Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Just short

This game had a similar feel to the Wisconsin game in several ways.

Purdue again got off to a terrible start. Although it wasn't as bad as the game against the Badgers, where it was down 18 points less than ten minutes in...it was close. On Tuesday night it found themselves down as many as 8 and only had 5 points more than eight minutes into the game. This is probably the worst things this Purdue team could do; it gives confidence to the opponent that they can win in Mackey and most importantly, it take the crowd out of the game.

The inability to defend the high-ball screen was a huge factor in the Wisconsin game. Remember, we would    be slow to recover making the third defender come off his defender, leaving a sharp-shooter sitting comfortably in the corner to nail a dagger three (Bruesewitz). This game was no different. Hummel would for some reason switch on the ball screen, leaving Jordan Morgan to roll to the basket on a 5-foot-9 guard. What's wrong with playing straight up, not switching all ball screens, and seeing if Trey Burke, a freshman, can hit a three? Or you could hedge, like Purdue usually does (we did it some tonight), and scramble back to defend your man. That's what we did with J.J. The problem is Johnson is gone and so is his quickness, and Travis Carroll is too slow to recover on most hedges. This happened in the Wisconsin game as well. Not sure why Matt Painter didn't make any adjustments on this all game. Michigan got easy buckets time after time on this.

Purdue made a great comeback in the second half. Actually, so impressive that it amounted to a 20-6 run and the lead at 51-47. Just a few plays after, Painter decided to break the starting five that got that run. If you remember, this is exactly what happened against Wisconsin. Most notably with player Anthony Johnson. Johnson didn't have a great statistical game, but his presence, effort, and ability to drive to the basket was part of the reason Purdue made its comeback. Why take him out? Let the kid play. He's going to make some mistakes - he's a freshman. But his ability to score is huge for this team, and when he's riding the pine, you can see some of the affects.

Enough with the negatives.

Lewis Jackson played great tonight. I posted at halftime that he needed to attack the basket. He must have been listening because he came out of the half looking really good. He finished the game with 17 points and 8 assists. He set up a lot of our shooters on his drives to the basket. When he went down with what looked like cramps with about four minutes left was big. He came back in just a little bit later but his absence was noticeable for those few possessions.

Robbie Hummel made some big shots tonight. He finished the game with 16 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds. That's a pretty good stat line. When he missed a few shots from the perimeter in the first half, he decided to go inside and he did some damage. It was tough to see him miss that three at the end because he did play a very good game.

Jacob Lawson did some good things. He impacted the game with a couple nice blocks and had some good rebounds. He's looked like he's taken a few steps back since Big Ten play started, but its probably just Big Ten season and him being a freshman. It was nice to see him make an impact.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Preview: Purdue vs Michigan

In the last several games Purdue has been unfortunate in when it played certain teams.

Playing any team in the Big Ten is tough, but Purdue's opponents in the last couple games have possessed a certain mentality that have made it even harder.

They have been either desperate or angry.

Two games ago it faced a team in Wisconsin that was 1-3 in the conference and with one more loss, the Badgers could have possibly kissed its season goodbye, sending them into a season-ending tailspin. Wisconsin came in desperate for a win, got it and are now on a four-game winning streak.

In its most recent game, Purdue faced Michigan State, who was certainly upset coming off two straight losses. This and other factors, including the whole transportation hiccup, contributed to a twenty-five point loss.

And, well, after a disappointing loss at Arkansas Saturday afternoon, Michigan is angry just like Michigan State.

Michigan, who is in a three-way tie atop the Big Ten conference with a record of 5-2, had a chance to win the game in the final seconds. Trey Burke's three-point stepback rimmed in and out, which would have won the game for the Wolverines.

Michigan is a surprise team this season. Michigan still had a lot of talent returning from last season, but Darius Morris, who was their leader and best player, left to the NBA and it was thought to set the Wolverines back.

