In a game you might’ve seen during the 2012-2013 basketball season Purdue played ugly for most of the game against Eastern Michigan as this witchcraft known as a “zone defense” continued to befuddle the boys from West Lafayette. Through the first three minutes of the game neither team scored a point as we looked well on our way to another offensive clunker like last year’s matchup between these two squads. Thanks to two freshman who each dominated a half or so Purdue came out the victor. In the first half Purdue started four freshman and Terone. After the game we learned that Scott started in Ronnie’s place because Ronnie was late for practice. Not a big deal but let’s hope that’s not a trend. The 4 S’s lived up to the hype as they each showed a little something today with Stephens being the star of the first half and Scott the star of the second. They battled it out for the winner of the JWMPOTG but in the end I have to give it to Bryson for his clutch free throw shooting.
Here’s Bryson Scott. He’s in better shape than you.
John Wooden Memorial Player of the Game (JWMPOT)- Bryson Scott wins this one today. Scott’s free throws down the stretch were huge and sealed the deal for the Boilermakers. He ended the game with a team high 16 points on 10-13 from the line with most of those coming in the second half. If you take Scott out of the mix the Boilermakers finished a pathetic 13-25 from the line. Less than 50% without Bryson “the Bulldog” Scott. Honorable mention goes to Kendall Stephens who torched the nets in the first half. The guy can seemingly hit it from everywhere. He went a bit cold in the second half and ended up just 3-11 from deep but honestly not many of those shots, if any, were bad looks. The guy is a shooter and he dominated a stretch of the first half against that EMU zone.
In the first half Purdue was befuddled by that zone defense of a Syracuse disciple coach. The only thing that worked at all for the Boilermakers was moving the ball around until they found a semi-open Kendall Stephens who could drain a three from damn near anywhere on the court. If that didn’t work though Purdue look disjointed, awkward, and well pretty much like a 7th grade boy at a dance. It just wasn’t pretty to watch. The other bright spot for the Boilers in the first half was the play of Basil Smotherman. His defense was solid and continues to get better but he just has hustle out there. He finds himself constantly in the right place to get rebounds and easy buckets. It’s that type of attitude that this team needs. The guy isn’t necessarily always flashy but he knows his role and he gets out there and busts his ass. Gotta love that attitude.
In the second half with Stephens cold, he was 3-6 in the first half from distance but 0-5 in the second half, Purdue had to find another way to get points on the board. In steps your JWMPOTG. Bryson simply decided that he wasn’t going to lose this game and drove to the bucket and wound up at the line 11 times in the second half sinking nine of them. While it’s not exactly an offensive game plan I’d like to see repeated you can’t argue with the results. Eastern Michigan did their best to claw back into a game that saw them down in the 6-9 range for much of the game tying it up at one point and even taking a brief lead. It wasn’t to be though as the Boilermakers picked up their defensive intensity and made some smart passes to find the open man. I have to give a special shout out to Karrington Ward who led all scorers with 25 points and did his best to put his EMU team on his back and carry them to victory. He shot 50% from deep and showed a toughness that any team would love to have.
Purdue now sits at 8-2 winning many games close and ugly. Remember though these are the same types of games that last year this team would wilt during. Last year’s season was imploded by games Purdue should’ve won that they just didn’t have the mental toughness to finish. The EMU game from last year is a prime example. This year even when the game was close you just felt like Purdue would still win. Last year I couldn’t say the same thing. Purdue most certainly won’t win the conference title without major improvement but things are definitely moving in the right direction.
Remember last year’s horrible debacle in Ypsilanti? No? Okay let me paint you a word picture. Purdue played possibly the worst game I’ve ever seen from any team as they lost 47-44. That’s not the halftime score, that’s the final. Purdue could only muster 44 points against a team from the MAC in 40 minutes of action. Purdue shot a blistering 29% from the field that day and turned the ball over 18 times. Eastern Michigan didn’t play well at all but they played less bad than Purdue. It was a nightmare of a game that was only “televised” on ESPN3. So that actually worked in Purdue’s favor once since hardly anyone saw the game. Today’s game is on that very same network. How fun! Once again Purdue is being relegated to the dark corners of the basketball watching world. I know this isn’t the BTN’s fault because ESPN chose this game and then put it on ESPN3 but it just seems like with all of the networks out there Purdue could at least get a game on ACTUAL TV. Man wouldn’t that be nice?
