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BOX SCORE: Minnesota 53, (16) Purdue 65
I have to admit that before this game started, I was nervous that Minnesota would come into Mackey Arena and upset Purdue because they have a couple of strong inside players in Dan Coleman and Spencer Tollackson plus they are also a very good 3-point shooting team (they were leading the Big 10 in 3-point shooting percentage for Big 10 games going into the game). Then, to add further fuel to my anxiety, the starting line-ups were announced and Marcus Green was starting in place of Keaton Grant for Purdue. As it turned out, my worries were unfounded as Purdue’s stifling defense proved too much for Minnesota to handle.
The game itself was not without some anxious moments, but Purdue started off well with a Nemanja Calasan 3-pointer and Purdue eventually built a 10 point lead (19-9) with just over 8 minutes left to play in the half. During this first 12 minutes, Minnesota turned the ball over repeatedly and Purdue was hot from outside (Purdue made 4 of their first 7 3-pointers). At this point, Minnesota started taking better care of the basketball and also began to take charge of their offensive backboard. As a result, they quickly closed the gap and with just over a minute to play in the half they took a 24-21 lead on an offensive rebound and put-back by Spencer Tollackson. At this point, Matt Painter took a timeout and when Keaton Grant nailed a 3-pointer from the left corner after a couple of nice passes by Tarrance Crump and Scott Martin, the game was tied at 24. On Minnesota’s next possession, Tarrance Crump stole the ball and scored on a beautiful pull-up jumper in the lane. Lawrence McKenzie answered with a beautiful driving lay-up for Minnesota and Purdue had the ball out of bounds under their own basket with something like 4 seconds left in the half. The in-bounds pass was deflected out of bounds in front of the Purdue bench with 2 seconds remaining in the half and Keaton Grant then scored on an amazing 3-point shot from just inside the half-court line to give Purdue a 29-26 half-time lead.
E’Twaun Moore got Purdue off to a good start in the 2nd half when he nailed a 3-pointer after Purdue had missed their first two shots and then rebounded the misses. However, neither team would score again for almost 5 minutes until JaJuan Johnson gave Purdue an 8 point lead (34-26) on a nice turnaround jumper off a good feed from Marcus Green. Purdue then extended the lead to 13 (42-29) with a little more than 11 minutes to go and would lead by as many as 17 (63-46) before settling for a hard-fought and well deserved 65-53 win. Once Purdue opened the game up in the early part of the 2nd half, Minnesota never got closer than 11 points (57-46) despite an aggressive full court press that almost turned the basketball game into a Rugby scrum at times.
Tarrance Crump – As noted above, Tarrance had a couple of nice plays late in the first half that really helped spark Purdue when they were on the verge of letting Minnesota take control of the game at half-time. He also missed a couple of his patented “runners” in the lane and had a couple of careless turnovers and a couple more lazy passes that could have been turnovers except that Minnesota could not control the basketball before it went out-of-bounds. Still, this was basically Tarrance’s first real positive contribution to the team in the last 4 games and it was nice to see him finally have some success. He ended the night scoring 2 points and adding a steal and 2 turnovers in 14 minutes of play.
Nemanja Calasan – Nemanja got off to a good start by nailing a 3-pointer on Purdue’s 2nd possession, but after that he pretty much disappeared from the offense and he also struggled defensively. He ended the night with 3 points and 2 rebounds in only 13 minutes of play as Coach Painter chose to go “small” for a large portion of the game.
Marcus Green – Marcus earned the start in place of Keaton Grant, but he really didn’t take advantage of the opportunity as he missed all 3 of his shots from the field and added only a single rebound, an assist and a turnover in 15 minutes of play. I did think Marcus played some excellent defense, but Marcus is a better rebounder than he showed last night and it sure seems to me that he ought to at least score a basket or two in 15 minutes of play.
Keaton Grant – Apparently, Keaton was not in the starting line-up because he missed practice earlier in the week due to the flu. Whatever it was, it didn’t seem to affect his shooting eye as Keaton made all 3 of his 3-point attempts in the first half (including his half-court bomb at the buzzer). He ended the night with his 4th straight double figure scoring game (11 points) and he added 3 rebounds, 1 block and 1 turnover in 29 minutes of play. He also missed both of his free throws which dropped his season average to 84.4%.