What people didn't know was how good freshman Trey Burke was going to be. Burke, who is averaging an impressive 14.6 points per game and nearly 5 assists, has been a huge for this team. He has arguably filled Morris' production with zero fall off.

With seniors Zack Novak and Stu Douglass, this Michigan team has experience mixed with young talent that make them very dangerous. Sophomore Tim Hardaway Jr. is emerging as an All Big Ten type player. He is their leading scorer at 15.1 points per game.

Even though this Michigan team is dangerous and has quite a bit of talent, Purdue has one obvious advantage: the Wolverines struggle on the road.

And good news for Purdue fans, the game is being played in Mackey Arena.

Out of the five Michigan losses this season, four of them have come by way of the road, and it has only one true road win, which was at Oakland.  The other loss was against Duke at the Maui Invitational.

Desperate and angry certainly characterizes Purdue's opponents the last couple games and really the entire Big Ten as a whole. This season has been a roller-coaster and it will probably get even more wild.

Going into Tuesday night, Purdue should be adopting both the desperate and angry mentality. Sitting at 4-3 in the conference and 14-6 overall, the Boilermakers are desperate for a win, as a loss would set them back even more in getting tournament consideration. And it should be angry, coming off an embarrassing twenty-five point beating at the hands of the Spartans.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Purdue loses by 25

Purdue didn't get to the Breslin Center until about 2 hours before tip-off due to the weather conditions.

And while certainly not an excuse, it was most definitely a factor.

It stayed competitive with Michigan State for the entire first half, only trailing by 7, 31-24. But Michigan State played very sloppy and made several mistakes that made it easier for Purdue to stay in it.

In the second half State was not so nice. Michigan State blew the game wide open in the opening minutes of the half, cruising to a 83-58 victory.

When your opponent shoots above 60 percent in a half while you shoot under 30 percent, the chances that you will win are slim to none. It's even harder to win when your leading scorer shoots 0-for-11 from the field and scores just 2 points.

I mentioned this little 5-game stretch as a crucial one for Purdue and its tournament chances.

Up next is Michigan.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A collective effort

Purdue completed its first sweep of a Big Ten opponent this season Tuesday night beating the Hawkeyes 75-68.

It wasn't easy, however.

It looked like Purdue was going to lose its second straight home game, after reeling off 26 in a row before that.

Purdue was down 11 points, 33-24, with less than 3 minutes left in the first half.

Most of Purdue's players were in significant foul trouble for stretches of the game. Just seven minutes in, Iowa was in the bonus. By the end of the first half, Kelsey Barlow, Lewis Jackson and D.J. Byrd all had two fouls.

But unlike past years where Purdue had inept depth; this year it's a strength and Purdue took advantage.

Purdue knocked the deficit down to just five at half, 36-31.

Robbie Hummel knocked down a jumper less than four minutes into the second half, which finished a 10-3 run to take the lead 41-39.

Purdue wouldn't trail again.

When Purdue was up 43-42, Terone Johnson scored 8 points in the span of just three minutes which put Purdue ahead 52-43. Johnson, who scored all of his 10 points in the second frame, attacked the rim aggressively and gave Purdue that scoring spark that it needed.

It wasn't just Johnson, either. Robbie Hummel lead Purdue with 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Although he shot just 5 for 14 from the field, he got in a little rhythm in the second half and contributed in other ways than scoring. That's what Robbie Hummel has always been good at doing: Contributing to the team in so many ways that can't be measured.

Kelsey Barlow scored 11 points to go along with 7 rebounds (5 offensive). He was key in the first half, slashing to the basket, scoring Purdue's first five points.

Lewis Jackson, who played limited minutes do to his ailing back and other players' production, scored 14 points in just 20 minutes. During the second half he was important to Purdue's success, facilitating the offense with his speed and the dribble, creating shots for others. He also shot 8-11 from the free throw line, many of which came at the end of the game.

Ryne Smith scored 12 points, shooting 3-6 from three. He had some really long bombs that dropped.

