© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
BOX SCORE: Illinois 68, Purdue 74
To borrow a phrase from Charles Dickens, today’s game between Purdue and Illinois could be described as "the best of times and the worst of times" for the Purdue Boilermakers with the 1st half representing the "worst of times" and the 2nd half representing the "best of times". I thought Purdue played about as bad as they can play in the first half and then about as well as they can play in the second and they ended up coming back from a 9 point deficit early in the 2nd half to win going away 74-67. If you examine the box score, you don’t have to look too far to see why Purdue won today’s game. Any time a team outscores their opponents 22-10 from the free throw line and has only 10 turnovers to their opponents 21, they will have an excellent chance to win the game and that is what happened today for Purdue. I think it’s also significant to note that Purdue won today despite getting pounded on the boards 38-25 (including a 15-8 pasting on the offensive glass) and getting outshot from the field 49.0% to 41.5%. Quite honestly, Illinois might be the worst free throw shooting team I’ve ever seen and it must drive their coaching staff and fans crazy to watch them throw away chances to win games primarily because they can’t make a decent percentage of their free throws.
As for the game itself, Purdue came out colder than the weather outside (it was 9 degrees outside at tip-off) and didn’t score for over 5 minutes. Fortunately, Illinois wasn’t exactly red hot either and Illinois led only 6-0 at the first TV timeout. Tarrance Crump entered the game during the time-out and immediately made his presence felt with a basket off a nice drive. Illinois responded with a lay-up after an offensive rebound and then Purdue closed with-in two on a lay-up from Keaton Grant and a beautiful 14 foot jump shot from JaJuan Johnson. Illinois then made consecutive 3-pointers to take a 14-6 lead and Matt Painter called his first time-out of the day to remind his team that even though Illinois is a poor 3-point shooting team, you still have to at least guard them on the perimeter. Over the next 3 minutes, Purdue scored on 3 consecutive possessions (3-pointers from Scott Martin and Keaton Grant and a jumper from Nemanja Calasan), but was unable to cut into the lead because Illinois had a 3-pointer of their own plus two dunks and a lay-up from Shaun Pruitt and Matt Painter was forced to cal yet another time-out to remind his team that it might be a good idea to figure out where Shaun Pruitt was on every possession. Illinois led at this point 23-14 and while Purdue would cut the lead to 5 with about 3 minutes to go in the half, Illinois was able to take an 8 point lead (35-27) on a Frazier 3-pointer just seconds before the half ended. When the half ended, I thought Illinois had dominated almost every aspect of the game and it looked to me like Purdue was in serious trouble.
Purdue came out with renewed energy to start the 2nd half, but they just couldn’t seem to get a shot to fall and by the time the first TV time-out arrived, Illinois had expanded their half-time lead from 8 to 9 (40-31). Then, Robbie Hummel tipped in a missed shot by Keaton Grant, Keaton Grant hit two free throws after Brian Randle’s 3rd foul, Robbie Hummel hit a 3-pointer and then Scott Martin made two free throws after Brian Randle’s 4th foul and Purdue was back in the game with more than 13 minutes to play in the game. Purdue finally took their first lead of the game 43-42 on a Nemanja Calasan layup and while Illinois would come back to tie the game at 43 on a free throw by McCamey, Purdue would go on an 8-0 run to take a 51-43 lead with just under 10 minutes remaining. During this stretch, Robbie Hummel scored on a nice layup and E’Twaun Moore had a free throw, a nice jumper in the lane and a 3-pointer. Illinois would battle back and eventually close the gap to 3 (60-57) with just over 4 minutes to play. Illinois also had a chance to close to with-in one, but Tisdale missed both ends of a 2-shot free throw opportunity and after Purdue had extended the lead to 6 (63-57) on a Nemanja Calasan free throw and 2 more free throws from Keaton Grant, Purdue nailed the coffin shut when Keaton Grant hit a 3-pointer with less than 2 minutes to go in the game to extend the lead to 9 (66-57). Keaton’s shot was one of those “Oh no, Keaton, what are you….. Great shot Keaton” type of shots because it came very early in the shot clock and Purdue should not have been shooting 3-pointers at that point in the game. I think it was fortunate for Keaton that the shot went in or else he might have been responsible for sending Coach Painter to the hospital (Grin).
Tarrance Crump – Tarrance finally dented the scoreboard for the first time in the big 10 this year when he made a nice move to the basket and scored shortly after entering the game for the first time. When that happened I thought that perhaps this might get Tarrance going and that he might have a big game today. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be, but Tarrance did contribute 5 points, 1 assist, 2 steals and 1 turnover in only 13 minutes of play and it was nice to see Tarrance look more like himself.
