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BOX SCORE: (13) Purdue 76 - (22) Davidson 58
Today’s game was one of the most enjoyable games I think I’ve ever watched a Purdue team play. Davidson came in to Conseco Fieldhouse with a reputation of being somewhat of a giant killer after last year’s NCAA Tournament run and with one of the nation’s top players (he’s the leading scorer in the country) in Stephen Curry, they looked to be the kind of team that would give Purdue all kinds of trouble. Purdue, on the other hand, came into Conseco Fieldhouse having lost both games they have played this season against ranked opponents. It was a game that Purdue clearly had to have if they wanted to help build their NCAA Tournament resume and I think most people expected it to be a close game all the way. Unfortunately for Davidson, Purdue came out playing about as well as I’ve seen a Purdue team play in many years and with 6 or 7 minutes gone in the first half, Purdue led 21-0. That’s right, I said 21-0 (it’s not a misprint). From here, Davidson made a mini-run (scoring 9 straight points at one juncture), but Purdue soon got back on track and led 47-24 at the half. When Purdue opened the 2nd half by hitting three 3-pointers and a lay-up in the first 3 or 4 minutes of the half, the game was basically over and while Davidson kept hustling and working hard, they were never able to get the lead below 14 or 15 points and Purdue won easily 76-58.
My guess is that the major storyline from this game will be the excellent defensive job Purdue did on Stephen Curry and I expect Chris Kramer will get the lions’ share of the credit. While I think this credit will be well deserved, I think the truth is that Curry had somewhat of an “off” day and that Chris had an awful lot of help from his teammates. Davidson started the game with Curry bringing the ball up the floor and Coach Painter had Lewis Jackson pick him up at the baseline and dog him every step of the way up the floor. If Curry managed to get past Lewis, one of Purdue’s big guys (normally Hummel) would slide over and provide help until Jackson could recover. After awhile, Davidson’s coach decided he’d seen enough and he decided to let someone else bring the ball up the floor. Chris then took over shadowing Curry through screens, around screens and bodying up on him when he did get the ball. As a result, Curry seldom got an open shot and he ended up forcing several shots. He ended the day just 5 of 26 (including 2 of 12 from beyond the arc) and in addition to Chris and Lewis, both Keaton Grant and E’Twaun Moore deserve at least partial credit for causing that performance. I thought Coach Painter’s strategy of making Curry work hard just to advance the ball was one of the key elements in Purdue’s success today.
Nemanja Calasan – I thought Nemanja shot the ball well today from the perimeter, but he was not as effective defensively as he has been so far this year. He ended the day with 8 points (including 2 of 2 from 3-point range), 1 rebound, 1 block and 2 turnovers in 17 minutes of play. The thing I really like about Nemanja is his toughness and I think both he and Marcus have done an excellent job as seniors in bringing that tough-minded attitude to each and every game.
Marcus Green – I thought Marcus played really well today. He hit both his 3-pointers (he’s now made 3 of his last 5 after starting the year just 1 of 8), both of his free throws (he’s now shooting 77.8% from the line after making just 58.8% of his attempts in his first 3 years at Purdue) and ended up scoring 8 points in just 16 minutes of action. He also added 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 rebound and 1 turnover in those minutes. So far this year, Marcus has brought a lot of energy to the floor when he comes off the bench and his consistent play has been a real plus for this team.
Keaton Grant – I don’t think it’s any accident that Purdue’s best game of the year also coincided with Keaton’s best game of the year. Keaton came into the game mired in a shooting slump and it was great to see him step up and knock down his first 3-pointer early in the game. Even though he didn’t start (Lewis Jackson did), Keaton still ended up playing 28 minutes and scoring a season high 15 points (his best before today was 11) on 4 of 7 shooting (including 3 of 6 from beyond the arc) from the field and 4 of 4 from the free throw line. He also added 3 rebounds, an assist and a turnover. I also thought he was more energetic at the defensive end than he was earlier in the year.
