Saturday, December 31, 2011

Purdue's strong start to second half leads them past Illinois

There were points in the first half where Purdue looked like it would lose this game. Not getting anything going offensively and D.J. Richardson hitting shots on the other end put Illinois up eight at one point. But some big threes by Smith, Hart and another by Barlow, sparked Purdue to lead at half by two.

The game at half had the feel of a grind-it-out Big Ten game with the score in the fifties.

But Purdue came out in the second half on a 32-7 run and blew the game wide open.

Some thoughts:

-What a great job by Purdue's frontline in making everything difficult for Meyers Leonard. And what about Travis Carroll. He guarded Leonard for most of the game and really frustrated him into bad fouls and a few mental mistakes with getting called for two three second calls.

-Purdue needed one of their three best players to step up in order to win this game. It might not seem like it with the final score, but without Smith hitting those threes in the first half, the outcome might be different. Smith  had 12 points, 4-5 from three with four rebounds. Lewis played fine, but you can tell he is not healthy. When he only plays 19 minutes, even though it was a blowout, there is something wrong. Hummel did not play well. He had only 5 points on 2-6 shooting. He did have 5 rebounds and three assists, however. But he needs to pick up his play. The bench can't carry Purdue every game.

-Speaking of the bench, what a game by them again. They matched their output at Iowa of 36 points for the second straight game. Another great game by D.J. Byrd. He had 9 points on 3-4 shooting with three assists. Terone Johnson was excellent. Had a big three in the second half that really got the crowd and bench fired up and had a great steal and dish to Kelsey Barlow for a dunk. Those two plays were big in getting everyone's emotions flowing.  As good as Carroll was defensively, he showed some good signs offensively. Knocked down a perimeter shot and finished around the rim with what seemed like more confidence. Obviously we need to get to a point where were not celebrating layups made by Carroll, but he looks to be more confident and that could be big for Purdue in the future. What an asset it is to have a bench like Purdue does. Today Purdue went on its huge run with mostly bench players on the floor. Usually when Jackson and Hummel are on the bench you should worry. Its almost like a boost, a chance given to our bench to prove what kind of players they really are.

-Free throws. Free throws. Free throws. 16-28 (57.1%). That is unacceptable for a Division I team but something Purdue fans have seen way too often this year. Terone needs to do something different. What he's doing right now is obviously not working. Change up your pre-shot routine (golfer talking here) with how many dribbles you take, how many looks at the rim, how many seconds you take. Do something. Geez, c'mon. He's not the only one, either. Anthony Johnson there is not way you should ever miss three of six free throws. He's around 50% for the year. Unacceptable.

-Didn't like how we got sloppy in the final ten minutes of this one. We were up 58-31with 9:15 left. Illinois then finishes the game on a 29-17 run. Obviously we were up so much and sometimes it is hard to concentrate and finish a game like this out, but that's not an excuse for a Matt Painter coached team. If Purdue wants to win games late, which it will have to do plenty of times this Big Ten season, they have to value end of games like these where they have big leads. No excuse to get sloppy. Finish the game. Run them out of the building. That should be their mindset.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Purdue faces Illinois

Purdue heads back to West Lafayette coming off another heart wrenching game Wednesday, but a game in which it won late, something it hasn't been able to say with consistency this season.

Even though it was a Big Ten road game and every game in the Big Ten is tough, Illinois (12-2, 1-0) comes in with a better team than Iowa and presents some serious problems for Purdue.


The game against the Hawkeyes was pretty up tempo for much of the game. The first half score was 45-39. If Purdue wants to win this game, it should refrain from going back-and-forth with what looks like a more athletic team in Illinois. Even though it looks like Purdue plays better sometimes when they play at a faster pace, Matt Painter realizes against more athletic teams that is not an option. More than anything it comes down to the defensive end. If Purdue can limit Illinois to playing in the half court and get them to work for their points, it would prove big for Purdue. When it doesn't stop the ball in transition and gives up easy layups on its own end, it looses control of the game. If Purdue can control the pace on the defensive end, there is no reason why painter wouldn't let the guys get out and run in transition offensively.

Leonard will be tough for Purdue to match-up with
When you put both teams on each side of the chart and check off who is better in each important category, the game looks fairly equal. Where there is a distinct advantage for the Illini is in the frontcourt with their center, Meyers Leonard. As a freshman Leonard didn't do much of anything as he sat behind seniors Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale. But as both moved on, Leonard, who came out of high school with a lot of potential, has stepped into the role as the go-to-guy for Illinois. Leonard is averaging around 14 points and 8 rebounds this season. But coming off a huge game against Minnesota with 20 points, 11 rebounds and 5 blocks, Leonard is a player that can dominate a game, and the only thing stopping that from happening night in, night out, is more game experience. Every game he is getting better and he certainly looks like a potential lottery pick in the future, if not at the end of this season.

Leonard will be a tough match-up for any Big Ten team this season, even Ohio State, but particularly for Purdue. With Sandi Macius out for the third straight game due to injury, Purdue is severely overmatched.  Freshman Jacob Lawson is projected to start his third straight game and while extremely athletic, with Leonard coming in at 7' 1'', and Lawson at 6' 8'', that is a big problem. Purdue's frontline will be at a huge height disadvantage in this game.