Nemanja Calasan – I don’t know about anyone else, but I find it fascinating that exactly one week ago, Nemanja scored only 2 points and played only 10 minutes in Purdue’s win over OSU. Today he played 30 minutes and scored 17 points along with 3 rebounds (all of them offensive rebounds), 1 assist, 1 block and only 1 turnover in easily his best performance in Mackey Arena since Big 10 play started. The fact that he accomplished this while going against a pretty good player in Shaun Pruitt, only makes it more fascinating.
Marcus Green – Equally as fascinating was the play of Marcus Green. Today he was scoreless in 11 minutes and didn’t even attempt a shot (the first time all year he has not attempted a shot). That means Marcus has played 24 minutes since the OSU game and has not scored a point after torching OSU for 22 points in 23 minutes of play. If that’s not incredible, I don’t know what is. I will say that Marcus was very solid on the defensive end of the floor today and I think he would have played more minutes if Purdue hadn’t needed to come from behind.
Keaton Grant – Keaton had another wonderful game today and it’s really been fun to watch him mature and grow into the player he’s become. To give you some idea of just how well Keaton has been playing, consider that since the start of Big 10 play, Keaton has increased his scoring output by almost 8 points per game (he was averaging 9.6 ppg prior to Big 10 play and he’s averaging 17.4 ppg in big 10 play) and he’s 17 of 30 from beyond the arc in Big 10 play and 24 of 24 from the free throw line in Big 10 play. Today he tied his career high for the 2nd straight game with 22 points and he added 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block and only 1 turnover in 35 minutes of play. He should be a shoo-in for Big 10 player of the week.
Chris Kramer – Chris had another one of those games today when he didn’t score much (only 1 point) but he affected the game in so many other ways that it’s hard to imagine where Purdue might be without him. Today he played 28 minutes (he got into some early foul trouble) and had 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals and a single turnover. There was a play midway through the 2nd half where Chris stole the ball and as he was going out of bounds he threw the ball back in over his head to Keaton Grant. Keaton missed the layup, E’Twaun Moore missed the follow and then Scott Martin missed a short jumper after he grabbed the offensive rebound, but the play itself typified the kind of hustle and effort Purdue is getting from everyone on the team. I think that effort starts with Chris Kramer and it’s starting to rub off on all of his teammates.
Robbie Hummel – Robbie had a very quiet first half today, but he really got going in the second half and I thought he played an excellent game. He ended the day with 13 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, 4 steals and 3 turnovers in 30 minutes of play. At this point in the season, it would be hard to choose between Robbie and Keaton if I had to vote for Purdue’s most valuable player, but Robbie does so many things for Purdue it would be very hard not to pick him. He’s Purdue’s 2nd leading scorer, leading rebounder and has the best Assist/TO ratio on the team. He also leads the team in shooting percentage and he’s second on the team in steals, blocked shots and free throw percentage. He’s having a heck of a year for a freshman.
JaJuan Johnson – JaJuan came off the bench today for Purdue and while he only played 5 minutes (none in the 2nd half), he did contribute 2 points (a nice 14 foot jumper) and 1 rebound in those minutes. I think Matt Painter made a conscious decision to let Nemanja match-up with Shaun Pruitt and when Nemanja started playing so well, Matt decided to go with the hot hand instead of rotating JaJuan into the game during the 2nd half. Illinois is just one of those teams that don’t have a good match-up for JaJuan.
Scott Martin – I thought Scott played pretty well today. He seemed to have more energy than he’s had recently and I also thought he showed better judgment in his shot selection (he only took 2 shots). He ended the day with 5 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal and 2 turnovers in 18 minutes of play and I liked the way he hustled and worked on the defensive end.
E’Twaun Moore – I thought E’Twaun was very good today. He missed a couple of easy shots, but the good thing about E’Twaun is that even if he misses a shot, he doesn’t seem to let it affect how he plays. A lot of players have a tendency to get down on themselves when the shots aren’t falling, but E’Twaun seems to have a very even disposition and I think it helps him stay focused. He ended the day with 9 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block and only 1 turnover in 30 minutes of play. I think E’Twaun is also doing a very good job at the defensive end of the floor.
In closing, I want to take a second to commend the members of the "Paint Crew" for the excellent job they are doing of creating enthusiasm. During Purdue’s 2nd half run that turned the game around, Mackey Arena was as loud as I have heard it in several years and the lion’s share of the credit for that should go to the students. It’s great to see the enthusiasm for Purdue Basketball coming back and even though here were a few hundred Illinois fans in attendance today, they were no match for the Purdue fans.
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