Though this Eastern Michigan team is in the MAC it doesn’t mean they are a lightweight. They’ve already faced some stiff competition having already faced 40-0 Kentucky and highly ranked UMass. Both were losses of course but they gave both teams more of a game than they probably assumed going in. Eastern Michigan has some guys with some pretty good statistics including some guys who can really shoot the ball from distance. They have four guys who shoot greater than 40% from beyond the arc though one of them is Daylen Harrison who has only attempted seven three pointers on the season so I’d say we can probably cross him off the list. Ray Lee and Karrington Ward on the other hand have been doing pretty well from distance with each having taken over 20 attempts and still over 40%. Purdue will need to watch those two and be able to close out on them when they have open shots. If Purdue doesn’t bring that intensity and get out on EMUs shooters it could spell trouble.
If Purdue comes out and plays like they did against Boston College there’s no doubt that Purdue will win. I haven’t seen them play with that type of energy, hustle, and intensity since at least 2011. Guys were diving for loose balls, closing out on shooters, and fighting for rebounds (in the second half at least). It was like the Purdue team from the good old days with Robbie, E’Twaun, and JJ. Ahhh those were the days. Something just seemed to click in the heads of guys like Jay Simpson and AJ Hammons. If Painter can find the right buttons to hit for these guys they will become a completely different team. This team is full of talent and if they play like they are capable of they will definitely be an NCAA team this season. To get there Purdue has to win these non-conference games that they lost last year that cost them dearly come March. Today I think Purdue takes care of business and gets a bit of revenge for last year’s game.
Purdue 78, EMU 65 (My record 8-1. Misses Washington State)
How do you like them apples?
Purdue showed up with energy and outplayed Boston College in all phases of the game to cruise to a convincing 88-67 win. This was Purdue’s most complete win in recent memory, and one of their better (best?) overall performances since E’Twaun Moore was playing instead of being honored at halftime. Compared to the Old Spice tournament games, it was like watching a completely different team. Maybe it was the Paint Crew, maybe it was Smooge in the building, maybe it was the buzz of a big national game, but whatever the reason Purdue came out fighting and didn’t stop until the final buzzer.
Painter tooled around with the starting lineup a bit, starting Smotherman at the 4 and Simpson over Hammons at center. I agree with the first, Smotherman has been killing it in his minutes, but the second… I’m not so sure. Painter will probably be asked about that in the post-game. Without much size in the paint, Purdue struggled early especially against Ryan Anderson. Boston College wasn’t getting great looks, but they picked up several easy offensive rebounds and converted on almost all of them. Then Hammons came in, Anderson got into some foul trouble, Kendall Stephens drained 3 3-pointers in a row like it was nothing, and Purdue never looked back. From that point on it was all gold and black (or grey, I guess, with the uniforms).
Everyone at Purdue had a great game. As a team Purdue held the Eagles to 38% shooting, down from their usual 48%. The Boilers created 13 turnovers, and turned most of those into points with and one chances. All facets of Purdue’s offense looked pretty good, but that transition game was a vast improvement from Purdue’s recent performances. As far as offense goes, take your pick. TJ dropped 18 points, leading the way for the Boilers and pretty much holding court whenever he was on the floor. Ronnie was right behind with 15 and 6 assists. AJ ruled over the paint with 8 rebounds, 3 more blocks, and 7 points. Smotherman made a lot of contributions and effort plays that don’t show up on the stat sheet, and he chose his spots in the offense wisely shooting 75% and hitting a key 3 to keep the torrent that Stephens started going. Raphael Davis also had a really efficient game, with an alphabet soup stat line of 6 rebounds, 5 assists, a steal, and 6 points coming off the bench. The overall theme on both sides of the ball was effort. Purdue was going after the loose balls, diving, and fighting for rebounds even when the game was well in hand. Purdue looked like they wanted it more and played a more physical game. All of that showed up in the score. My only gripe is the free throw percentage; 60%. In the Big Ten those points can’t be left on the board. That kind of number will cost Purdue a few games if it continues into the conference schedule.