What Purdue lacks in the frontcourt, it should be able to make up for in the backcourt. Illinois does have a good groups of guards with Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson and emerging scorer Joseph Bertrand, but they are prone to taking bad shots and turnover the ball quite a bit. Illinois had 21 turnovers in its loss against Missouri last week and Brandon Paul had 5 of them. If Purdue can step up its pressure defensively and knock down some shots around the perimeter, its backcourt should win out in this one.

Hummel needs to shoot the ball more efficiently for Purdue to win 
With this game projecting to be a dog fight, Purdue's best players need to play better than they have been. In order to win, Hummel, Smith and Jackson have to play better than they did against Iowa. Hopefully Jackson is healing and improving his health as we speak because he runs Purdue's offense. When he is playing his best, Purdue looks like a different team. Hummel needs to play better, plain and simple. He started off the year shooting the basketball consistently, but as the season has progressed his percentage has fallen and he has had the tendency to put up some forced shots. Obviously Hummel is Purdue's best player and he needs to have the most shots on the team, but he needs to shoot more in the flow of the offense. He will get his shots. Smith needs to the same. With all this said, one of these three needs to step up and be Purdue's best player against Illinois on Saturday.

In the end, with the game being played in Mackey (even though the students are gone), the upper hand goes to Purdue in a barnburner.

Prediction: Purdue 67, Illinois 64

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bench boosts Boilers past Hawkeyes

In a game Purdue needed to have, it was the bench that stepped up and got the win.

With Robbie Hummel going 5-14 from the field, Lewis Jackson not looking quite like himself for long stretches of the game and Ryne Smith hitting just one three, the Purdue bench really saved the day.

Byrd provided a scoring spark for Purdue
The Purdue bench scored a remarkable 30 points in the first half Wednesday night.  It wasn't just one or two players, either. All five players off the bench scored at least four points and D.J. Bryd led the way with 14.

That's right, D.J. Byrd.

Someone who seemed to be buried at the end of the bench before the IPFW game due to an ailing injury and just non-production on the court, has seemingly done a complete 180 in the past week.

Byrd, who hit a couple threes in the first half, did a lot of his work off the bounce and attacking the rim. It was good to see Byrd creating off the dribble and not just settling for the outside shot, as he sometimes has the tendency to do.

The tendency for John Hart this year has also been to sit on the bench. Coming back from surgery and finding his way in a deep Purdue rotation has been difficult for Hart.
Hart's foot has been a career problem at Purdue

But he was given a chance by Matt Painter and took full advantage. What looked like a coaching moment for Painter, sitting freshman Anthony Johnson for an extended period of time, paved way for Hart to come up big.

Hart had 8 points (all in the first half) in just eleven minutes. He hit two big threes from the corner and had a smooth dribble drive step back.

The rest of the bench also contributed. Terone Johnson added 6 points, Anthony Johnson and Travis Carroll chipped in with 4.

A bench that totaled 36 points undoubtedly won this game for Purdue and it will have to be something Matt Painter can lean on this year during Big Ten play in order to compete with the best.

It will also have to be there when Purdue doesn't decide to show up on the defensive end, a common sight Wednesday night. The Hawkeyes shot over 47 percent from the field and for the most part were getting anything they wanted offensively.

With arguably Purdue's two best defenders lost to the NBA, the Boilers are not the defensive team they were a year ago, but with that said, they should not be struggling as much as they are.

Matt Painter prides himself on the defensive side and giving up 76 points to a mediocre Iowa team is not Purdue basketball.

The Bench saved the poor defensive performance in this one, but to expect the bench to produce like this every game is unrealistic. Look for Purdue to come out with a greater intensity on the defensive end against the Illini Saturday.

Next game: vs. Illinois, Dec. 31st.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Boilers face Hawkeyes in Big Ten opener

Well, its felt like forever since the last Purdue basketball game a week ago, but with the Big Ten season opening tomorrow for the Boilers, the season is about to kick into high gear.

Matt Painter faces a tough conference season ahead 
Purdue opens up conference play at Iowa Wednesday night and coming off a week break, the Boilers don't want to have a letdown like they experienced against the Hawkeyes late last season. If you remember, Purdue rolled into Carver-Hawkeye arena riding a 7-game winning steak, looking to solidify a number two seed in the NCAA tournament, only to see a less-talented Iowa squad send them into a season-ending tailspin that made the Boilers finish their season losing three of their last four.

I'm sure Boilermaker fans want to forget that one.

It's a new season and a new team for the Boilers, however.

With their inability to close out games late, Purdue, standing at 10-3 for the season, travels to Iowa City with something to prove.  Will they be one of the top four teams in the Big Ten and contend with the Ohio State's of the world, or will they take a step back and struggle to make the NCAA tournament?

It starts Wednesday night.

As proven by last year's debacle against Iowa, no games in the Big Ten can be taken for granted and facing a Hawkeye team that has struggled so far this year, going 8-5 in the non-conference, the same can be said for this game.

