© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
BOX SCORE:  Purdue 61, Penn State 47
When Purdue played Penn State earlier this year in Happy Valley, they played without Robbie Hummel and Chris Kramer and were still surprisingly competitive before losing 67-64 in a game where they were out-rebounded 41-27 and gave up 22 offensive rebounds. In that game, Penn State’s two starting guards (Talor Battle and Stanley Pringle) torched Purdue’s guards with a combined 39 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds and I was anxious to see how much of a difference Chris Kramer’s presence in the line-up would make in tonight’s game. A quick glance at the final statistics reveals that in tonight’s game Battle and Pringle were held to five points (on 2-of-16 shooting), seven assists and four rebounds which is an absolutely remarkable turnaround from the first game. Clearly Chris isn’t responsible for all of that difference by himself, but I do think this difference illustrates just how valuable Chris Kramer is to Purdue’s basketball team.
The game got off to a good start as Keaton Grant stepped into and buried a wide-open three-pointer off a nice feed from JaJuan Johnson and Purdue led 3-0 less than 30 seconds into the game. Unfortunately, the rest of the first half was a real struggle for both teams and the game was tied on several occasions before Penn State jumped out to a 22-16 lead with about 6:30 to go in the first half. At this point in the half, E’Twaun Moore was playing with two personal fouls after sitting out about three or four minutes after picking up his second foul. Purdue then went on a 9-0 run which started with two nice buckets from E’Twaun followed by a basket from JaJuan Johnson off a nice feed from Bobby Riddell and then a wide-open three-pointer from Bobby Riddell to make it 25-22 with about four minutes left in the half. Interestingly enough, the only reason Bobby was in the game was because E’Twaun picked up his third foul (on a charging call) after his two straight baskets. Penn State then regained the lead 26-25 before JaJuan Johnson closed the half with a basket off a nice feed from Lewis Jackson and a free throw with about 30 seconds to go to make the half-time score 28-26 in Purdue’s favor.
When Purdue came out to start the 2nd half, E’Twaun Moore remained on the bench and Purdue started the half with Calasan, Johnson, Jackson, Kramer and Grant on the floor. Lewis Jackson started the second half with a couple of nice baskets on drives to the hoop sandwiched around a Stanley Pringle jumper for Penn State and Purdue led 32-28 with about 2:30 gone. At this point Bobby Riddell entered the game as a substitute for Chris Kramer and all of a sudden, Purdue took off. First, Bobby Riddell hit a three-pointer, then Nemanja Calasan scored on a beautiful feed from Riddell, then Riddell hit a beautiful runner on a drive to the basket followed by another three-pointer and all of a sudden Purdue was up 14 points (42-28) with 14:30 left in the game. At this point, E’Twaun finally entered the game and hit a rally nice jumper from the baseline to extend the lead to 16 (44-38) and when JaJuan Johnson followed with another nice move and basket on Purdue’s next possession to cap a 14-0 run, Purdue led 46-28 and the game was basically over even though there were still more than 12 minutes to play. The final score was Purdue 61, Penn State 47 as Penn State never got closer than 12 points after Purdue’s big scoring run.
Nemanja Calasan – I’ve been hoping Nemanja would step up and give Purdue some scoring punch in Robbie Hummel’s absence and tonight Nemanja really delivered. He hit his first three shots (one of them was a three-pointer) and seemed to play with a lot more confidence than he has been playing lately. In addition, he really worked hard to establish position inside against the Penn State zone in the second half and I thought his play was a major factor in Purdue’s win tonight. He finished with 12 points, three rebounds, one assist and one block in 21 minutes of play and that’s exactly the kind of production Purdue needs from Nemanja when Robbie isn’t playing.
Marcus Green – Marcus was largely missing in action tonight. He played only seven minutes (all in the first half) and missed his only two shots. I’m not sure if Marcus is still battling the flu or whether Matt Painter just decided that Bobby Riddell was playing so well that he was going to ride the hot hand, but this is the first game all year that Marcus did not have a rebound or play at least nine minutes.
