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BOX SCORE: (19) Purdue 71, Northwestern 56
After huge wins over Wisconsin and MSU in the two games prior to the Northwestern game, I was concerned that Purdue might take Northwestern for granted and not play with the intensity they have displayed of late. Northwestern is a unique team to play against because the system they use is so different from anyone else's in the Big 10. They spread you out defensively and make excellent use of screens and motion away from the ball to try and free up cutters to the basket. Their guards are good ball-handlers and don't make many mistakes. Evidence of this can be seen by the fact that in yesterday's game, they had 17 assists on 20 made baskets and they only committed six turnovers. This is pretty impressive stuff when you look and see that going into the game, Purdue was forcing almost 18 turnovers per game (nobody else has had less than 12) and that Purdue's opponents normally have assists on just slightly over 50-percent of their made baskets. Fortunately, Northwestern just doesn't have enough good Big 10 caliber players to compete effectively for 40 minutes and when it got close midway through the second half, Purdue was able to clamp down defensively with a small line-up of Hummel, Moore, Kramer, Grant and either Martin or Green.
I thought both teams got off to good starts in the game and the score was 11-9 in Purdue’s favor at the first Media timeout. Then, Purdue went to the bench and Northwestern took advantage of some sloppy play and poor defense by Purdue to go on a 15-5 run and take a 24-16 lead with less than 10 minutes to go in the half. At this point, Chris Kramer re-entered the game and after assisting on an E’Twaun Moore jumper and a Robbie Hummel lay-up, he knocked down a jumper, drew the foul and converted the free throw and Purdue was only down by one (24-23). Northwestern answered with a 3-pointer by Nikola Baran, but Chris hit another jumper to keep Purdue close at 27-25. Northwestern stretched the lead to four (29-25) on a jumper by Kevin Coble, but E’Twaun Moore then scored eight straight points for Purdue and when Chris Kramer made two more free throws, Purdue led 35-29 with less than a minute to go in the half. Northwestern then closed out the scoring with a Kevin Coble lay-up and the half ended with Purdue on top by four (35-31).
Purdue opened the 2nd half on a 13-7 run to take a 10 point lead (48-38) with just over 14 minutes remaining and it looked like a rout was on. Northwestern refused to fold and scored the next 12 points to take a 50-48 lead with just under 10 minutes remaining in the game. During this stretch, Purdue had five turnovers and Northwestern was making them look bad on defense by getting free for easy lay-ups and jumpers. Then it was like someone flipped a switch and Purdue started to play like they are capable of playing. Scott Martin got things started with a lay-up off a nice feed from Keaton Grant and then Keaton followed with back-to-back 3-pointers and Purdue led by six (56-50) a little over 1 minute after they were down by two. Purdue would extend the run to 12 to take a 62-50 lead with just over five minutes to play in the game and would end up winning the game 71-56.
Tarrance Crump – Tarrance played poorly yesterday and appeared to re-injure his ankle. As a result, he only played seven minutes and while he did have a rebound, he also had two bad turnovers and was generally ineffective.
Nemanja Calasan – I thought Nemanja also played poorly yesterday. He seemed to have trouble defensively and he also had three turnovers in only 10 minutes of play. He did hit a big 3-pointer midway through the first half when Purdue was trailing, but I thought he could have eaten Northwestern alive inside and for some reason he could never get going.
Marcus Green – I thought Marcus’s play yesterday pretty much mirrored his Purdue career. He had some good moments (seven rebounds including a very nice offensive rebound and put-back that capped Purdue’s game clinching 12-0 run) and some bad ones (two costly turnovers and 0-for-2 on free throws) but the thing I like about Marcus is that he keeps busting his tail no matter how things are going for him on the court. He ended the day playing 20 minutes and scoring four points to go with his seven rebounds and two turnovers.