Basabe poses match-up problems 
Under his second year at the helm, coach Fran McCaffery's team definitely throws some match-up problems at Purdue. With Purdue's inexperienced and sometimes unproductive frontline, sophomore power forward Melsahn Basabe could be a handful.

Basabe is averaging 9.5 points and 6 rebounds in just 22 minutes. With Center Sandi Marcius still ailing from injury, freshman Jacob Lawson is expected to get his second career start. Part of the reason Matt Painter and Purdue recruited Lawson was for situations just like this. Painter not only wanted to get his frontline more athletic and versatile, but he wanted to be able to match up with the rest of the Big Ten as well. Here's a chance for the freshman to prove what he can do, just 13 games into his career at Purdue.

The Hawkeyes spread out their minutes similar to the Boilers, getting a total of nine players more than 10 minutes a game, with their leading scorer Matt Gatens (14 a game) leading the team at about 32 minutes per game. With a beaten up Boiler team (Marcius and LJ), this could be something to take into account late in the game.

This game has the makings of a no-win situation for Purdue. If you win, well great, you beat a mediocre team that lost at home to Campbell by 16. If you lose, well, it would be a tough reality check for where Purdue might be headed this season.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Purdue's point guard for the future

Johnson looks to take over at point guard

With the next Purdue basketball game more than a few days away, InsideMackey will take a look at one of the most anticipated back-to-back recruiting classes to set foot in West Lafayette for quite some time. Today we look at 2012 commit Ronnie Johnson.

Take a good look Purdue fans at your future point guard. With senior Lewis Jackson graduating, it seems that coach Matt Painter will hand over the reigns at point guard to Johnson from day one.

The 5' 10'', 165 pound senior, possesses many of the same skills Lewis Jackson stepped on campus with less than four years ago. Johnson's size, frame, ball-handling, vision, passing and quickness are all strikingly similar to the Purdue senior.

Johnson, who plays for number one ranked North Central in class 5A, hasn't always been the highly thought of prospect he is today. At the start of his junior season Johnson wasn't even ranked in the top 150 by for his class. It wasn't until his junior year that he exploded onto the scene.

Smith-Rivera will play for Georgetown next season
As a junior at North Central, Johnson averaged around 14 points and 5 assists. With blue-chipper D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, a five-star recruit by and ranked 22nd in his class, on that team among others, Johnson was primarily a distributor.

Smith-Rivera ended up transferring to the prestigious Oak Hill Academy in Virginia for his senior season, leaving the team for Johnson to lead.

As the leader of the number one ranked team this season and some lost production with Rivera gone, Johnson has assumed a bigger scoring role. Currently ranked a four-star by and 91st in his class, the point guard is averaging around 24 points and 5 assists as a senior.

The lefty guard has recently been quoted as saying he has been working on defense and shooting as he moves closer to playing for the Boilers.

One and probably the only knock on current point guard Lewis Jackson coming out of high school and on into his first two seasons at Purdue, was his shooting.  He has worked on his shot to where he is at least a threat on the perimeter now, but before that defenses would just sag off him and dare him to shoot.

Johnson can shoot the three
It looks like, and it's hard to tell if it will translate to the college level, this will not be a problem for Johnson. Although he demonstrates an unorthodox release, Johnson can knock down the three with regularity. Just a week ago Johnson hit seven three pointers in a North Central win.

Purdue fans are hesitant though because his brother, Terone, was also a considered a good shooter and scorer in high school as well. Terone, who is thirteen games into his sophomore year at Purdue, has consistently struggled with his shot as a Boilermaker. His form and release have been something of great debate by Purdue fans.

What can't be debated is Johnson's quickness and vision. Johnson might not be quite as fast as Jackson, but his quickness will get him by his defender in most cases. He has a great knack of where his teammates are on the floor and with some good big men and great scorers coming in the next few classes, Johnson should excel for Purdue at making everyone around him better. 

In order to get minutes at Purdue, you have to demonstrate the same amount of effort and concentration on the defensive end as you do on the offensive end.  Part of the reason Johnson will likely get more minutes next year than any other freshman, besides the need at point guard, will be because he is a great defender.

It's hard to throw a freshman into the fold from day one and expect him to produce, but with Lewis Jackson leaving that is exactly what Purdue needs.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Simpson gives Purdue size and potential

With the next Purdue basketball game nearly a week away, Inside Mackey will take a look at one of the most anticipated back-to-back recruiting classes to set foot in West Lafayette for quite some time. Yesterday we focused on 2012 commit Rapeal Davis, today we look at his current teammate and 2012 commit Jay Simpson.
Simpson brings size and skill to Purdue's frontcourt

It's felt like forever since Jay Simpson verbally committed to the Boilers, and well, that's because it has been. Simpson committed all the way back in 2009, while he was playing for Champaigne Central.

Now Simpson plays for La Lumiere with Rapheal Davis. Standing at 6' 10'' and in the area of 250 pounds, Simpson is one of the more interesting recruits in these next two classes.

Interesting because of what people think he can become. With his size, he has the ability to bang inside with anybody. Like Davis, Simpson possesses a college ready body right now. He also has the skill to step outside and knock down that fifteen foot jumper. If you have a chance to watch some of his highlights, the ability is there: shooting, handles, athleticism.

