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BOX SCORE: (9) Purdue 60 - (4) Duke 76
I’ve been doing these write-ups now for a long time and I was trying to remember if there was ever another time when I was as much at a loss for words as I am sitting here trying to write this one. I’d like to be able to say that I had some deep insight into what happened so that I could fully explain why it was that Purdue basically got their heads handed to them tonight, but I don’t. All I know is that right now this Purdue team is not playing very good basketball and the most disheartening thing to me is that they seem to have lost that sense of teamwork and sharing the basketball that they displayed early in the season. Clearly, teams like Duke and Oklahoma are providing stiffer challenges than anyone else Purdue has played, but it seems to me that several of Purdue’s players have reverted to their old high school habits of trying to go one-on-one to get shots instead of using movement, spacing and screening to create open shots for themselves and their teammates like they were earlier in the year. It’s almost as if they panic when the other team plays them tough defensively for more than 20 seconds.
In tonight’s game, Purdue got off to a horrible start with 4 turnovers and 2 blown lay-ups in the first 4 plus minutes of the half and as a result they trailed 7-0 before Chris Kramer hit a nice jumper in traffic and got fouled. Neither team was able to generate much offense for the next several minutes and Purdue eventually pulled to within 3 points (10-13) with about 11 minutes left in the half. Then Duke went on an 18-8 run to lead by 13 (18-31) with about 5 minutes to go in the half. Behind some excellent play from Nemanja Calasan, Purdue was able to close the gap to 8 (28-36) at halftime and I actually thought Purdue was in decent shape considering they already had 9 turnovers in the game and E’Twaun had yet to score. Sadly, Duke scored the first 5 points of the 2nd half to grab a 13 points lead and Purdue never really threatened again. Duke led by as many as 20 points (38-58) before Purdue managed to close within 10 points (55-65) with about 3 minutes to play. However, Chris Kramer missed an open 3-pointer after a steal and Duke basically closed out the game at the free throw line to win handily 76-60.
When you look at the box score, the first thing that stands out is that Purdue was out-rebounded tonight by 20 rebounds (49-29) and this was against a team that is not all that imposing physically. In fact, Duke’s one legitimate big guy (Brian Zoubeck) only played 11 minutes (but he did manage 8 rebounds while he was in there). You have to go back to last year’s Wisconsin game in Madison to find a game where Purdue was out-rebounded by more than 20 (Wisconsin out-rebounded Purdue in that game 43-21 and still lost 72-67 which is pretty amazing). The second thing that stands out is that Duke shot 8 for 22 from beyond the arc while Purdue was a miserable 2 of 13. I think you have to give Duke credit for some excellent defense on Purdue’s 3 main outside threats (Moore, Hummel and Grant were 1 for 10) and I can think of only 1 or 2 instances when any of those 3 players had an open shot from the perimeter.
Nemanja Calasan – I thought Nemanja did a great job in the first half when he scored all 9 of his points and seemed to bring a toughness and energy to the floor that was good to see. He didn’t play as much in the 2nd half and I was actually a little surprised that he didn’t start the 2nd half after the way he had played in the first half. He ended the night with 9 points, 3 rebounds and a steal in 20 minutes of play and he was one of the few Purdue players who I thought played anywhere close to what they are capable of playing.
Marcus Green – Marcus didn’t play much tonight, primarily because Robbie Hummel was not in foul trouble. He did make his only 2 free throws (which is great considering that Marcus is 59% from the free throw line for his career) to finish with 2 points, 2 rebounds and 1 block in 9 minutes.
Keaton Grant – Keaton is really struggling right now. I’m not sure if his knees are bothering him or what the problem is, but in Purdue’s last 2 games, he’s made only 4 of 17 shots including just 2 of 10 from beyond the arc. One of the reasons he’s missing is because he appears to be forcing a lot of his shots (he took one 3-pointer tonight from 3 or 4 steps behind the line that almost missed everything). He finished the night with 6 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 turnover in what appeared to be 29 minutes of uninspired play.
Chris Kramer – Chris is another player that appears to be struggling right now. He’s still contributing in a lot of different ways, but I think he’s a little frustrated because his shots aren’t falling (he’s 3 of 12 in the last 2 games and most of his shots are open shots). Tonight he had 4 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 1 block and 2 turnovers in 35 minutes of play. It appears to me that Chris is getting more opportunities to score as opponents focus their defensive efforts on stopping other players and hopefully he’ll take advantage of it soon.
Robbie Hummel – If you look at the box score, you’d think Robbie had a pretty good game tonight. He ended with 15 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 turnover in 37 minutes of play, but 10 of those points came in the last 5 minutes of the game and the truth is that he got torched by Duke’s Kyle Singler (Singler finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds and basically all of his points came when the game was still in doubt).
JaJuan Johnson – I thought one of the few bright spots for Purdue tonight was the play of JaJuan Johnson. I’d like to see him rebound better, but offensively he was a factor tonight with 12 points and he also was a force at the defensive end with 3 blocks. He ended the night playing 19 minutes and adding an assist, 3 rebounds and a turnover. I’m not sure JaJuan is ever going to be a great rebounder, but I keep hoping that sooner or later a light is going to go off in his head and he’ll become at least a decent rebounder.
E’Twaun Moore – I think tonight’s game might be the worst game I’ve ever seen E’Twaun play. He was scoreless in the first half and while he ended with 10 points, all of them came in the last 10 minutes after Duke had opened a 20 point lead and the game was basically over. He finished the night with 10 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 turnovers and 1 steal in 32 minutes of play. In addition, like Robbie, E’Twaun got torched by the man he was supposed to be guarding (Jon Sheyer) to the tune of 20 points.
Lewis Jackson – Lewis played 19 minutes tonight, but he was largely ineffective. He finished with 2 points, 1 assist and 2 turnovers and I think he’s beginning to see that some of the things he was able to get away with in high school aren’t going to work at the Division I level.
So, what have we learned from the last 2 games? I think one thing we’ve learned is that instead of being a contender, right now Purdue is still a pretender. They are a lousy rebounding team and they rely way too much on outside shooting to generate offense. If the outside shots aren’t falling, they are in big trouble, especially if the opponent can play without a lot of turnovers. The good news is that it’s still early in December and there is still plenty of opportunity for this team to prove itself. I think we saw last year that this group of players is capable of playing some very good basketball and I remain convinced that this team’s best days are still ahead. It should be interesting to see whether or not they bounce back over the next 6 games (which are all games they should win) and get on a roll going into Big 10 play. Frankly, I don’t think there is any team in the Big 10 that Purdue can’t beat, but by the same token I think there are several Big 10 teams that are very capable of beating Purdue if Purdue plays the way they played tonight.