Chris Kramer - Chris had the unenviable task of trying to stop Minnesota’s Lawrence McKenzie and for the most part I thought he did a very good job. McKenzie did get a couple of open 3-pointers, but both of them came after a scrum under the basket when Minnesota was able to rebound the basketball and pass it out to him before anyone from Purdue could recover. Chris also got into a bit of foul trouble for one of the few times all year and he ended the night with 6 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and an uncharacteristic 3 turnovers in 27 minutes of play. He also extended his missed 3-point shot streak to 13 games and he has now missed his last 13 three-point attempts since going 2 for 2 against MSU in East Lansing and 2 for 3 against UM in West Lafayette in the Big 10 season’s first 2 games.
Robbie Hummel – Robbie didn’t shoot the ball as well as he has been shooting it lately (he was 4 of 11 including 1 of 5 from beyond the arc), but he did a great job on the boards (8 rebounds including 5 offensive rebounds) and he had 2 assists, 3 steals and only 1 turnover in 31 minutes of play. I couldn’t prove this because I don’t have the data, but I’d wager that Dan Coleman did a lot of his damage on the boards (he had 13 rebounds in 34 minutes) when Robbie was not in the game.
JaJuan Johnson – I thought Purdue fans got a small glimpse of what this young man is capable of during a short burst in the 2nd half when JaJuan hit a nice turn-around jumper and then followed up a couple of minutes later with an aggressive move to the basket for a dunk off a feed from Scott Martin. JaJuan ended the night with 5 points, 2 rebounds, 1 block and 1 turnover in only 11 minutes of play and I thought he made a key contribution to Purdue’s win.
Scott Martin – Scott continued to struggle from the field (he was 0 for 5), but in all fairness I thought he got whacked on the arm a couple of times with no call from what appeared to be 3 of the most incompetent officials in the Big 10 (and that is pretty darn incompetent). Despite his shooting woes, I thought Scott’s play was an integral part of the win and he made several nice passes for easy baskets. He ended the night with 4 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 block, no turnovers and no fouls in 24 minutes of play and it was nice to see him stay out of foul trouble.
E’Twaun Moore – E’Twaun continued his excellent play of late and seemed to be un-affected by his poor outing at Indiana a week ago. He ended the night with a game high 22 points on 7 of 14 shooting including 3 of 5 from beyond the arc and 5 of 6 from the free throw line. He added 5 rebounds, 1 block, 2 steals and a single turnover in 36 minutes of excellent play. He was also the Purdue player mainly responsible for shutting down Minnesota’s Lawrence Westbrook (he was 0 of 5 from the field) and it appears to me that E’Twaun is becoming a much better defender than he was earlier in the year. In addition, he has upped his scoring average almost 5 points a game (14.5 ppg in Big 10 play versus 9.6 ppg in non-conference play) in Big 10 games. He’s probably not going to be on any All Big 10 teams, but the way he has been playing he ought to be.
With 3 games left in the Big 10 part of the season, Purdue finds itself locked in a 3-way tie for the Big 10 Championship with Wisconsin and Indiana. Wisconsin has a tough game tonight with MSU in the Kohl Center, but if they win that one, they should finish the year at 16-2. Indiana plays at MSU on Sunday and, once again, if they win that one, they will most likely finish the season at 16-2. This means that Purdue not only needs to beat Northwestern in Mackey this Saturday, they also need to win on the road at OSU next Tuesday and at UM a week from Sunday if they hope to get at least a share of the Big 10 Championship. Personally, I think they are very capable of pulling this off, but it’s going to take a complete team effort to get it done and I would feel a lot better about Purdue’s chances if guys like Calasan, Green and Crump would start playing better than they have been playing of late. No matter what happens, I think it’s important for Purdue fans to remember just how far this team has come this year. There may have been a few optimists left (Big Jon comes to mind) after Purdue lost to both Wofford and Iowa State in December, but there weren’t very many and I personally think that this team has had an amazingly successful year. I also think the sky is the limit for the Purdue basketball program over the next several years while I think the future actually is NOW; it’s also fun to think just how good this team might be a year from now.