© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
BOX SCORE: Purdue 75, Michigan State 78
I’m sure a lot of people who watched or listened to the game are going to come away thinking Purdue lost this game in the last minute because Keaton Grant made a couple of poor decisions when the game was on the line. In truth, these people would be wrong. Purdue lost this game because they played the first 12 minutes of the game as if they were still all back in high school. The Breslin Center is an intimidating place to play and it didn’t help that Purdue’s best player (Robbie Hummel) was sidelined for the game with the flu. It also didn’t help when Scott Martin turned an ankle partway through the first half and had to go to the locker room for treatment. Still, there is really no excuse for playing as poorly as Purdue played early in the first half and when MSU jumped out to a 25-9 lead with just over 8 minutes to play in the first half, I thought MSU would win easily. How bad was it? Well, Purdue missed 17 of their first 21 shots and a number of those misses were turned into easy baskets by MSU in transition. At times, it looked like a track meet with MSU doing all of the running and Purdue trying desperately to keep up. Then, all of a sudden, Purdue started to click. Kramer hit a jumper and Marcus Green hit back-to-back 3-pointers followed by another Kramer jumper and two free throws from Calasan and the score was 29-21 in MSU’s favor with about 5 minutes left in the half. From here, the two teams basically traded points for the rest of the half and the score was 39-30 at halftime.
Purdue came out strong to start the second half and outscored MSU 14-4 over the first 4 minutes to tie the game at 43. The key player in this stretch was Nemanja Calasan who was playing like a man possessed. He opened the half with a nice 15 foot jumper and added two free throws and a lay-up. After a TV timeout, Nemanja hit another jumper, followed by a lay-up and when Keaton Grant finally hit a 3-pointer (he was 0 for 3 at that point), Purdue led by 5 (50-45). MSU bounced back quickly with a 3-pointer by Neitzel and a 3-point play by Summers and MSU led 51-50 with a little over 13 minutes to go. Grant hit another 3-pointer for Purdue and when Morgan responded with a short jumper, the game was tied at the 12 minute Media timeout. MSU appeared to regain control by out-scoring Purdue 11-5 over the next 4 minutes, but Purdue refused to fold and when Purdue scored 8 straight points (Kramer had a 3-point play and a 3-pointer sandwiched around a Marcus Green jump shot from the free throw line), Purdue led by 4 (68-64) with about 5 minutes to play. Once again, MSU battled back and eventually took a 73-72 lead with about two minutes remaining on a pair of Raymar Morgan free throws. Scott Martin tied it at 73 about a minute later when he hit 1 of 2 free throws and the stage was set for a cliffhanger. With the shot clock winding down, Travis Walton missed a 3-pointer from the corner, but Goran Suton grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled by Scott Martin. He hit the first free throw, but missed the second and Purdue was in business with about 1 minute to play in the game. On the ensuing possession, Keaton Grant took an ill-advised 3-pointer with plenty of time remaining on the shot clock that missed badly. MSU got the rebound and called time out to set up a play. I thought Purdue did a good job of not letting Neitzel beat them off the dribble and forcing someone else to beat them. Unfortunately, that someone else was Travis Walton and he buried a 15-footer from the baseline to give MSU a 3 point lead with less than 20 seconds left in the game. When Grant missed again from 3-point range (I thought he rushed this one also) the game was over.
When you look at the final statistics, there are a number of things that stand out:
(1) Purdue took 22 more shots than MSU and yet made just 1 more basket. The reason for this is that most of MSU’s shots were high percentage inside shots or open jump shots (only 5 of their 41 shots were 3-pointers) while Purdue was content to eTECH away from outside (22 of Purdue’s 63 shots were 3-pointers).
(2) Purdue had only 7 turnovers in the game compared to MSU’s 17.
(3) Purdue hit 15 of 17 free throws while MSU was 26 of 33. MSU does an excellent job of getting the ball inside and driving to the basket – something Purdue really needs to improve on.
(4) MSU out-rebounded Purdue 34-26 and I think this is where not having Robbie Hummel in the game really shows up. Robbie is Purdue’s leading rebounder and he seems to have a knack for coming up with the crucial rebounds.