Chris Kramer – Once again, people who just look at the box score might conclude that Chris had an off game. He only scored 2 points and added 2 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal and 1 turnover in 23 minutes of play, but it was his hard-nosed defensive effort on Stephen Curry early in the game that was the catalyst behind Purdue’s successful defensive effort. Chris did turn his ankle about 5 minutes into the 2nd half, but after a trip to the locker-room, he returned to action later in the half and his ankle didn’t appear to hamper him much, if at all. I did notice him limping a little bit after the game and I’d guess he’s going to need treatment once his ankle stiffens up.
Robbie Hummel – A year from now, Stephen Curry will most likely be playing in the NBA and make millions of dollars in the process, but the best player on the floor today was Robbie Hummel ….. who, hopefully, will still be playing for Purdue. Robbie was simply unstoppable today and he not only scored (a game high 18 points), but he set a new personal career record with 14 rebounds. In addition, he had 4 assists and a turnover in 37 minutes of play. Robbie seems to be one of those players who just keep getting better as the season progresses and it’s a real pleasure watching him in action.
JaJuan Johnson – I thought JaJuan was excellent today at both ends of the floor. He was active offensively with 14 points on a variety of shots including one highlight reel slam-dunk on an in-bounds play. He also had a good day on the glass with 7 rebounds and he added 2 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks and a turnover in 24 minutes of play.
E’Twaun Moore – E’Twaun’s shooting and ball-handling woes continued today, but I think it’s a good sign when Purdue can beat a team like Davidson with E’Twaun not shooting the ball very well, because it shows that Purdue has a lot of other players who can score. In today’s game E’Twaun was just 3 of 11 from the field (including 2 of 4 from 3-point land) and he finished the game with 11 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and 4 turnovers in 34 minutes of play. A couple of E’Twaun’s turnovers came when he tried to get too fancy with his dribble and simply lost the ball in traffic and I wish he’d spend more time trying to get open without the basketball and less time trying to beat his man off the dribble.
Lewis Jackson – I thought today’s game was another good learning experience for Lewis. He was scoreless for the game, but he did pull down 3 rebounds and add an assist a steal and 2 turnovers in 21 minutes of play. I think Lewis is quickly finding out that a lot of the same moves that worked well for him in high school don’t work as well at this level. The thing about Lewis is that he gives 100% effort on every play and while he makes silly mistakes sometimes, they are almost always errors of commission rather than errors of omission. A good example of his effort came late in the 2nd half when he hustled after a ball being chased by a Davidson player and ended up forcing the Davidson player to lose it out-of-bounds. I’m not sure it was even something that would show up in the box-score, but it was a good example of a Purdue player doing the little things it takes to win games.
One of the consistent story-lines for Purdue this year is that they have been very good at forcing turnovers and creating extra possessions. In today’s game, Davidson was able to handle Purdue’s pressure defense better than anyone else Purdue has played this year (Davidson had only 11 turnovers). As a result, Davison ended up getting 65 field goal attempts (more than any other Purdue opponent this year) but since they only made 23 (35.4%), Purdue was able to cruise to an easy win. Despite the ease with which Purdue won, I think they could do a better job in situations where the shot clock is winding down or at the end of a half. It seems that in those situations, Coach Painter has decided to put the ball in E’Twaun’s hands or in Lewis’s hands and let them try to create a shot off the dribble. In today’s game, that strategy was pretty unsuccessful and it hasn’t worked too well in previous games either. I’m not sure there are a lot of options, but it seems to me that finding a way to get Robbie Hummel the basketball might be one of the better ones. For one thing, he’s a great free throw shooter, so if he gets fouled shooting the basketball it’s almost an automatic 2 points. For another, Robbie is an excellent passer and if the other team tries to help out on him, I think he’d be pretty good at finding the open man. To me, this is an area that Purdue needs to get better at before Big Ten play begins.