He shows flashes, but the knock on Simpson is that he could be a lot more than he is right now.

During his time at Champaigne Central where he played through his junior year, asthma was a problem for Simpson. It prohibited him from going as hard as he could for long stretches. Simpson reportedly joined the track team to help with his problem. From all accounts, this and getting in better shape have put the asthma in his rear-view mirror.

So what explains his low production at times and his tendency to disappear out on the court?

That's the question that most Purdue fans are asking.

It has some to do with the team he is on. La Lumiere is run by point guard Antonio "Bobo" Drummond. Drummond, who has committed to Southern Illinois, tends to overlook all the talented bigs on the team. With three talented big-men, all headed to Division I schools, Drummond fails to feed and reward them.

If Ronnie Johnson was on this team, also a 2012 commitment to Purdue, the possibilities would be scary. A pass first point guard on a team like this would be something to see, but that's not what Drummond is and part of the reason Simpson is overlooked and rarely fed the ball.

With this said, however, he needs to demand the ball more. If he isn't getting the ball he needs to do something about it. On occasion, he relies too much on his skills to shoot and handle on the perimeter, instead of going down low on the block where he can really do damage.

Simpson will join fellow big man A.J. Hammons in the 2012 class
Simpson, who is ranked a four-star by and 101st in his class, has yet to prove on a consistent basis what he can be. He shows flashes and those flashes are something to see, but in order to play significant minutes at Purdue, he needs to bring it all the time.

His talents are unquestioned. He brings size and athleticism to Purdue's front-line that they undoubtedly need. If he is ready to bring it all the time, both on the defensive and offensive end, he will play as a freshman. If not, Matt Painter will have a decision to redshirt him or not. It's up to Simpson what player he wants to become, because his potential, coupled with some added motivation and drive, could be something special.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Rapheal Davis can score from day one

With the next Purdue basketball game nearly a week away, InsideMackey, in the next week, will take a look at one of the most anticipated back-to-back recruiting classes to set foot in West Lafayette for quite some time.  Today we focus on the 2012 commit from Fort Wayne, Indiana, Rapheal Davis.

The senior shooting guard has experienced a change of scenery this year. Last year Davis played for a bad South Side team, who struggled to even win games in class 4A, let alone compete.  The often overlooked or maybe even unnoticed (by scouts) Davis was thought to be an average player on a bad team. The numbers he put up his junior campaign had an asterisk by it. He scored a lot, but on a bad team. Even though he put up about 30 a night and even had 53 one game, nothing was really made of it.

But during the transition from his junior to senior year, Davis decided to transfer to La Lumiere. Lumiere, a college preparatory school located in LaPorte, was a huge step up from South Side.

A huge step because of the difference in talent and competition. The only Division 1 talent on a South Side team, switched onto a team in La Lumiere that had a team full of college bound players. Players like Jay Simpson, a fellow 2012 commit to the Boilers and Hanner Perea, an ultra athletic forward committed to Indiana for the 2012 class among them.

This season La Lumiere, who finish up a four day tournament Thursday night, only has one loss on the season which was to the #2 ranked team in the country Oak Hill Academy. Needless to say, the competition has hit another level for Davis and before the season started, critics questioned if Davis was up for it.

Well he was and is. Recently posted on his twitter account that he has grown another inch and is now 6' 6'', Davis is the leading scorer on the high powered team at a reported 21 points per game.

A three-star recruit by, Davis has certainly proven so far this year that he deserves to move up that list. Part of the reason for a ranking - 106th in his class - that most think doesn't reflect his production is due to his athleticism and potential. The scouting report out there is Davis has peaked and has hit his "ceiling" as far as potential. There's no way to know if this is true or not, but you can't get much better than 21 a game on team full of D-1 talent. He doesn't jump out at you athletically when you see him in person and what most of these rankings are based on is potential, something that almost always goes hand-in-hand with athleticism. Teammate and Indiana recruit Hanner Perea is ranked 16th by, and while he is a terrific talent, he has yet to prove that he deserves that ranking.

Too often Purdue fans get infatuated with rankings. While they're certainly a good indicator of production in the college game, they're not the end all be all. It was just last year that Purdue was running in circles after point guard Kevin Anderson from Richmond, a guard, who happened to be an overlooked three-star.  If it makes you feel better, as the leading scorer on a team that plays a lot of nationally recognized programs throughout the year, Davis should be in the spotlight more and jump into the four-star crew by the end of the year. Don't expect a huge jump, though.

Davis isn't a great shooter (not bad either), but his ability to drive to the basket is what makes him who he is. He scores in bunches and with a college ready body right now, standing at 6' 6'', he will present a lot of problems for opponents guarding him. With that big body, he can absorb contact and finish around the rim with the best in the country. One thing that Davis also has is tenacity. He is a competitor. He has a kind of swagger that Purdue doesn't really have right now. If Davis can control his emotions as a freshman but also use it to his and Purdue's advantage, that will be big.

Another thing that hasn't been talked about by Purdue fans is his relationship with Jay Simpson. It can only be a positive that these two get to spend a year together before they step foot on campus.  Developing a friendship and a familiarity on the court could prove crucial for a young Boilermaker team next year.

