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BOX SCORE: Northwestern 43, (16) Purdue 68
For the first time in what seems like a long time, I was fairly confident before the game that Purdue would win today’s game with Northwestern. When the two teams met in Evanston, Northwestern hung around until fairly late in the game, but Purdue closed out the game pretty easily and I thought that experience would serve them well today. Imagine my surprise when Northwestern took a two point lead late in the first half and only trailed by 1 at halftime. In the first half, Purdue shot the ball poorly (7 of 23 for 30.4%) and got out-rebounded by the Big 10’s worst rebounding team 17-13 and the only reason they led was because Chris Kramer just refused to let Northwestern score late in the first half. There was one sequence where he had steals on consecutive possessions and then followed that up by taking a charge for another turnover. He then ended the half by coming out of nowhere to block a last second 3-point attempt by Nikola Baran. Without his timely defensive effort, Purdue could easily have found themselves down by 8 or 10 points at halftime. Purdue actually did a very good job in the first half of stopping Northwestern’s 3 primary scorers (Coble, Moore and Thompson only had 7 points between them at the half), but little known Ivan Peljusic absolutely killed Purdue with 13 points as he got free numerous times for easy lay-ups.
I am not sure what was said at halftime, but I have a feeling that Coach Painter was rather animated and had more than a few things to say to his team. Whatever he said, it worked as Purdue came out and played perhaps their best half of basketball in some time. In the second half, Purdue shot 13 of 21 (61.9%) from the field including 5 of 9 (55.6%) from beyond the arc and they out-rebounded Northwestern 23-9 and out-scored them 44-20. They accomplished this despite the fact that Robbie Hummel, E’Twaun Moore and Keaton Grant only played a combined 23 minutes. Robbie was in foul trouble, E’Twaun also had foul trouble and Keaton was nursing a sore leg. Northwestern actually led 29-28 after about 3 minutes of the 2nd half, but Purdue went on a 33-6 run over the next 13 minutes and Coach Painter emptied the bench with about 3 minutes to go and Purdue won going away by a score of 68-43.
Tarrance Crump – I was reminded today that as much as we like to talk basketball on the Forum and nit-pick players performances, there are more important things in life than a basketball game. What reminded me of that was seeing Tarrance Crump honored before the game as the lone senior on this team. As part of the ceremony they announced that Tarrance was going to be an Academic All Big 10 player this year and that he was on track to receive his degree in May. Personally, I think that is a fantastic achievement for a kid who could easily have given up two years ago after being suspended for a year and forced to earn his way back onto the team. I’m very glad Tarrance stuck it out and even though his career at Purdue probably wasn’t as successful as he would have liked it to be, I think the lessons he learned will serve him very well in the real world after graduation. In today’s game, I think Tarrance was trying very hard to end his home career on a positive note and while he had some bright spots, he also had few careless turnovers and he missed 4 of 5 free throws (going into the game he was 21 of 26 on the year). He ended the day with 3 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 turnovers in a Big 10 season high 25 minutes of play.
Nemanja Calasan – I thought Nemanja played horribly in the first half at both ends of the floor and Peljusic basically abused him at will. However, it was a different Nemanja Calasan in the 2nd half as he scored 9 points and held Peljusic without a point as he scrapped and battled inside with much more intensity than he had in the first half. He ended the day with 11 points (the first time in the last 10 games that he has hit double figures) and added 4 rebounds and 1 turnover in 20 minutes of play. When Nemanja plays like he did in the 2nd half, Purdue is pretty darn hard to beat.
Marcus Green – Marcus didn’t play a lot today (11 minutes), but he was fairly productive in those minutes with 5 points, 2 rebounds and a block. He also played some pretty strong defense on Kevin Coble in relief of Robbie Hummel. Marcus did miss both of his free throw attempts and is now shooting a woeful 46% from the free throw line on the season. If I were Marcus, I’d plan on shooting 200 free throws a day this summer.
Keaton Grant – Keaton seemed to aggravate a muscle strain (or perhaps he started cramping) during the first half, but whatever it was it looked pretty painful when he limped off the floor. As a result, Keaton only played 6 minutes in the 2nd half and finished the day with 6 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block and 1 turnover in 23 minutes of play. I will say that Keaton really impresses me with his toughness and his ability to play with pain. For example, he was noticeably limping when he returned to the game in the first half, but it didn’t prevent him from nailing a huge 3-pointer shortly after Northwestern had taken a 4 point lead fairly late in the half and he also fought hard chasing his man defensively.