(5) MSU had 19 assists on 25 made baskets, which is pretty good. Purdue wasn’t too bad either with 15 assists on 26 made baskets, but MSU did a better job of making the extra pass.
Tarrance Crump – I’m not sure Tarrance’s ankle is 100% yet, because for the 2nd straight game he basically contributed nothing to Purdue’s cause. His only entry besides 3 fouls on the score sheet was a lone turnover. Purdue desperately needs Tarrance to get healthy and start contributing again.
Nemanja Calasan – I thought Nemanja struggled early in the game, but once he got going he was outstanding. It was really gratifying to see him play so well, particularly since he struggled so much against Michigan last Saturday. For the night, he scored a career high 18 points (7 of 11 from the floor and 4 of 4 from the free throw line) and added 4 rebounds, 4 assists (easily a career high since his best before tonight was 1), a block, a steal and only 1 turnover in 29 minutes of play off the bench 9I think he did start the 2nd half).
Marcus Green – Marcus finally looked like the player I thought he was going to be before the year started. He shot the ball with confidence (he hit both of his 3-point attempts plus a nice jumper for 8 points) and had 5 rebounds in only 15 minutes of play (he fouled out). He also added a steal and a turnover. Marcus can really help Purdue this year if he can give this kind of effort every time out.
Keaton Grant – I thought Keaton tried to do too much tonight. He was only 4 of 15 shooting including 2 of 7 from beyond the 3-point line and I thought he was rushing his shots. Still, he ended up with 12 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block and only 1 turnover in 33 minutes and considering that he is playing on sore knees I thought it was a courageous performance.
Chris Kramer – I thought Chris showed tonight what kind of player he can be for Purdue. He didn’t do much of anything for the first 12 minutes of the game, but it seemed to me that at that point in the game (Purdue was down 16 and playing poorly) he decided to assert himself at the offensive end of the floor. He ended the night tying his career high with 19 points and he added 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 1 steal and 2 turnovers in 34 minutes. Like Keaton, Chris is playing with pain and I thought he also showed a lot of courage in tonight’s game.
JaJuan Johnson – JaJuan really struggled tonight with MSU’s size and strength on the inside. He got into early foul trouble and ended up scoring 2 points and adding a blocked shot in only 12 minutes of play. I thought all along that once the Big 10 started, JaJuan would struggle to score until he learns to use his quickness and agility more effectively. I think it’s going to take several games for JaJuan to learn his lessons, but I think he’ll be a much improved player by the end of the year.
Scott Martin – Maybe I’m imagining things, but it seems to me that Scott Martin doesn’t have the energy he had earlier in the year. I’m sure that turning his ankle early in the game didn’t help, but he doesn’t seem to have the “lift” on his jump shot that he had earlier. In two big 10 games, Scott is 1 of 14 from the floor including 0 of 4 from beyond the arc and Purdue needs him to regain his scoring touch if they are going to be able to compete effectively in the Big 10. Tonight, Scott had 4 points (all on free throws) and added 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and only 1 turnover in 26 minutes of play. Hopefully he’ll get it going again on Saturday.
E’Twaun Moore – I thought E’Twaun was very solid tonight. He played a team high 37 minutes and scored 12 points along with 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and no turnovers. He’s now 2nd on the team in assists (behind Hummel) with 35 and his assist/turnover ratio (35/27) continues to improve (In his last 7 games, E’Twaun has 20 assists and only 8 turnovers). E’Twaun seems to be one of those players who goes about his business without a lot of fanfare and yet when the game is over his contributions are almost always positive ones.
I think tonight’s game should help Purdue gain confidence. They went into the Breslin Center and gave a legitimate top 20 team all they could handle and they did it with their best player sidelined with the flu. If that doesn’t give their confidence a boost, nothing will. We’ll see Saturday against OSU if the players can build on tonight’s performance and use it as a springboard to better, more consistent play. Hopefully, Robbie Hummel will be back and all of the assorted sprains, bumps and bruises the other players are accumulating will be sufficiently healed for them to give OSU their best effort. I liked the way this team battled back tonight and I just hope it’s a sign that this team is starting to come together.