That's five players in double-figures. Not too many times - if at all - did you see that while Moore and Johnson were here. That's not to say Purdue is better, but it is definitely deeper than teams in the past.

And how about Travis Carroll?

The much maligned sophomore scored 8 points on 3-3 shooting. Carroll, who also grabbed 5 rebounds, continues to show signs of improvement and potential. His confidence is the most evident, however. Before, if you gave him the ball in the post, he would likely pump fake, pass, or get blocked. These past couple games he is going up stronger with noticeable confidence. Good for him.

As most fans know, the next five games on Purdue's schedule are tough to say the least.  On Saturday it travels to Michigan State who is coming off two straight losses. After that, Purdue comes back home to battle a tough Michigan team. The third game of the five game stretch is a tough one at Northwestern. Purdue always struggles to play in Evanston. The final two games of the stretch are at home against Indiana and at Ohio State.

How Purdue plays during this stretch may be the deciding factor in its tournament hopes. If it can survive this stretch with at least two wins, that would be acceptable. The Big Ten is crazy this year, so expect anything.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Iowa comes to town

When Purdue visited Carver-Hawkeye Arena in its first conference game of the season on December 28th and won by only three, it looked like Purdue was going to struggle going forward, only beating a mediocre team by a few points.

The struggling part for Purdue is yet to be seen, only five games into the conference season.

But the label of mediocre doesn't describe this Hawkeye team anymore.

Since its loss to Purdue, it has won three of their last five, most notably a win Saturday against thirteen-ranked Michigan.  While not remarkable by any means, this team has improved, and its not the pushover everyone thought they were to begin the conference season. In addition to beating the Wolverines, Iowa knocked off Wisconsin at the Kohl Center and beat a decent Minnesota team on the road as well.

Although it has been playing well, it is a team that is experiencing the ups and downs of a roller coaster season similar to what Purdue has been going through. It is a team that lost by thirty-four at Michigan State. Even though it has improved, the Hawkeyes still have a way to go.

Purdue has a way to go as well. Coming off its loss to Wisconsin on Thursday, the Boilers sit at 3-2 in the conference and 14-5 on the season. Last Thursday was just another example of the inconsistency of this Purdue team. It mounted an impressive comeback, but its trend of not starting games with intensity and emotion caught up to Purdue again. At the beginning of the season Purdue was unable to finish games, now it is having trouble starting them. Obviously this is concerning, not being able to start and finish games consistently.

This is a game Purdue needs to have. It needs to take care of business at home and steal a couple on the road. Wisconsin was a game it should have won, and Purdue didn't take advantage. This is one of those games that if you lose, it almost knocks Purdue out of a spot in the tournament (for now, it can play its way back in). If you win, that is good, but you are at home and in the Big Ten that is to be expected. Especially in Mackey.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Late for class

Purdue's 26-game home winning streak was broken in a 67-62 loss Thursday night against Wisconsin.

The inability to successfully put together a complete game by the Boilers doomed large again.

Before fans could even take off their winter coats, Wisconsin had seemingly won the game. No more than ten minutes into the game Purdue was down eighteen points.

During the non-conference portion of its schedule, Purdue couldn't close out games, blowing big leads to both Xavier and Butler.

But more recently, Purdue has struggled to do the exact opposite. In its 20-point loss to Penn State, Purdue came out lethargic and unprepared. Although they played poorly for the entire game (except for a small run), it lost because of the first ten minutes and how they came out of the gate.

Against Wisconsin it was more of the same. Purdue came out soft and got hit in the mouth.

Not sure who this all falls on. Matt Painter's job is to prepare this team, but it is also the players job to go out and do it. The seniors need to do a better job of getting this team ready to play. The way they can do that is to lead by example. That's what leaders do. Hummel, Smith and Jackson all have to come out with more emotion and hustle to start the game.