Davis' minutes as a freshman should be hard to come by, however. If he plays at the strong forward position or even as a shooting guard, he will have experienced players ahead of him. At the 3 there will be senior's D.J. Byrd and Kelsey Barlow. At the 2 there will be Terone and Anthony Johnson.  Next year with Jay Simpson and A.J. Hammons and developing bigs getting an extra year this season to learn and improve, the possibility of Painter going with a four guard lineup is unlikely as well.  He will have to prove to Matt Painter that he is dedicated to the defensive end if he wants to play significant minutes. Davis does have a lot of things going for him though and probably the biggest reason he will wind up getting a fair amount of minutes: He can flat out score.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Purdue rolls 81-56 with balanced scoring

It's tough to be comfortable with any lead for a Purdue fan this year, but this game was never really in doubt.

Purdue did what it needed to do. It got the win, gained some confidence, and probably the most important thing in a game like this - didn't get anyone injured.  The Boilers, who extended their home winning streak to 25 games, headed a balance attack with six players in double-figures.  D.J. Byrd and Anthony Johnson led Purdue off the bench with 11 points. Robbie Hummel, Ryne Smith, Kelsey Barlow, and Lewis Jackson all had 10 points.

I think this balance is needed going forward. With two veterans, one who is battling back spasms and the other coming off two ACL tears, it is important for other guys to step up to help conserve their energy as much as possible. I thought Painter balanced Lewis Jackson's and Robbie Hummel's minutes well tonight. Hummel was only on the floor for 21 minutes and Jackson only logged 15 minutes. It was crucial for Jackson to not get further injured than he already is. With the amount of minutes he played, this was almost impossible. He does hit the floor too often, though. Not sure if it is a product of him trying to draw contact his entire career that it is almost an acquired habit to hit the floor or not. Maybe he is actually getting hacked - I can't tell.

Everything looks good when Purdue is knocking down shots and that's what it was doing tonight. It wasn't just knocking down shots, though. Hummel had two really nice drives to the basket early in the first half. Something that he needs to do more of going forward. Sometimes he is too reliant on his jumper and when its not falling (Butler), Purdue suffers. That rebound dunk to end the half was pretty cool, especially for someone coming off two knee surgeries. Anthony Johnson was another player that didn't just settle for outside shots. He had a couple nice floaters in the lane and was a recipient of a great pass from Terone Johnson for two as well. It looked to me that Anthony had something to prove, for the lack of playing time he was given during the Butler game. I think you proved your point, Anthony.

Travis Carroll played 26 minutes - the most of any Purdue player - with Sandi Marcius out due to injury. With all the criticism he has received this year he played well. He had a nice rebound and put-back off a missed free throw and also made what looked like a little hook shot in the second half. Obviously it was IPFW he was playing against and not Michigan State, but he played well.

With Maricus out, Jacob Lawson got his first start of his career. He started off emphatically with a two-handed slam off a screen. But what has plagued Lawson the entire year - too many fouls - earned him a spot on the bench again just five minutes into the game. His energy and athleticism is great, and much needed for Purdue, but he needs to know when to attack and when to back off. He is a freshman. He will learn.

Kelsey Barlow, who shot 4-5 from the field and had six rebounds, is quietly becoming one of Purdue's best players. We all know he can get to the rack almost whenever he wants, but he has proved recently that his shot has improved from last year and because of this, opponents might not be able to sag off him as much around the perimeter.

In case you didn't see the dunk, here it is.

Purdue starts Big Ten play at Iowa on the 28th.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Up Next: The Mastadons

Coming off another disappointing loss on Saturday, Purdue stumbles back to Mackey arena looking to hit double digit wins for the year.

You would think Purdue could never lose this game. Playing a team from The Summit League, at home, coming off a terrible loss, Purdue should beat IPFW with ease. But with that said, Purdue should have beaten High Point and Western Carolina by 20, and instead, struggled to pull out wins.

The Mastadons (7-3) have put together a five-game win streak after beating UT Martin 82-76 on Saturday. They boast the 11th best scorer in Division I, Frank Gaines (pictured left), a 6' 5'' guard, who is averaging 21.4 points per game. The only other player scoring in double figures is 6' 10'' forward Trey McCorkle at 15 a game. Their next best scorer is Mario Hines, who is averaging just 7.3 points per contest.

Purdue needs to be ready. With the students gone for break and the Mastadons coming to town, it might be hard to get up for this one.

Purdue looks to extend their home winning streak to 25 games and more importantly, get some much needed confidence going into Big Ten play.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Purdue blows another lead against Butler

Purdue looked like two different teams Saturday.

What seemed like a carbon copy of its game against Xavier just two weeks ago, Purdue came out sharp in the first half. Lewis Jackson, Ryne Smith and Rob Hummel all played like seniors should.

Purdue had several chances, by playing so well, to blow the game wide open in the first half. There were several big plays that contributed to Purdue losing this game and there isn't one that ever really decides the entire game. Every play was significant in a game like this. With that being said, however, here are some plays that were BIG.

