© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
BOX SCORE: Purdue 67, Iowa 62
I would love to say that I was confident of a Purdue victory tonight, but that would be a lie. Going into tonight’s game, Purdue had only won two of their last 26 Big 10 road games and I kept thinking that this team was still too inexperienced to win on the road, especially against a team that was good enough to beat MSU last Saturday night. Fortunately, the Purdue players don’t worry about things like youth and inexperience; they just go out, play hard and try to make plays. As a result, they made key plays down the stretch and were able to come away with a hard fought win by the score of 67-62.
As you might expect, Purdue got off to a very slow start in tonight’s game and Iowa jumped out to a 9-4 lead with just under 14 minutes remaining in the half. Sparked by two 3-pointers from Nemanja Calasan, Purdue then responded with a 13-4 run of their own to take a 17-13 lead midway through the half. After a TV timeout, Tony Freeman hit a 3-pointer for Iowa and the two teams basically spent the rest of the half trading baskets and the half ended with Purdue clinging to a 1 point lead (32-31). After Seth Gorney opened the 2nd half for Iowa with a short jump shot, Purdue ran off 8 straight points (two 3-pointers by E’Twaun Moore and a lay-up from Chris Kramer off a nifty feed from JaJuan Johnson) to take a 40-33 lead just 3 minutes into the half. Iowa then responded with a 12-0 run over the next 6 minutes to take a 45-40 lead. During this stretch, Purdue had trouble containing the dribble and Iowa made them pay by continually getting to the hoop for easy baskets. Keaton Grant finally stopped the bleeding with two free throws and that sparked a 12-0 run by Purdue over the next 3 minutes and resulted in a 52-45 Purdue lead with just over 8 minutes to go in the game. During this stretch, Keaton Grant hit back-to-back 3-pointers to go with his free throws, Robbie Hummel hit both ends of a 2 shot technical foul called on Lickliter and E’Twaun Moore finished the spurt with a beautiful drive and layup. The technical came after Coach Lickliter lost it when Iowa was called for over-and-back on a play that looked like the ball went off a Purdue player’s foot. I thought at the time the officials might realize they had made a bad call and try to even things up with some increased scrutiny of Purdue. Sure enough, Purdue was whistled for fouls on the next 3 Iowa possessions and Iowa used this opportunity to outscore Purdue 6-0 over the next 2 ½ minutes and the score was 52-51 with just over 6 minutes remaining. On Purdue’s next possession, Chris Kramer made a layup off a nice feed from E’Twaun Moore and when E’Twaun followed with a 3-pointer as the shot clock was winding down on Purdue’s next possession, Purdue led once again by 6 (57-51) with just over 5 minutes remaining. Iowa managed to cut the lead to 3 (59-56) with less than 1 ½ minutes to go in the game, but Scott Martin grabbed an offensive rebound off a Robbie Hummel miss and his put-back gave Purdue a 5 point lead (61-56) with less than a minute to play. From here, Purdue closed out the game with 6 straight free throws (2 by Robbie Hummel and 4 by Keaton Grant) and came away with a well-earned 67-62 victory.
There were several things about tonight’s game that were positive for Purdue. Among them were:
(1) Purdue shot the ball extremely well from the perimeter once again (11 of 24) and 5 different players had at least one made 3-pointer. Purdue is now shooting 42.4% from 3-point range in Big 10 play after shooting just 26.4% from 3-point range in the non-Big 10 portion of their schedule.
(2) Purdue was perfect from the free throw line (12 of 12) including both ends of two 1-1’s (one by Robbie Hummel and 1 by Keaton Grant) in the last minute. Purdue is now shooting 77.1% from the free throw line in Big 10 play after shooting 69.5% in the non-Bi 10 portion of their schedule.
(3) Purdue had 15 assists on 22 made baskets and that’s the 4th straight game where Purdue has had 15 assists. Once again, Purdue has shown noticeable improvement in this key category as they now have 60 assists and only 51 turnovers in Big 10 play. By comparison, in the non-Big 10 portion of their schedule, Purdue had 154 assists and 182 turnovers.
(4) Despite going with a “small” line-up for about ¼ of the game, Purdue held their own on the boards and only lost the rebounding battle by one (32-31).