It is concerning that this team struggles to start and finish games. That's not a good recipe for winning basketball games.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ice cold in Madison

Wisconsin walked into Raleigh, N.C., ranked seventh in the nation on November 30th.

It walked out as a loser by three in its ACC/Big Ten Challenge match-up against North Carolina, and its been downhill for the Badgers ever since.

Coming off a 59-41 loss to Michigan Sunday, the Badgers have lost their last three games, a streak sparked by a stunning home loss to Iowa.

It's widely known around the Big Ten and the country that in the past, for you to win in the Kohl Center, you had to play great, if not perfect. So for Wisconsin to already have three losses on its schedule at home, there seems to be something wrong with this team.

Undoubtedly the loss of Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil have contributed to Wisconsin's struggles so far this season. With 18.3 points per game lost with Leuer and a significant outside threat from three in Nankivil gone, they are a team that lacks scoring, even with a great guard in Jordan Taylor.

Similar to Purdue, Wisconsin's success revolves heavily around its ability to knock down the three. 

And that ability for much of this season has been shaky to say the least.

They have shooters. With Mike Bruesewitz, Ben Brust and Jordan Taylor all on its roster, the talent to shoot consistently from deep is there, but its yet to show itself.  Wisconsin shot 3-of-28 from three - that's a ridiculous 10.7% - against Iowa on December 30th.

It's not just from three, either. They are cold from everywhere. On Sunday against Michigan, they shot just 31% from the field. 

So a reasonable question is: Are they just a decent shooting game away from getting back on track?

You have to remember that this is still the team that fought tooth and nail with North Carolina in Raleigh. They also beat a very good UNLV team. It was at home but still impressive.

Oh, and they still have one of the best point guard's in the conference and probably the country in Jordan Taylor. He has the ability to take games over.

Wisconsin walks into Mackey arena at 1-3 in the conference and 12-5 for the season. Purdue faced a desperate team in Minnesota on Sunday and passed the test. Wisconsin comes in just as desperate and probably more so. 

Purdue needs to win the games it should; this is one of those games. With Wisconsin struggling, it should take full advantage of jumping on them early. With the tough road schedule ahead, Purdue has to focus on locking down its home court. If it can do that and steal some games on the road, it should be more than fine come selection Sunday.

It will be comforting to know that Keaton Nankivil will not be in the building this time. He always seemed to shoot unconsciously against Purdue. He almost stole a game single-handily against Purdue in Mackey two seasons ago.   

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Must win in Minny?

When Purdue blew out Illinois to go 2-0 in the conference a week ago, there was commotion of a possible Big Ten championship in the making. Granted, it was a long shot, but with the way Purdue looked in the second half of that game, it didn't look impossible. Especially with a favorable start to the conference schedule and every team already having one loss, expect for Michigan State.

But with an unexpected and almost embarrassing blowout loss to one of worst teams in the Big Ten, Penn State, expectations have suddenly wavered and questions about whether this team can make the big dance are prominent.

It isn't just because it lost at Penn State. Sure, over the period of a grueling, competitive season there are games where you just don't play your best.  Purdue fans, for the most part, can accept that, and with the loss of Moore and Johnson to the NBA and a star player returning to competitive play after two knee surgeries, fans understood this year would have more than a couple of those games.

What it didn't expect was for a Purdue team to get outfought, outworked, and outmatched for an entire game. It wasn't that Purdue lost, it was how they lost that got a lot of Purdue fans upset and concerned about the future of this team.

Well, it doesn't have much time to think about their performance on Thursday as they visit Minnesota Sunday. A Gophers team that, at 12-4 and 0-3 in the conference, are fighting for their tournament lives. A loss for Minnesota Sunday would put them winless through four conference games and seemingly out of post-season contention.

Conference road games in the Big Ten are tough, no doubt, but even more tough is a road game against a desperate team. That's exactly what Minnesota is right now: Desperate.