-Purdue had the ball, a 13 point lead, and the last possession of the first half. The ball was swung into the short corner where Ryne Smith (who played a great first half and was knocking down shots) put up a three-pointer. It missed and Purdue, trying to fight and gather a rebound, fouled Butler. Butler, who was in the bonus, walked to the other side of the court and knocked down 2 free throws that they otherwise shouldn't have had.

-Purdue missed several opportunities around the bucket to go up strong, welcome contact, and finish. Jacob Lawson and Ryne Smith both had a chance to do just this at the end of the game and their shots winded up getting blocked. Not converting these and more importantly, not even drawing a foul was huge for not only the score but also the momentum. I could put this in its own bullet point, but I decided to be civil. Travis Carroll's missed bunny just a few minutes into the second half seemed insignificant at the time, but proved more than costly when it was all said and done. Carroll has missed several layups this year with seemingly no defenders in the vicinity, let alone the arena. At almost 6' 9'', Carroll should be able to finish with consistency around the basket and if its not too much to ask, dunk. His reoccurring habit of missing easy baskets is tiresome, and its happening in big games (Xavier).

-Lewis Jackson played well in the first half as he did at Xavier. It just seems, whether it's him running out of gas or hampered by an injury (he was ruffed up in this game and had to have hit the floor hard about 5-7 times, if not more), that his production falls significantly in the second half. Obviously this is not a play, but I wanted to tie it into my actual point, free throws. Jackson has been pretty good from the line this year and by no means am I blaming this loss on him. But he did have a chance to put Purdue up 3 with under 30 seconds to play. Instead he missed the front end, and Butler went down the other end and hit a floater over the outstretched arm of Jacob Lawson. Purdue is down 1 now. Jackson on the next possession gets an opening to the basket off a screen and goes to the bucket and gets fouled. He misses the first and hits the second. Looking back on it, that first miss in the end didn't matter because Butler still would've won by one. However, Butler is definitely in a different situation mentally when they are down one as opposed to tied and really nothing to lose. The missed front end was crucial. Not sure if these misses can be attributed to his injuries or even how much energy he exerts throughout the game, but they were costly. I might even suggest sitting him next game as we should be able to handle IPFW with Barlow or Terone running the point. Give him a much needed break (11 days until Big Ten season starts on the 28th at Iowa) to get healthier, because as he goes, so does Purdue.

There are probably some more key plays that I could have listed, but these are the ones that come to mind. I did think it was interesting, when Purdue was struggling to score for about a 8 minute stretch to end the game, that no adjustments were made. I'm not going to sit here and act like I know a lick about coaching - I don't. But it just seemed to me that it could have been beneficial to call a timeout, calm your guys down and set up a play for Hummel or Smith to get them a good look. How about putting A.J. in there for a minute or two and see if he provides a spark offensively. It looked to me that when Purdue was struggling to score they were just hoping it would turn around instead of making changes and adjustments. Now if that goes on Painter or the players, I don't know.

Two weekends ago Purdue blew a 19 point lead at Xavier. I said at the time that the loss would not hurt Purdue come March, well, this one today will. Sitting at 9-3, Purdue faces IPFW in its final game in the non-conference. Let's say Purdue wins and goes to 10-3.  Let's also say that they go 9-9 in the Big Ten. I would say that's reasonable, but I do think they can do better (11-7 or maybe even 12-6). With that situation Purdue would be 19-12 going into the Big Ten tournament. There they go 1-1 and finish 20-13. I would think Purdue's chances to make the tourney in that situation are slim to none.

Obviously a long way to go and perhaps my hypothetical is a bit extreme - who knows. But I will say this: today's loss by Purdue was a BIG one both in what it means for them come March and for the mentality of this team going forward.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hammons in Action

2012 Purdue commitment A.J. Hammons, who plays for powerhouse Oak Hill Academy, ranked 3rd in the nation, was in action Thursday on national television against second ranked Miller Grove.

Hammons played probably less than 15 minutes (there are 32 minutes in a game in high school) due to foul trouble. He picked up two fouls very early on in the first quarter and sat for most of the first half because of it.

When he played he was passive for the most part. With the tempo of the game, and both teams running up and down, he was often overlooked. Part of the reason for his foul trouble - which contained some questionable ones that didn't have to be called - was due to the fact that he was guarding the No. 31 recruit in the country for the 2012 class, Tony Parker. Parker is uncommitted but is looking at Ohio State and Duke. Parker had 29 points and 10 rebounds.

He did show promise, however, specifically when he took a rebound and threw down a monster dunk in the first quarter. When Hammons dedicates himself to the weight room and getting into shape (which he has already improved significantly), he has the potential to be real good for Purdue. It will also help that he will be playing in an offense at Purdue that is more structured and an offense that will maximize his potential. Oak Hill is loaded with division one talent and Hammons isn't the first or even second option on the team.

Estimated Stat Line: 4 points, 5 rebounds and a block in about 13 minutes of play.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Free Throws: Not So Free

As bad as Shaquille O'Neal was at the line, Purdue looks just as bad.

303. That's what Purdue free throw percentage ranks out of the 344 teams in Division 1 basketball.

61.7. That's what Purdue's free throw percentage amounts to 11 games into the season.

Let's look at each players statistics.

