdue had 4 turnovers (2 by Kramer and 2 by Moore) and missed 2 of the 3 shots they took. After a Purdue timeout, Grant hit a huge 3-pointer (his 4th in a row) to give Purdue a 5 point lead (39-34), but Purdue couldn’t shake Michigan until Grant hit another 3-pointer (his 5th in a row) just before the 8 minute mark and Hummel followed about a minute later with another 3-pointer to give Purdue an 8 point lead (48-40). Purdue eventually led by 9 (52-43) with about 5 minutes to play after a Hummel jumper, but Michigan kept fighting back and they cut the lead to 3 (54-51) with less than 2 minutes to play. E’Twaun Moore then tipped in a missed 3-pointer by Hummel and Purdue was able to hold on by making free throws down the stretch. I thought it was significant that Grant and Martin each hit both ends of one-and-ones during this stretch.
Tarrance Crump – I think Tarrance turned an ankle during the first half (he was visibly limping when he came off the floor) and when he was ineffective during a 3 minute stretch of the 2nd half, Coach Painter sat him down for good. Tarrance ended up playing 8 minutes and did not dent the box score. Hopefully his injury is not a major one and he’ll be back for MSU on Tuesday night.
Nemanja Calasan – I’m not sure what’s going on with Nemanja, but he’s really struggling. It looks to me like he may be rushing his shots a little bit and I think his lack of productivity has him a little bit down on himself. Today he played 16 minutes and didn’t score (he was 0 for 4 from the field) and he also had 2 rebounds and 2 turnovers in that time. In some respects, I think the adjustment to Division I basketball is little harder for someone like Nemanja than it is for incoming freshmen. I say that because Nemanja is older and he’s been doing things a certain way for several years. Now, he’s being asked to do things differently at both ends of the floor and he’s having trouble breaking some of those old habits. I believe he just needs to relax and try to have some fun out there and he’s going to be alright.
Marcus Green – I thought Marcus gave Purdue a nice lift in the first half. He came in and played some tenacious defense and he also contributed 5 points, a rebound a block and a steal in only 8 minutes of play. He even hit a 3-pointer!! Unfortunately, Marcus never got untracked in the 2nd half and in 6 more minutes, he did not dent the box score except for a late foul on a follow shot by Sims that gave Sims a 3-point play. I think it was a case of one step forward, one step back for Marcus today.
Keaton Grant - There is only one word to describe Keaton’s effort today and that word is sensational. Coming into today’s game, Keaton had only made 4 of his last 16 three-point attempts and when he missed his first 3-point attempt less than 20 seconds into the game, I was wondering if his early season accuracy from outside was a figment of my imagination. Turns out it wasn’t as Keaton proceeded to hit all 5 of his remaining 3-point attempts in the game and he ended up tying his career high with 17 points. In addition, he added 4 rebounds, an assist, a steal and zero turnovers in 33 minutes of excellent play. I think the thing about Keaton that is most impressive is that he just keeps coming at you at both ends of the floor.
Chris Kramer – I thought Chris had some good moments today, particularly in the first half when he hit a couple of 3-pointers, but he had an uncharacteristic 4 turnovers and I wouldn’t call this one of his better games. Still, he ended the day with 8 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block and 1 steal in 27 minutes so if it hadn’t have been for the 4 turnovers it actually would have been a pretty good game for Chris. Chris also drew the primary defensive assignment on Harris and Harris is a very tough player to guard because he is very explosive going to the basket. I think sometimes Chris expends so much energy on the defensive end that his offensive output suffers and I felt like that was the case again today, particularly in the 2nd half.
Robbie Hummel – I thought Robbie was very effective in today’s game. He made several key plays including a huge tip-in of a missed shot midway through the 2nd half when Purdue was clinging to a 40-38 lead and then a big 3-pointer about 3 minutes later that extended Purdue’s lead to 8 and gave them some breathing room. Robbie ended the day with 13 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 3 turnovers in 29 minutes of play. Robbie is quietly having a terrific season for Purdue and while there are certainly freshmen in the Big 10 that are putting up better scoring numbers, I don’t think any of them is more valuable to their teams than Robbie is to Purdue.
JaJuan Johnson – I thought JaJuan played pretty well today even though he played only 16 minutes. He did a nice defensive job on Udoh, and he also had 6 points, 2 rebounds and 4 blocked shots in that time. The 4 blocked shots ties his career high set earlier this year against Loyola (Chic). I thought it was surprising that late in the game, Coach Painter elected to keep JaJuan on the bench and go with a smaller line-up. I think it was because Purdue had the lead and he wanted to get his best ball-handlers in the game.
Scott Martin – It took Scott a long time to get going today (he didn’t shoot the ball once in 8 first half minutes) and even when he did get into the offensive flow, he missed 6 of his 7 shots from the field. Still, he was solid down the stretch shooting free throws and he had one super assist to Hummel late in the game as well as a crucial steal with less than 30 seconds to play and Purdue leading by 5. He ended with 7 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, 2 steals and 3 turnovers in 26 minutes of play. I think Scott’s 2nd half play was a crucial element in this victory.
E’Twaun Moore – E’Twaun had a couple of very nice offensive moves today, but the ball just wouldn’t go in the basket. He ended up scoring 9 points on 3 of 9 shooting from the field and 3 of 4 from the free throw line. Despite missing all 3 of his 3-point attempts today, E’Twaun is still shooting a better percentage from beyond the arc (41.2%) than he is overall (39.3%) which indicates to me that he’s probably forcing some of his shots. In addition to his 9 points, E’Twaun had a career high 6 assists to go along with 4 rebounds, 2 steals and 3 turnovers in 31 minutes of play. I think E’Twaun is getting better with each game and I won’t be surprised if he breaks out with a big scoring game sometime soon.
There were several things I liked about today’s game:
(1) Purdue had 15 assists on 20 made baskets, which is an excellent ratio. In contrast, Michigan had only 7 assists on 21 made baskets, which is an indication of how much their offense depends on individual one-on-one play.
(2) Purdue battled Michigan to a stand-still on the boards 34-34.
(3) Purdue shot the ball extremely well from the perimeter (9 of 18) while Michigan was only 4 of 18 and even a couple of those they made were well defended.
(4) Purdue was solid from the free throw line down the stretch with the game on the line. They hit 9 of 10 free throws in the last minute of the game and it was nice to see them come through under pressure.
In closing, I’ll just remind everyone that this year’s Purdue team is still very much a work in progress. It seems like it’s been a long time since all 9 of the players in Purdue’s primary rotation were healthy at the same time and I think the constant battle with injuries has made it hard for the coaching staff to develop any kind of consistent substitution pattern. I also think that’s why Purdue struggles at times to get good shots in their half-court offense. At the same time, when you consider that Purdue has the least amount of Division I experience of any team in the Big 10, it’s amazing what the coaching staff and players have been able to accomplish so far this year.