Tarrance Crump – I’m beginning to think something must have happened in Las Vegas that caused Tarrance to lose his confidence. Since Big 10 play began, he’s been held scoreless in all 4 games and he really hasn’t had much of an impact on any of the games. Tonight, he was scoreless in 13 minutes and his only positive contribution was a single rebound. On top of that, he seemed to struggle keeping his man in front of him on defense and I think it’s safe to say his play has been a major disappointment so far this year. It’s particularly troubling when you see how effective some of the smaller guards are on teams like Iowa, MSU and OSU. Personally, I think Tarrance is a better player than he’s showing and I just wonder what it’s going to take to get him started again. It’s not like he can’t play, he had 72 points in Purdue’s first 10 games, but since Purdue left for Las Vegas, he has only scored 13 points in the next 7 games (one of which he was suspended)and 12 of those were in the Florida International game.
Nemanja Calasan – I thought Nemanja gave Purdue a real lift off the bench tonight, particularly in the first half. As I noted earlier, Purdue got off to a slow start in tonight’s game and Nemanja’s two 3-pointers in about a 3 minute span seemed to give Purdue a psychological lift. He ended the game scoring those 6 points and he added 4 rebounds and a blocked shot in only 19 minutes of play. I thought he also did a better job of defending the high pick and roll than he’s been doing.
Marcus Green – What a difference a couple of days makes. After torching OSU for 22 points on Saturday, Marcus reverted to his early season form tonight, missing all 4 of his shots (3 of them from 3-point range) and going scoreless in 13 minutes of play. However, Marcus did have 3 rebounds and 2 assists in those 13 minutes and I thought he played a pretty good floor game. I just wish he’d use a little better judgment sometimes on his shot selection. I think he has a tendency to shoot the ball way too early in a possession at times although he’s not the only player who is guilty of this.
Keaton Grant – Keaton has really been playing well for Purdue since the Big 10 season started. He’s perfect form the FT line in Conference play (16/16) and he’s shooting above 50% from beyond the 3-point line (13/24). Tonight he scored a career high 22 points and added 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and only 2 turnovers in 29 minutes of play. I thought he struggled a little bit defensively trying to contain Tony Freeman, but Freeman was only 5 of 18 from the field and I think a big part of that was the way Keaton hounded him once he crossed the 10 second line.
Chris Kramer – Chris had a fairly quiet game tonight with only 6 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists, 1 steal and 2 turnovers in 34 minutes of play. Still, his layup with about 6 minutes remaining in the game was a key basket because it stopped a 6-0 Iowa run and created some breathing room for Purdue when they needed it. I think he spent the majority of the game defending Iowa’2nd leading scorer (Justin Johnson) and basically shut him down until the last 20 seconds of the game when Johnson scored a meaningless 5 points.
Robbie Hummel – Robbie came off the bench tonight to score 13 points in 29 minutes of play. He also added 2 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 block, 1 steal and 2 turnovers. Robbie was 6 for 6 tonight from the free throw line including both ends of a crucial 1-1 attempt with just less than 30 seconds to go in the game when Purdue was clinging to a slim 4 point lead. Robbie has now made 24 of his last 25 free throw attempts (he’s a perfect 11/11 in Big 10 play) and he’s shooting a remarkable 86.7% from the free throw line for the year.
JaJuan Johnson – I thought JaJuan had a tough time tonight. He got caught out of position on defense early in the game and he was generally ineffective for much of the time he was on the floor. He did have one stretch to start the second half where he had a rebound, 2 assists and a steal in about a 3 minute period and I think that stretch was important because it helped Purdue get off to a good start in the 2nd half. JaJuan finished the night with no points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 blocked shot in only 11 minutes of play.
Scott Martin – I thought Scott showed signs tonight of starting to come out of whatever funk he’s been in. He seemed to have more energy and his offensive rebound and put-back with less than a minute to go in the game was the biggest play of the night for Purdue. Scott ended up with 7 points, 4 rebounds (3 of them offensive rebounds), 1 assist, 1 steal and 3 turnovers in 27 minutes of play.
E’Twaun Moore – E’Twaun continued his solid play of late with 13 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 3 turnovers in 25 minutes of play. All 3 of his 3-pointers came in the 2nd half and his last one late in the half was a particularly big shot as it came with only 1 second left on the shot clock and Purdue clinging to a 3-point lead.
As I write this, I can hear bits of the Illinois-Michigan game in the background and it appears that Illinois played a pretty good game tonight against Michigan as they finally won a Big 10 game. I think Purdue needs to be aware that Illinois is a very dangerous team despite their less than impressive 1-4 Big 10 mark. Beating Iowa tonight will mean nothing unless Purdue can follow-up with a win on Saturday and I just hope the players have matured to the point where they won’t take Illinois lightly.