It can be pretty easy to overreact to a win like this where Purdue looked so completely dominant. This was a good win, for sure, but I doubt that it will matter when March comes around. Boston College has struggled mightily to beat teams that aren’t getting anywhere near even the NIT. They did manage to put a scare into UConn, but I can’t imagine that this game will be highlighted in the “quality” win column after the Big Ten schedule (and after the ACC has their way with BC) when the selection committee meets. However, this performance has certainly caused me to recalibrate what I thought was this team’s ceiling. I didn’t think this Purdue team was capable of putting together a performance like that for a whole game. We’ve all seen the flashes of brilliance this season, parts of the second half of the Oklahoma State game come to mind, but this was a complete game. Nearly wire to wire domination. Now that I’ve seen what this team is capable of against what looked on paper like equal competition, this season is March Madness or bust in my mind.
Purdue’s win along with Nebraska’s over Miami ensured that the Big Ten/ACC Challenge ends in a tie. Gross. Now basketball feels a little like soccer. Anyway, Purdue plays Eastern Michigan Saturday in what should be a warm up for Butler a week later in the Crossroads Classic. Good luck on your finals next week if you’re still a student, and know that we’re both pulling for your success and laughing at you. Go study and Boiler Up!
I basically wanted to see how many abbreviations I could put in one title and there it is. Purdue does their part to bring the B1G another series victory in the B1G/ACC Challenge. As of this writing the B1G is down 2-4 to the ACC. We’ll see how things go down tonight. Purdue is on a bit of a hot streak in this challenge as they’ve won their last four games with the last loss coming at the hands of the Dukies if I’m not mistaken. Purdue drew a not so spectacular opponent in this year’s challenge as everything is supposedly based off the previous year’s finish and the suspected finish this season. It’s an imperfect formula but it generally seems to work.
Sacred Heart’s star forward The Todd!
Boston College isn’t exactly a dynamo in the ACC this season. They currently sit at 3-4 on the season with losses to such titans as Providence, UMass, and Toledo. It also took them overtime to get past Sacred Heart which, surprisingly, isn’t the school from Scrubs. They do shoot the ball surprisingly well for a team with their record. They actually shoot the ball a shade better than Purdue at 47% to 45%. What they struggle to do is rebound. Coming from a Purdue fan that says a lot. I think by law I’m not allowed to mock other team’s rebounding prowess or lack there of. BC greatly struggles though averaging just around 29 rebound per game in comparison to Purdue’s 39. That could explain that while shooting a pretty good percentage their record doesn’t reflect that. If Purdue is able to grab 10 additional boards that’s a lot of second chances and extra possessions. So who does Purdue need to watch out for?
- Olivier Hanlan is the leader on the BC squad. He comes in at 6’4 so will more than likely be guarded by either Terone or maybe even Basil who Painter seems to be trusting more and more on defense. Hanlan leads the Eagles with a 21 point average. He’s a scorer this one.
- Joe Rahon is going to be the one that might present the biggest challenge for the Boilermakers. You know how it seems Purdue always has a guy go off on them from distance. That would be Joe. The guy shoots over 40% from the three point line and will more than likely be the guy Purdue has struggle with if history is any indication.
BC is in many ways a mirror image of the Boilermakers. Both teams have talented players but haven’t played like talented teams at times. Purdue has been inconsistent while BC just can’t seem to put it all together. It might not be a pretty game but I do expect Purdue to eek out a win and help out the conference. B1G pride.
Purdue 76, BC 73 (My record 7-1)
Somehow Purdue found a way to win tonight against Siena in what can only be described as a tale of two halves, yet again, for this Purdue basketball team. The first half saw Purdue fall behind early and never recover. The body language, shot selection, and defensive effort were all terrible. The second half, for the last 16 minutes or so, was a complete 180 with the team making the extra pass, finding the open man, moving on offense, and actually playing some solid defense with their feet rather than their hands. Purdue was down 16 at one point in the second half but somehow came away with a 68-63 victory. Purdue finally took the lead with 27.9 seconds to play in the game on the back of a Ronnie Johnson assist to Basil Smotherman off a long rebound. After that Purdue added a couple free throws and that was all she wrote. Purdue snapped the two game brutal losing streak and gave a glimmer of hope to the Purdue faithful who had endured three straight losses over the long weekend.
