© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
BOX SCORE:  Purdue 61, Northwestern 64
I purposely waited until this morning to try and recapture my thoughts about the Northwestern game because I was so discouraged after the game that I was afraid I might write some things I would later regret. Itís now been about 15 hours since I walked out of Mackey Arena wondering what in the heck has gone wrong with this Purdue team and I still donít have any answers. After Purdue beat MSU on February 17 to move to an over-all record of 20-6 (9-4 in the Conference), they were holding opponents to 37.1% shooting and were among the best defensive teams in the country. Since that time they have let 4 relatively mediocre (collectively these 4 teams are below .500 in the Big 10) teams (IU, UM, OSU and Northwestern) blister them at a 51.2% clip including last nightís 27 of 55 (49.1%) effort by Northwestern. Time after time last night, a Northwestern player was left unguarded for an easy lay-up or put-back and many of those baskets came late in the 2nd half when the game was on the line. Itís simply baffling to me how a team that took such pride earlier in the year in shutting down its opponents can morph into a team that canít stop anyone in only 4 games. Even more disturbing to me last night was that it wasnít Northwesternís best players that killed Purdue, it was Sterling Williams (4 points in 10 minutes), Luka Mirkovic (6 points and 8 rebounds, 5 of them offensive in 27 minutes) and Jeff Ryan (6 points in 14 minutes) coming off the bench and absolutely out-playing anyone in a Purdue uniform that killed Purdue. Iím not much into making predictions, but I will predict that unless Purdue finds a way to get back to playing the same brand of tough hard-nosed defense they were playing prior to the IU game, they wonít win another game this year.
As for the game itself, it was one of those weird games where I actually thought Purdue played pretty well for about 25 minutes and then for some reason fell apart. I think at least one of the reasons for that was that Northwestern did an excellent job of keeping Purdue off balance by constantly changing defenses and making it hard for Purdue to develop any kind of offensive consistency. Iíve always thought Bill Carmody was one of the best coaches in the business at getting the most out of what he has and last nightís game only reinforced that opinion because I thought Northwestern had an excellent game plan and they executed it very well.
Nemanja Calasan Ė I felt really bad for Nemanja last night. I think he really wanted to close out his Purdue home career with a big game and it just wasnít to be. He ended the night with 0 points, 2 rebounds, 2 turnovers and 1 blocked shot in only 9 minutes of play and I think itís safe to say that this was one of his least productive outings of the year. He did set a record for the most people to attend a Senior Night ceremony in his honor with about 10 as his extended American family was all introduced to the crowd before the game. Nemanja is a great young man who is on track to receive his diploma and I think heís been an asset to both of the Purdue teams heís played on. I wish him all the best.
Marcus Green Ė Like Nemanja, I think Marcus really wanted to close out his Purdue home career with a big game but it just wasnít his night. Marcus only played 8 minutes, didnít take a shot and while he did pull down 3 rebounds before fouling out, I thought he never really got into the flow of the game. Iíve commented before about how much respect I have for Marcus so I donít think I need to go on here. Suffice it to say that I think the lessons Marcus learned at Purdue will serve him well as he moves on with his life after graduation.
Bobby Riddell Ė Bobbyís another senior who I think deserves the thanks and admiration of everyone who follows Purdue basketball. Being a walk-on at a Division I college is no picnic for anyone and I think the fact that Bobby stuck it out for 4 years says a lot about the kind of person he is. He only played 3 minutes last night and didnít have much of an impact on the game, but I think his career at Purdue has been a successful one and I think he too is going to go on to have a successful and productive life after graduation.
Keaton Grant Ė I thought Keaton was just about the only Purdue player who played well last night. Keatonís had his struggles this year on offense, but in the last 3 games he seems to be shooting the ball much closer to the way he did last year (heís 12 of his last 20 from the field including 6 of 13 from 3-point range) and I hope thatís a sign of things to come. He finished the night with 14 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 blocks and 1 turnover in 30 minutes off the bench and he was Purdueís only productive bench player.
Chris Kramer Ė I thought Chris played a decent game, but I wonder if his body is starting to rebel from all the punishment it has taken this year. Purdue is 30 games into the season and Chris just looks a little worn out to me. Last night he went to the floor with what was apparently a severe case of cramping in one of his legs and to me thatís a sign heís been pushing himself more than he should. I think this team needs Chris on the floor to be successful and hopefully he can be ready to go full speed b the time the BTT rolls around. Chris finished the game last night with 8 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals in 30 minutes of play and one of his assists was a highlight reel pass to JaJuan Johnson after he corralled a pass under the basket and threw the ball to JaJuan as he was falling out of bounds.
Robbie Hummel Ė Like Chris, I thought Robbie looked worn out last night. He spent most of the night shadowing Kevin Coble at the defensive end of the floor and Coble really made him work. As a result, Robbie did not have a particularly good offensive game (8 points on 2 of 6 shooting) and he also missed the front end of a key 1-1 free throw in the last 30 seconds of the game. Robbie played 34 minutes last night and added 4 assists, 1 steal and 1 turnover to his 8 points.
JaJuan Johnson Ė Iím not sure what happened to JaJuan last night. After a solid first half he pretty much disappeared from Purdueís half-court offense in the 2nd half and he was never much of a factor on the boards. I also thought he had a poor defensive game as his man got easy rebound baskets several times as JaJuan went for a block and was unsuccessful. Iím not sure what the answer is because I think you want JaJuan to try and block shots, but it seemed to me that last night he made a couple of poor decisions in what shots he went after. He finished the night with 11 points, 3 rebounds and 1 block in 28 minutes of play and while those arenít bad numbers, they pale in comparison to the 13 points, 9 rebounds and 7 blocks he had when Purdue played Northwestern in Evanston.
EíTwaun Moore Ė At least EíTwaun didnít appear tired to me last night, but I thought he only played so-so. He ended the night with 14 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block and 2 turnovers in 35 minutes of play, but a couple of his 3-pointers were way off target and he had a shot blocked on a crucial possession late in the 2nd half when he would have been better off looking to pass the basketball.
Lewis Jackson Ė I thought Lewis had some good moments last night, but Northwestern did a good job of putting a bigger guard on him when they went to their half-court zone trap and Lewis struggled some in trying to pass over it. He finished the night with 6 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 turnover in 23 minutes of play and his assist was a beautiful feed to a driving Chris Kramer on a fast break.
Iíll close by saying that I thought that last nightís game was a well deserved victory for Northwestern. They committed only 6 turnovers, they had 19 assists on 27 made baskets, they shot 49.1% from the floor and they had 11 offensive rebounds. They also stayed out of foul trouble (13 fouls for the game) and they repeatedly hit big shots during their game-breaking run. I think itís safe to say that this is the best Northwestern team in many years and while losing to them is always painful, I think last nightís loss was more a case of Northwestern winning the game than it was Purdue losing the game. As my sister said this morning on the phone, the season is not over and there is still a lot to play for. Letís hope Purdue goes up to East Lansing on Sunday and re-captures some of that defensive toughness that has been largely missing the last 4 games.