© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
BOX SCORE:  Purdue 65, Ohio State 61
Before I talk about today’s game I’d like to start by complimenting OSU for playing a great game and helping make the Big Ten Tournament final the best game of the entire tournament. I thought OSU played very well today and while I’ve never been a big Thad Matta fan, I thought he had his team well prepared and it was a pleasure to watch his team play today. Evan Turner may not have been the Big 10 POY this year, but after watching every game of this tournament, there is no doubt in my mind that he is indeed the best player in the Conference. Purdue did everything they could to stop him and he still had 22 points, 10 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists and 3 turnovers in 37 minutes of play. His turnovers sound like a lot, but given that he touches the ball and controls the offense on virtually every OSU offensive possession, 3 turnovers in 37 minutes is really not that bad. In addition to Turner, William Buford and Jon Diebler are excellent offensive players and Dallas Lauderdale sets about as mean a moving screen along the baseline to free OSU’s shooters as anyone in the Big 10. In many ways, looking at the quality of OSU’s players, it’s hard to see how they’ve lost 10 games this year, although it’s probably due to their youth and inexperience more than anything.
As for the game, both teams turned it over on their initial possession and then each team seemed to struggle to score and the game was tied at 9-9 with about 12 minutes to go when Robbie Hummel finally made an open shot (a 3-pointer after he had missed his first 3 shots from the field) to give Purdue a 12-9 lead at the 2nd TV timeout of the half. William Buford than got on a roll for OSU and after he had scored 7 straight OSU points, OSU finally grabbed a 16-15 lead. Purdue quickly answered with a JaJuan Johnson lay-up off a nice pass from Robbie Hummel and Purdue led once again at 17-16 as play was halted for the 3rd TV timeout of the half. When play resumed, JaJuan completed the 3-point play with a free throw and when B.J. Mullens then got loose for his only basket of the game, the game was tied at 18. Over the next 4 minutes, both teams made a couple of shots and Purdue eventually took a 24-22 lead after an E’Twaun Moore 3-pointer. Unfortunately, Purdue would not score again from the field in the last 4 minutes of the half and OSU closed the half on an 8-1 run to lead 30-25 at the half. Purdue’s primary problem in the opening half was an inability to hit open shots as they only shot 28% in the half.
Purdue got off to a shaky start in the 2nd half as Chris Kramer was called for an illegal screen very early in Purdue’s first possession. He quickly atoned for this mistake by blocking Evan Turner’s shot at the other end and when JaJuan Johnson made a nice jumper Purdue had sliced the lead to 3 points. However, Jon Diebler buried his 4th 3-pointer of the day on OSU’s next possession and things didn’t look good for Purdue as they trailed 33-27. Then, Purdue finally started to click at the offensive end as E’Twaun Moore buried a 3-pointer and when Robbie Hummel converted an offensive rebound into 2 more points with a nice jumper on Purdue’s next possession, Purdue had cut OSU’S lead to 1 (33-32) at the first TV timeout. Over the next 4 minutes, the two teams traded baskets and free throws and with about 13 minutes to go in the game, OSU had a 40-37 lead. At this point, Purdue finally got their offense untracked and after E’Twaun Moore buried back-to-back 3-pointers and Marcus Green grabbed an offensive rebound and laid it in, Purdue had jumped into a 45-41 lead. When OSU missed at the other end, E’Twaun buried another 3-pointer and all of a sudden, Purdue had seized a 48-41 lead with just over 10 minutes remaining in the game. After an OSU timeout, Even Turner basically took over the OSU offense and he either scored or assisted on OSU’s next 5 baskets. Unfortunately for OSU, Purdue had an answer for every OSU basket including a Chris Kramer steal and assist to a driving Lewis Jackson for a basket that gave Purdue a 9 point lead (56-47) in the middle of Turner’s barrage. With 5 minutes to go in the game, Purdue still led by 7 (58-51). Purdue would then miss its next 10 shots from the field along with the front end of a 1-1, but OSU could not take advantage and their only scoring during this period was 3 free throws from Turner and 1 from Lauderdale and Purdue still led 58-55 with about 1 ˝ minutes to go. On Purdue’s next possession, E’Twaun Moore missed a wide open 3-pointer from the wing, but Robbie Hummel grabbed a huge offensive rebound and Purdue called timeout with just over a minute remaining. After the timeout, Purdue worked the ball around the perimeter of OSU’s zone until Keaton grant buried a huge 3-pointer from the top of the circle to give Purdue a 61-55 lead. Chris Kramer then blocked Evan Turner’s shot at the other end and when E’Twaun Moore was fouled with 22 seconds left, he went to the line with a chance to ice the game. Unfortunately, he missed the front end of the 1-1 and when JaJuan Johnson was called for a very questionable foul as Evan Turner drove to the basket and scored, Turner’s free throw with 16 seconds left cut the lead to 3 (61-58). On Purdue’s in-bounds play, Chris Kramer was immediately fouled and he went to the line with a 1-1 opportunity. His first attempt hit the front of the rim then the back of the rim and fell through and so did his 2nd one as Purdue took a 63-58 lead. When Buford missed at the other end, Chris was again fouled and this time he swished both free throws to seal the outcome. Jon Diebler then hit a meaningless 3-pointer as time expired and Purdue had a hard earned 65-61 victory.