Keaton Grant – I thought Keaton had a little trouble containing Michael Thompson yesterday, but then I looked at the box-score and saw that Thompson only had 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting to go with three assists in 37 minutes and I decided Keaton did a pretty credible job on him. In addition, Keaton scored 15 points and added seven rebounds, four assists, a block and two turnovers in 34 minutes. It was easily Keaton’s most productive game since his back-to-back 22 point efforts against Iowa and Illinois and hopefully it's a sign of things to come.
Chris Kramer – Once again, Chris had a relatively modest offensive game (seven points on 2-of-5 shooting plus 3-of-3 from the free throw line) but it was his strong defensive effort on Northwestern's with Craig Moore that made a major difference in the game. Moore ended the day with only six points (on 2-of-7 shooting) in 34 minutes and Northwestern simply doesn't have anyone else to take up the scoring slack if Moore doesn't score. Chris also found time to pass out a career high eight assists and added three rebounds, two steals and three turnovers in34 minutes of play. When he went to the floor late in the game with what appeared at first to be a knee injury, my heart fell, but apparently it was only a muscle cramp because Chris returned to the game a minute or two later.
Robbie Hummel – Robbie got into a little bit of early foul trouble and as a result he only ended up playing 27 minutes. He ended up scoring nine points and added four rebounds, five assists, two blocks and zero turnovers in those minutes. After three straight double digit scoring efforts, Robbie came back to earth a little bit today, but he still played a very solid game and it’s pretty obvious to me that Purdue is a much better team when he is on the floor than they are when he isn’t.
JaJuan Johnson - JaJuan also struggled a little bit in this game, particularly at the defensive end of the floor and as a result, his minutes were also limited. He ended up playing 10 minutes and did not score (he didn’t attempt a shot), but he did have a rebound, a block and a steal with zero turnovers in those minutes.
Scott Martin – Scott saw his first action after sitting out the Wisconsin and MSU games with an ankle injury and I thought he played pretty well. He got into a little bit of foul trouble, but at least one of the charging fouls called on him was a blown call by an official that cost Purdue a basket and a free throw attempt. Scott ended the day playing 16 minutes and hit both of his shots plus his only free throw for five points. He added two rebounds, a steal and two turnovers.
E’Twaun Moore – E’Twaun was sensational against Northwestern and they had no answer for him. He scored in just about every way possible against them and he was particularly adept at finding holes in their zone defense and exploiting them. He ended the day playing 37 minutes and scoring a career high 28 points (10-of-15 from the field including 4-of-8 from 3-point range plus 4-of-5 free throws) plus six rebounds, one assist, one block and two turnovers. It was the eighth straight game that E'Twaun has scored in double figures and he is now Purdue’s leading scorer on the season with 11.9 points/game.
Next up for Purdue is a visit to Bloomington where the Indiana Hoosiers and their embattled coach await next Tuesday night. Three weeks ago, I would have said Purdue had virtually no chance to win this game, but that was before they went to Madison and beat Wisconsin and it was before the NCAA lowered the boom on Indiana’s coach. In addition, D.J. White appeared to injure his knee against MSU last night and if he can’t play, I think Purdue’s chances improve significantly. Still, this is a rivalry where you can normally expect the unexpected and I think the team that wins Tuesday night will probably be the team that gets a career type performance out of one of their role players. Both teams shoot the ball well from the perimeter and both teams have guys who are capable of having big scoring nights. I think Purdue is a better defensive team, but Eric Gordon is the kind of player that is essentially impossible to stop with any one player and all anyone can do is to try and make it difficult for him to get open looks. I think Purdue will put Chris Kramer on him and try to get him frustrated, but if Chris gets into foul trouble that doesn’t bode well for Purdue. I’m not sure how to assess the impact of what’s going on with KS, but it surely can’t be helping things and it will continue to be a huge distraction until his fate is known. I just hope there are no "incidents" at the game and that it’s a clean, hard fought game by both sides.
P.S. - I know a lot of folks are mad at the cable companies and/or the BTN, but the BTN has been a godesend for me down here in Florida and I was able to watch the Wisconsin, MSU and Northwestern games at the Sarasota Brewing Company and that's something I probably wouldn't have been able to do a year ago.