Byrd: 100% (8-8)
Smith: 81.8% (9-11)
Hummel: 80% (32-40)
Jackson: 73.2% (41-56)
Barlow: 69% (29-42)
Marcius: 55.6% (5-9)
A. Johnson: 48.5% (16-33)
Lawson: 31.8% (7-22)
T. Johnson : 28.6% (8-28)
Carroll: 25% (1-4)

The consensus out there is that Hummel, Smith and Jackson are Purdue's best free throw shooters. More of what concerns Purdue fans, however, are the ones that are shooting so poorly and also what the root of the problem may be. Terone Johnson, a guard, is shooting below 30 percent from the line. Let me say that one more time. Terone Johnson is shooting below 30 percent from the line. Has anyone ever heard of a guard playing Division 1 basketball shooting this low of a percentage? It's not like he's shot 4 free throws this season either - he's shot 28. How about redshirt freshman Anthony Johnson? Arguably the second best stroke on the team (the first being Ryne), is shooting less than 50 percent.

Remember when Barlow was a freshman and Jackson was a sophomore? They were terrible free throw shooters. Everyone was criticizing their strokes and how they could never improve in that area. Obviously none of them are going to be Ray Allen, but they have improved considerably every year at Purdue and because of this, they're not a liability when they're out there during crunch time. That is a positive for Terone, Anthony and even Lawson. That people before them that have had similar struggles - albeit not to this extent -  and have turned out to be serviceable from the line. A majority of fans are criticizing Terone's technique at the line, and while I tend to agree, let's give him some time to work on his stroke before we write him off. He was a huge scorer in high school and shot a reasonable percentage from the line. Terone needs to keep gathering confidence on the court - something that he has been doing slowly but surely - and that will help him from the strike. There are plenty of shooters out there with poor form and technique, but they always seem to put the ball in the bucket. One name that comes to mind is John Shurna. Not a great stroke by any means and most would label it unconventional, but he can fill it up and happens to have a solid free throw percentage.

What do the struggles at the line mean for Purdue come Big Ten play, or even the NCAA tournament?

Here are last year's Big Ten standings and how they fared at the line in the Big Ten.

1. Ohio State                        71.2%, 7th
2. Purdue                              74.0%, 4th
3. Wisconsin                          85.1%, 1st (1st nationally)
4. Penn State                         73.7%, 5th
4. Illinois                                76.6%, 3rd
4. Michigan State                   71.1%, 8th                
4. Michigan                            68.1%, 11th
8. Northwestern                     72.4%, 6th
9. Minnesota                          69.0%, 10th
10. Iowa                                69.7%, 9th
11. Indiana                             77.0%, 2nd

It looks like success and percentage at the free throw line are not related. Perhaps with a bigger sample the results would be positively correlated, though. For a team as talented as Ohio State last year, they didn't need to be good from the line because they were so good in so many other areas. Talented teams don't need to lead the conference in free throw percentage, assist to turnover ratio and so on, they beat you with talent.

Lets look at the teams that got to the Elite Eight last year in the NCAA tournament.

North Carolina 67.2% (233rd Nationally)
Kentucky 71%  (107th)
Connecticut 76.3%  (11th)
Arizona 74.6%  (32nd)
Kansas 67.9%  (210th)
VCU 71.5%  (97th)
Butler 72.6%  (68th)
Florida 66.9%  (240th)

These are some surprising numbers - looking at how much some of these teams struggled and their place nationally. As stated above, most of these teams were extremely talented and didn't have to produce at the line in order to win games and advance. Some teams like Connecticut were talented and excelled at the line and that brought an eventual National Title. As you can see, though, most of these teams, even the less talented ones (Butler), didn't do too well at the line (compared to the rest of the country).

For Purdue this year, they don't have the kind of talent where they can just show up and win. They have to win the categories that often go unnoticed. They have to win the turnover battle, stay competitive in rebounding and take advantage of easy points at the line - something they aren't doing at the moment. Purdue doesn't need to shoot 80% from the line, but they do need to improve from their season average of 61.7 a clip - that's for sure.

Purdue. This is what a free throw looks like.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Thoughts on Xavier

Note: If I had posted the day of, it would have been a rant. I decided to wait a couple days to address the game.

Saturday's game against Xavier was not only disappointing because Purdue blew a 19 point lead, but also the way in which it lost. Purdue played a near flawless first half - and they probably should have been up more than they were - but played just as bad in the second half.

Lewis Jackson had a monster beginning to the game, driving the rack whenever he wanted and for the most part, not turning the ball over.  The minor run Xavier went on to end the first half must half contributed to the funk Purdue was in after halftime. Purdue felt the pressure, playing a top 15 team in its building, and crumbled under the pressure.

Lewis Jackson had six turnovers, most of which came in the second half. He got sloppy and over-confident, most notably when he tried to throw down a dunk in the first half and missed.

Robbie Hummel went down numerous times, and the first time that he hit the floor, everyone surrounding the Purdue program feared the worst. Turned out it was just leg cramps - tell that to Hummel. The pictures of him on the sideline, surrounded by a mob of trainers and staff was tough to see. Purdue obviously suffered with him out of the game.