Bobby Riddell – One of the things I was thinking tonight as I sat there and watched Bobby Riddell drain three-pointer after three-pointer is whether or not IndyBoiler72 now thinks Bobby Riddell is better than IU’s Matt Roth (VVVBSEG). I’m sorry, I just couldn’t resist even though the original discussion centered on Ryne Smith. Seriously though, it’s hard to describe just how well Bobby Riddell played tonight. He was on fire from outside (he was 3-of-4 from beyond the arc), he made two really nice shots from inside the arc (one was a pull up jumper and the other one was a runner off the glass on a drive), he had four assists and no turnovers and he also blocked a shot (pretty hard to do when you are 5’8" tall) and had a steal in 24 minutes of play. In addition, he was very solid on the defensive end (it was somewhat amusing to see Bobby guarding Jamelle Cornley a couple of times after a switch). You have to remember that Bobby scored a grand total of seven points all last year in 59 minutes of play and I think it’s fair to say that this night is a night that Bobby Riddell will remember for as long as he lives. Frankly, after some of the negative things some people have posted on this Forum about Bobby, it was great to see him have this kind of night.
Keaton Grant – When Keaton drilled his first three-pointer and looked really smooth and relaxed doing it, I thought to myself “maybe this will be the night Keaton finally breaks out”. Unfortunately, that early three-pointer was Keaton’s only made shot of the night as he badly missed his next three attempts from beyond the arc and also missed a wide-open six-footer from the baseline. He did have three assists and one turnover to go with his made three-pointer in 23 minutes of play, but like Marcus it looks to me like Keaton is dragging a little bit right now and not playing with a lot of energy.
Chris Kramer – As I noted in my opening paragraph, Chris’s presence on the floor makes a huge difference for Purdue. A lot of the things he does don’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet, but Purdue is clearly a much better defensive team when he is on the floor than they are when he isn’t. Tonight he scored five points and added four rebounds and a steal in 30 minutes of play, but he basically shut down Stanley Pringle with his defense (three of Pringle’s five points came on a desperation three-pointer from half-way between the three-point line and midcourt) and he even spent some time trying to body up with Jamelle Cornley at the defensive end.
Robbie Hummel – Did not play for the third game in a row.
JaJuan Johnson - When Purdue played Penn State on January 6th (just a little over a month ago), JaJuan suffered through a dismal game where he had only seven points and two rebounds and had knowledgeable posters like DG10 questioning his ability to compete against physical Big Ten post players. Well, I think over the course of the last four weeks, JaJuan has more than answered his critics and I thought he dominated tonight’s game on the inside. He ended the night with 14 points, 13 rebounds, two assists and four blocks in 38 minutes of play and completely out-played anyone on Penn State’s team that tried to guard him. He’s now tied with E’Twaun Moore for the team lead in scoring with 13.5 points/game and he’s second on the team in rebounding (behind Robbie Hummel) at 6.2 reb/gm.
E’Twaun Moore – E’Twaun had some foul problems tonight. He picked up two quick fouls early in the game (both of them were of the ticky-tack variety) and when he got called for his third on a charging foul late in the first half, I thought Purdue might be in some trouble. He ended the night playing only 26 minutes (his lowest number of minutes since the Big Ten season began) but still had 10 points, three rebounds, one assist and one turnover. He did miss all four of his three-point shots, but all four of them were good shots that he took in rhythm and I think (or perhaps hope is a better word) he’ll find his stroke soon (he’s only made three of his last 17 attempts from beyond the arc).
Lewis Jackson – I thought Lewis played a heck of a game tonight. He spent most of the night about 18 inches from Talor Battle when Purdue was on defense and I suspect Talor will have nightmares about this game after his 0-for-7 shooting effort as Lewis never gave him any room to operate. Lewis finished the game with four points, five assists, three turnovers, one block and two steals in 31 minutes of play. Lewis now has 83 assists versus only 50 turnovers in 23 games this year and I think that’s a pretty good ratio for a freshman point guard who works as hard at the defensive end as Lewis does.
I know a lot of folks thought this would be an easy win for Purdue tonight and even though it turned out that it was an easy win, I thought it was still a crucial win because Purdue could ill afford to lose another game at home this year. As in most games this year, the keys to success were aggressive defense (PSU shot 36.7% from the field), taking care of the basketball (Purdue had only five turnovers) and doing a good job of rebounding (Purdue lost the rebounding battle 33-28, but PSU had only eight offensive rebounds versus 22 the first time the two teams played). It was nice to see Purdue finally put together something close to a complete game without Robbie Hummel in the line-up. Now, it’s on to Iowa City on Saturday for a re-match with the Hawkeyes. When the two teams met in Mackey Arena, Purdue pulled away in the second half for a convincing 75-53 win, but that was a game where Robbie Hummel was playing and also a game where Purdue was very efficient from beyond the arc (Purdue was a season best 10-of-15 that night). My guess is that Saturday’s game will be much closer and while I think Purdue should win, I don’t expect it to be an easy game.