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BOX SCORE: (11) Purdue 82 - Detroit (Mercy) 50
Someone once wrote that “A journey of 1000 miles begins with but a single step” and tonight Purdue took their first step on what everyone hopes will be a successful journey in 2008 and 2009. Probably the biggest surprise of the night was when the starting line-up was introduced and E’Twaun Moore was not in it. Purdue’s starting five in both halves consisted of Hummel, Kramer, Johnson, Jackson and Grant as apparently E’Twaun was being sent a message by Coach Painter (either that, or Purdue is going to be scary good this year because I don't think very many teams have a player as good as E'Twaun as their 6th man). Frankly, I've never been one to get too concerned about who starts because to me it’s more important who finishes when the game is on the line. Having said that, I’d still be shocked if E'Twaun isn't back starting by next Monday.
As for the game itself, Purdue started fairly well and jumped off to a 5-0 lead behind a Hummel 3-pointer and then a Hummel basket after an offensive rebound. Detroit (Mercy) then took advantage of some poor outside shooting by Purdue (four straight misses, three of them 3-pointers) to tie the game at 5 with about 6 minutes gone in the half. However, from here on, Purdue pretty much dominated the rest of the half and after building a 20 point lead (40-20) late in the half, Purdue settled for a 40-22 lead at the break. Detroit (Mercy) would pull within 14 (45-31) in the first 4 minutes of the 2nd half, but then Purdue regained their shooting touch and eventually built a 34 point lead (80-46) with about 2 minutes to play and the final score was Purdue 82 – Detroit (Mercy) 50.
It’s always hard to gauge these early season games because it’s very difficult to tell just how good (or bad) the opposition might be. However, in tonight’s game Purdue recorded 21 assists on 28 made baskets and committed only three turnovers which is pretty impressive no matter who they might be playing. In fact, the three turnovers represent the lowest number of turnovers ever recorded by a Purdue team (the previous record of 4 came in the National Championship game against UCLA in 1969). In addition, Purdue forced 20 turnovers with a smothering defense and held Detroit (Mercy) to just 32.7% shooting. I’d say that overall it was one of the best opening game performances I’ve ever seen from a Purdue team.
Marcus Green – Marcus really gave Purdue a lift off the bench tonight. He ended up playing 25 minutes (primarily in relief of Robbie Hummel) and he scored 7 points and added 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks and 1 turnover in one of his best all-around games since he’s been at Purdue. One of his assists was a nifty feed to JaJuan Johnson in the first half on a play where I think in past years Marcus would have shot a jumper instead of passing. If Marcus can play like this on a consistent basis, he will be a very important part of this year’s team.
Nemanja Calasan – Nemanja only played 16 minutes tonight in relief of JaJuan Johnson, but his reduced role as compared to last year is more a reflection of how much JaJuan has improved than it is any drop off in Nemanja’s play. In fact, I’d say Nemanja looks more comfortable and relaxed than at any time last year and. Like Marcus, he really gave Purdue a lift tonight with 8 points, 2 rebounds, an assist and a turnover (a bogus moving pick call).
Keaton Grant – I thought Keaton was very solid tonight despite taking a couple of ill-advised shots. He played 25 minutes and scored 9 points and added 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals and 1 turnover (when his foot inadvertently hit the sideline as he went up to shoot). He appeared to have no issues at all with his knees.
Chris Kramer – Chris was his normal feisty self tonight with 4 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals in a team high 28 minutes of play. He also took 2 charges and generally made a pest of himself at the defensive end of the floor. He’s the one guy that Purdue has that I think gets in the heads of the opposing team and you could see Detroit’s players getting frustrated with his unrelenting pressure.
Robbie Hummel – I have to say I was very impressed with Robbie’s play tonight. He only played 19 minutes, but in those minutes he had 14 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal. He also made both of his 3-point attempts and I don’t think moving the 3-point line is going to have any impact at all on him. About the only negative for Robbie was that he got into early foul trouble (the main reason he only played 19 minutes), but in his defense at least 2 of those fouls were of the “cheap” variety.
JaJuan Johnson – I know that 1 game does not necessarily mean much, but it sure looks to me like JaJuan has made a huge improvement since last year. Tonight he played 24 minutes and scored 17 points and added 4 rebounds and a blocked shot. To put tonight’s performance in perspective, please note that JaJuan scored in double figures only 4 times last year with a high of 14 points against Texas Southern. In addition, the best thing about tonight’s scoring was that it came on a variety of plays including a nice jumper from the side and a highlight reel dunk off a feed from E’Twaun Moore in the 2nd half. He also had at least 2 lay-ups where he was able to finish and score after being fouled and I don’t think that last year he would have made either shot. Even though JaJuan doesn't appear to be significantly more muscular than he was last year, it seems obvious that he is indeed stronger.
E’Twaun Moore – As I mentioned earlier, E’Twaun came off the bench tonight and it didn’t seem to affect his game as he scored a team high 18 points and added 5 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal in a very productive 23 minutes. He was 3 of 4 from 3-point range and a couple of those were from NBA range. He also seemed to be able to penetrate at will and it looks to me like he’s another player who has made significant improvements in his game since last year.
Lewis Jackson – Lewis got his first start as a Purdue Boilermaker tonight, but if tonight’s play is any indication, it won’t be his last. It’s too early yet to be passing out superlatives, but based on what I’ve seen in the two games I’ve watched, it’s hard for me to think of any Purdue player I’ve ever seen who had better court sense and vision than Lewis appears to have. He seems to be one of those rare players who is able to see things on the floor before they happen. Tonight, he had 5 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal in 24 minutes of play and he should have had at least a couple more assists, but the referees missed a couple of obvious goal-tending calls.
Ryne Smith – Ryne played about 4 or 5 minutes in each half and missed his only shot (a 3-pointer) and added an assist late in the game on a nice pass to Nemanja. He looked like a normal freshman playing his first college game (I think he was a little nervous) and it’s hard to tell just how much he might contribute this year. It’s obvious that he can shoot, but if he’s going to play very much this year he will also have to demonstrate that he can guard somebody. It’s all part of the learning process every player goes through and I think it’s going to take some time for him to start having an impact.
I also noticed tonight that Chris Reid was nowhere to be seen. He wasn’t on the bench in uniform and I didn’t see him in street clothes either. Hopefully there is nothing wrong with Chris.