Nemanja Calasan – I thought Nemanja came up big for Purdue today and played one of his best games in quite awhile. For once, he did not attempt a 3-point shot (only the 4th game all year he did not attempt at least one) and I thought he did a great job of staying home and battling OSU’s big guys inside. He finished with 5 points and 6 rebounds in 13 minutes of play and his 6 rebounds were the most he’s had since way back in early December against Arkansas Pine Bluff.
Marcus Green – Like Nemanja, I thought Marcus played very well today in limited minutes. His offensive rebound and lay-in midway through the 2nd half kept a Purdue scoring streak alive and I thought he also did a pretty good job defensively when he was in there. He finished the day with 2 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 turnover in 9 minutes of play.
Keaton Grant – Keaton wasn’t on fire today like he was on Friday night against Penn State, but his 3-pointer with about 50 seconds to go in the game to give Purdue a 6 point lead was one of the biggest shots of the year for Purdue. I don’t know exactly what it is about Keaton, but he does seem to have a knack for making big 3-pointers at crucial times for Purdue. He finished the day with 8 points, 4 rebounds and 1 block in 23 minutes of play. His block came on a Jon Diebler 3-point attempt in the first half and the way Diebler was shooting, it probably saved Purdue 3 points.
Chris Kramer – I can’t say enough good things about the way Chris Kramer played today. It’s obvious that he’s playing in some pain because Coach Painter is very careful to make sure he gets several opportunities to rest, but he continues to make play after play when he is in the game. Today he took turns shadowing Evan Turner and Jon Diebler and while he didn’t come close to shutting them down, he did manage to limit the amount of damage they did while he was guarding them. He also made 4 huge free throws in the last 30 seconds of the game to basically ice it for Purdue. He finished the day with 6 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals, 3 blocks and 2 turnovers in 28 minutes and my guess is it won’t take him long to get fall asleep once he does hit the hay.
Robbie Hummel – Robbie did not have a very good day offensively (he was only 2 of 10 from the field including 1 of 6 from 3-point range) but he was a demon on the boards and he really worked hard at the defensive end of the floor trying to chase Jon Diebler around Dallas Lauderdale’s screens (most of which were moving). He ended the day with 9 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks and 1 turnover in 33 minutes of play and he was named the MVP of the Tournament at its conclusion. If you think about it, Robbie was probably the one player on Purdue’s roster that was most likely to be affected by having to play 3 games in 3 days and I think that had a lot to do with his sub-par shooting day. Still, I think he was very deserving of the MVP award as he ended the tournament averaging 16 points and 9 rebounds for the 3 games.
JaJuan Johnson – JaJuan had another excellent offensive game today and I thought he also did a very good job at the defensive end of the floor. He finished the day with 16 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 turnover in 27 minutes of play and while he wasn’t credited with any blocks, he certainly altered more than a few shots.
E’Twaun Moore – During the first half of today’s game, I was telling my sister that I wished E’Twaun would get going, because he wasn’t doing much. I don’t think he heard me (Grin), but midway through the 2nd half he must have at least gotten the message because he basically led the charge that carried Purdue to this win with three 3-pointers and a beautiful pull-up jumper in about a 3 minute span. Purdue was down 40-37 when he started his spree and they led 50-43 when it ended. He finished the day with 17 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist, 1 block and 1 turnover in 38 minutes of play. Perhaps the most impressive part of E’Twaun’s play in this tournament was the fact that he had 10 assists and only 3 turnovers in 104 minutes of play. I was a little bit surprised E’Twaun missed all 3 of his free throws today because he is normally one of Purdue’s most reliable free throw shooters.
Lewis Jackson – I thought Lewis played a very good game for Purdue today. He spent most of the day putting defensive pressure on OSU’s point guard (either Hill or Simmons) and since they combined for only 6 points, I’d say he was pretty effective. Lewis finished the day with 2 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal in 27 minutes of play.
I’ll close by offering my congratulations to Coach Painter, his staff and all of the players for hanging tough in the face of a lot of adversity and persevering when a lot of people thought they might be headed south for the season. Winning the Big Ten Tournament is no easy task in any year and I think it was even tougher than normal this year because of the quality of the other 10 teams in the Conference. I think the fact that 7 Big 10 teams were selected for the NCAA Tournament and another (Penn State) only missed the field because of several upsets in the Conference Tournaments offers ample evidence that the Big 10 Conference was one of the toughest Conferences in the country this year. Hopefully winning this Tournament will supply a needed boost of confidence for this team and they will have a great NCAA Tournament this year. I don’t know much about Northern Iowa, but I do know that in the NCAA Tournament there is no such thing as a sure thing unless you are Number 1 seed playing a Number 16 seed and I suspect Purdue had better be ready to play on Thursday.