Kelsey Barlow was absent for most of the Musketeers run that lead them to victory. He was, however, present for the run that put Purdue up 19 and the player that silenced the crowd after an emphatic dunk. Matt Painter made a big error in substituting Barlow out.

Travis Carroll struggled again, and again, everyone is calling for his face. Carroll not only made some big mistakes in this one, but more of the problem to the Purdue fan is that he is afraid of making mistakes in the first place and conversely, makes more of them without knowing it. Obviously everyone is in some shape or form afraid to make mistakes, but it's plastered all over Carroll's face like a kid on Christmas. He looks afraid to attack the rim and engage in contact. His missed bunny and travel, which was a huge play at the end of the game, prove that Carroll is just not ready. Painter obviously saw something, putting him in there for 23 minutes. That could be due to Lawson being in foul trouble seemingly the entire game, and Marcius looking to have taken a couple steps back from the beginning few games. It was Marcius' first true road game he has ever played in, however. That's something to take into account.

Free throws are a concern, that's for sure. 57% is horrific. There was a point in the game where Purdue missed 4 straight free throws. Both on shot fouls. That was huge. Free throws stop runs, give you confidence and most importantly, silence the road crowd. Purdue did none of that when it missed 9 of its free throws.

It's not the end of the world, even though it might seem like it. The lost doesn't hurt Purdue come March, even though it would have helped tremendously.  Purdue will learn from this.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Looking ahead to Xavier

Going into Saturday afternoon Boilermaker fans don't know exactly what to expect. They expect the starting five to be the usual and the team as a whole to play hard, but how will the game unfold? This is the first road game (I don't consider playing in Puerto Rico to be a road game; I don't think you do either) for the Boilers this year, and it happens to arise when Xavier is an undefeated 6-0 and recently survived a tough road test at Vanderbilt earlier in the week.

Purdue is in a tough position.

Xavier is not only playing well, they have one of the best guards in the country in Tu Holloway, who's averaging 17.3 points per game.  It is reasonable to assume that our best defender, Kelsey Barlow, will defend the versatile guard.

What's surprising about the Musketeers, however, is that Tu isn't even the leading scorer on the team. That honor goes to Mark Lyons, who's averaging an impressive 18 points a contest, also a guard.

Purdue will have a tough time with these guards - as they have notoriously struggled with defending great guards, specifically last year against Virginia Commonwealth University - and in turn will have to play great basketball to win in Cincinnati.

7 footer Kevin Frease - weighing in at a mere 280 pounds - is also talented and experienced ( something, that something being experience in the front court, we lack).  Will Painter stick with a steady three man rotation for the 5, or will he give minutes to the most productive player? I think some of the times Painter gets so infatuated with depth and having players fresh, that he substitutes players in and out sometimes without noticing their productivity on the floor. I understand that with our pressure defense, players get tired fast, but put in the player that's playing the best. It seems obvious to me.  I could be wrong, but that's my opinion. I, for most of the year, have liked Lawson at the 5, as he gives us production, alongside unmatched athleticism. I think Purdue should be keeping him in there longer than the minutes he's been given. I give the first off the bench to Maricus and sit Carroll. I just don't think he is Big Ten material. I just don't.

I think what Purdue needs to do is simple: Let Lewis Jackson run the show and give him the freedom to make plays; have our aggressive guards in Terone and A.J. drive the basket; allow Smith to shoot the open threes, as that is a quality shot ( he will begin to get hot again; I can feel it); give way to Hummel and let him do his thing; and finally, make our bigs  play with energy and confidence - with no fear.

We do that, and play defense, we should be fine. Again, this will be Purdue's toughest match-up of the year, facing the 11th ranked Musketeers, but I have a feeling Purdue will show up and impress some people.

Purdue, Miami recap

Last night's game was interesting. Obviously with Miami missing some of its key pieces, it was easier for Purdue than it would have been in December. That being said, it was still a tough game for Purdue as Miami seemed to never go away. Since this is my first blog post - and I have school work to attend to, being that the semester is nearing an end - I will keep my thoughts concise.

-The Johnson's were good last night. AJ and TJ had a small stretch in the second half where they fed off each other and made some great plays that sparked the team and the crowd.
-Lawson again showed signs that he will be a stud in a few years, if not less than that. A good put back, and a composed finish around the rim, along with a couple blocks and hustle plays is exactly what Mr. Painter wants from his freshman.
-Leeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeew-Jack was great. Driving the lane with ease and having the confidence to knock down open jumpers is what we need from Lew and we got it. Keep improving on your free throws sir. a picture with him!

-The Crowd was pretty bad last night. What's with the seats behind the really expensive ones with the ipad thingy's? They're always less than half full. Did they not sell all of those seats? It makes the arena look terrible when the seats closest to the court are vacant.
-D.J. Byrd. I don't know if he is still nursing his injury, but he was a no show last night and has been invisible for the last couple games. It didn't matter because other people stepped up, however we can't count on the Johnson's totaling 21 points off the bench every game. It's possible but wasn't Byrd a prolific scorer in high school? Where has that gone? Is it due to the position change and mostly playing the four?

Again. Real short today. I'm looking forward to facing Xavier and how we will handle a tough road match-up.