Basil Smother your JWMPOTG
John Wooden Memorial Player of the Game (JWMPOTG)- Basil Smotherman gets the nod here as he moved into the starting lineup and made the most of his opportunity. If you follow recruiting you heard that Smotherman would fill a Kelsey Barlow type role on this team but with hopefully less attitude. Basil was brought in mainly for defense and rebounding with everything else a nice little extra. Tonight that little extra was the dunk that put Purdue ahead for the first time and led to the Boilermaker victory. Smotherman played just 19 minutes but was 3-5 from the floor and grabbed 5 rebounds and had a block, a steal, and an assist. The sexy choice here would be Ronnie Johnson who went 11-2 from the line but his 1-6 shooting from the floor led me to give the nod to Basil.
The first half tonight had all of the problems we’ve seen so far this season. Hero ball was the rule of the day in the first half as Ronnie and Terone Johnson constantly drove to the hoop and threw up wild shots that had close to no shot of going in, and most of them didn’t. The brothers Johnson were 1-5 in the first half and I’m amazed it wasn’t much much worse. As a lot of Purdue folks pointed out on twitter during the first half Purdue is playing a motion offense with hardly any motion being used. The key to the offense that Painter runs is that the ball moves and the players move. Neither of those things were being done in the first half as evidenced by the first half stats of 10 field goals to just four assists with nine turnovers. AJ Hammons turned it over four times himself with most of those being due to his inability to hang onto the basketball down low. He bounced the ball off his foot, got it knocked away, and even had one bounce off his thigh. Despite all that Hammons did have the best game of his season as he was 7-9 from the floor and 2-2 from the line while also grabbing nine rebounds. Couple that with Jay Simpson going 5-9 from the floor and grabbing four rebounds and you can see the 5 was the most productive position on the floor for the Boilermakers. Despite the solid play from Simpson and Hammons Purdue found themselves down 13 at halftime after scoring just 30 points.
Coming out of halftime, remember when Purdue was a second half team, my hope was that Purdue would come out with the fire and intensity we have seen from previous Painter led teams. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case right away. Siena was able to push their lead to 16 at one point and regardless of what Purdue did the lead didn’t fall to below 10. Then, slow and steady just like the fabled tortoise Purdue began to chip away. An AJ Hammons layup here, a Basil Smotherman shot there and suddenly we had ourselves a ballgame. The Purdue defense also picked up the slack holding Siena to just seven points in the first 11:25 of the second half. Keep in mind at that point Purdue was still down by four. That’s how bad the Purdue offense was playing. Despite holding a team to seven points during a quarter of the game the Purdue offense wasn’t able to take advantage to build a lead. Instead they slowly chipped away. I’ll admit I was pessimistic. I thought the game was over and Purdue would hobble home to West Lafayette with their tail between their legs recipient of three straight losses. I was wrong and I’m glad to be wrong. Purdue took advantage of some poor shot selection by Siena, some great defense by the JWMPOTG, and some excellent free throw shooting to finally take the lead. It helped of course that two of Siena’s players who just happened to be two of their three top scorers fouled out of the game. Purdue took advantage of the breaks and took the lead of the aforementioned Smotherman dunk.
- AJ Hammons finally showed up for a game and Purdue was able to get him the ball. Amazing how effective a 7’0 big man can be.
- Three point shooting was porous today with Purdue going 3-13 from distance. Kendall Stephens struggled through a 1-4 day but still has the green light to fire away if he’s open.
- Free throw shooting won the day for Purdue. They went an incredible 21-26 on the day including the crazy 11-12 from Ronnie Johnson. Terone was a lackluster 4-7.
- Purdue lost the rebounding battle 36-31 and gave up 10 offensive boards to Siena who took great advantage of those second chances.
- After having nine turnovers in the first half Purdue committed just two in the second. That’s how you can tighten up a game when your offense isn’t clicking.
So what did we learn from this three game trip in Orlando? Well a couple of things I’d say. First off this team CAN be good. We saw them play a great second half against the #5 team in the country. If they had played that way for the entire game there’s no doubt in my mind they would’ve won the game. We also learned that they can be bad, very bad. The way Purdue played against Washington State won’t cut it in the B1G. Hell, the way they played tonight certainly won’t cut it either. Purdue’s got a lot of challenges and problems to overcome but rest assured there are reasons for hope. Can Purdue build on those reasons and get back to the NCAA tournament this season? That remains to be seen. Right now they are 6-2 and returning home.