Chris Kramer – I was thinking today as I watched the game that it’s just a shame Chris isn’t a better shooter. On the year he’s averaging 6.8 ppg on a respectable 44.5% from the field, but he’s only 25% from 3-point range and he’s only shooting 59.2% from the free throw line. Still, it’s such a treat to watch this young man play basketball. Today he only scored 3 points, but he had 1 rebound, 3 assists, 1 block, 6 steals and a single turnover in 32 minutes of play. More importantly, he hounded Craig Moore all over the floor and while Moore did hit a couple of 3-pointers, he only had 8 points. This is the same Crag Moore who torched Michigan last Tuesday with 8 three pointers. Chris’s 6 steals tied a career high and he now has 64 steals on the season which is as many as he had all of last year.
Robbie Hummel – As I mentioned earlier, Robbie got into foul trouble today and only played 17 minutes. However, in those 17 minutes he scored a game high 15 points on 3 of 5 shooting from the field (including 3 of 3 from beyond the arc) and 6 of 6 from the free throw line. He also added 3 rebounds and some excellent defense on Kevin Coble. One of the things I really like about the way Robbie is playing is that it appears to me that Robbie is much more aggressive in looking for shots than he was earlier in the year. Today, he got fouled twice on 3-point attempts and both times he made all 3 of the resulting free throws. He’s now shooting 50.7% from the field (including 46.7% from beyond the arc) and 86.3% from the free throw line. If Robbie keeps up this pace, he will end the year with the highest 3-point shooting percentage and free throw shooting percentage of any freshman in Purdue history.
JaJuan Johnson – I thought JaJuan struggled today, particularly in the first half defensively. He ended up missing both shots from the field and also missed his only free throw attempt. He did pull down a couple of rebounds in 11 minutes of play, but this was not one of JaJuan’s better games.
Scott Martin – Like Nemanja Calasan, Scott really struggled in the first half (In 11 minutes he didn’t score and didn’t have a rebound). However, like Nemanja, Scott played like a man possessed in the 2nd half and it was the best I’ve seen Scott Martin play in well over a month and maybe even since Big 10 play started. Scott ended the day with 10 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 blocks, 1 steal and 2 turnovers in 22 minutes of play and it was absolutely great to see him playing like he is capable of playing. There was one play in the 2nd half when JaJuan Johnson missed a free throw and Scott slipped around the Northwestern man trying to box him out, grabbed the rebound from 2 Northwestern players and put it back in. Hopefully we will see more of this kind of play from Scott in the next few games because when he plays like he did in the 2nd half, he adds a dimension to Purdue’s offense that spells trouble for Purdue’s opponents.
E’Twaun Moore – E’Twaun had a wonderful game today with 9 points (3/8 from the field including 3/5 from beyond the arc), 4 rebounds, 6 assists and only 1 turnover in 26 minutes of play. E’Twaun now has 351 points on the year and is well on his way to becoming the 2nd leading freshman scorer in Purdue history behind Russell Cross. He’s also improved his assist/turnover ratio from 1 to 1 in pre-conference play to 2.2 to 1 in conference play. He’s having a terrific year by any standard and the fact that he’s doing it as a freshman makes it all the more remarkable.
Despite the lopsided final score today, there were a couple of things that need to be addressed if Purdue is to be successful at OSU on Tuesday and Michigan on Sunday. First among them is free throw shooting. Purdue was only 17 of 28 today (60.7%) from the free throw line and if you take out Hummel (6 of 6) and Martin (5 of 6) the rest of the team was only 6 of 16 and that’s just not good enough to win on the road. Interestingly enough, after today’s game, Purdue is actually shooting free throws better on the road than they are at home in Big 10 play (70.4% at home versus 76.8% on the road) and hopefully that will continue this week. Another point of concern is Purdue’s slow first half starts. Purdue was very fortunate today not to be down by 6 or 8 points at the half and they had the same problem last Wednesday when they played Minnesota. They got away with it both times because they were at home, but I don’t think they want to get behind either OSU or UM by very many points at halftime or they are likely to be in big trouble. The final area of concern is fouls as both Robbie Hummel and E’Twaun Moore got into foul trouble today and Purdue absolutely needs these two guys on the floor to be successful.
Finally, I’ll close with a short history lesson. Purdue has won or shared the Big 10 Title 6 times since 1984. Those 6 Championships were achieved with records of:
Only one of those teams (the 1988 team) went 9-0 at home in Big 10 play. That means that this year’s team is on the verge of doing something pretty dog-gone special if they can somehow manage to win their next two games. It also shows what a remarkable season they have already had and what makes it even more remarkable is that they are doing it with a line-up that consists primarily of freshmen and sophomores. Personally, I think Purdue’s got a pretty good shot at winning the next two games, and it’s amazing to me that with two games left in the regular season, Purdue has put themselves in this position. Let’s hope they take advantage of the opportunity.