To a lesser extent so is Purdue. After taking a trip to the Barn, Purdue faces seven ranked teams in its final fourteen games that include road games at Michigan Sate, Ohio State, Michigan and Indiana.  It's tough to say Sunday is a must-win, but Purdue better play like it is.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Blown out

There's not much to say after a performance like the one we just witnessed.

Getting absolutely embarrassed against a Penn State team that is the worst team in the Big Ten is just unacceptable for Matt Painter and Purdue. Anybody that says this Nittany Lion team is a good one is flat out lying.

Purdue didn't come out ready to play and it paid the price.

Because it wasn't ready to play, Purdue scored a season low 18 points in the first half and was down 14 by halftime.

It tried to mount a comeback, coming out of the half with more energy and determination, but when it cut the lead down to four, 36-32, Terone Johnson's offensive foul and missed three-pointer sealed Purdue's fate.

Instead of fighting back and battling every possession, Purdue, from then on, got blown out of the building.

Some thoughts:

-Lewis Jackson was a complete no-show tonight. He has to be hurting more than what is being reported because he didn't do anything. At the beginning of the season he was on fire, running the offense effectively and really posing a threat offensively, but recently he has just fallen off tremendously in production for this team. He has to be around 60% health wise.

-Ryne Smith couldn't hit anything. He had quite a few looks that he usually knocks down. Tonight he wasn't hitting and it was a huge hit to Purdue's production offensively.

-Terone Johnson probably played his worst game as a Boiler. The two mistakes he made in the second half spurted the run by Penn State and he was really sloppy with ball, turning it over numerous times.

-Jacob Lawson looked completely lost out there. He had several chances to corral rebounds and just didn't get them.

-It has been stated often by Purdue fans that when we face a zone, we struggle. There seems to be no movement and when we aren't hitting our perimeter shots, we look terrible. You have to attack a zone, you can't just sit around the perimeter hoping shots will go in.

-Defensively there's not a lot to say. We let Billy Oliver hit 7-of-11 three-pointers.


-There weren't many, but D.J. really played his heart out. Not only was he knocking down threes, but he was hustling. His improved play these last couple games is great to see and hopefully he will get some more playing time because of it.

This was a shocking loss for so many reasons. It's tough to win on the road, but really, is this even considered a road game? The atmosphere is terrible at Penn State and there is basically no one in the stands. Not an advantage if you ask me.

Don't want to seem too negative here, but it's hard not to be when Purdue plays so poorly. It's not the end of the world, however, no matter how tough this loss is to swallow.

Purdue faces Minnesota on Sunday and if it wants to get into the NCAA tournament, it needs to come out ready to play and play Purdue basketball.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Purdue looks to stay undefeated in conference at Penn State

After arguably the best all-around game Purdue has played in this season against Illinois, the Boilermakers head to Penn State in attempt to start the conference season off 3-0.

Similar to the match-up it faced against Iowa in the first game of the Big Ten season, Purdue visits a team and a atmosphere that can sometimes put you to sleep.

The Nittany Lions (8-7, 0-2) are clearly, with the loss of their prolific scorer Taylor Battle to graduation, one of the worst teams in the Big Ten this year, if not the worst. With the loss of Battle, Jeff Brooks, Andrew Jones and David Jackson, Penn State lost 78% of its scoring from last year. With five seniors graduating from last year's team, Penn State adds seven freshman to its roster.

It goes without saying that this team - as young as they are - is still getting acclimated to Division I basketball and players that were just role players last year are forced to assume bigger responsibilities.

Players like junior Tim Frazier. Frazier, who averaged just 6.3 points per game a season ago, has nearly tripled his average this season at 17.3 a game. That's a huge step for a player that was far from a scorer his first two years at Penn State. At times he was considered an offensive liability because of his size and inability to hit the open jump shot.

A lot has changed for Penn State and Frazier, though.

With tons of inexperience on Penn State's roster, especially in the frontcourt, look for Robbie Hummel to have a big game. Hummel has struggled with his shot ever since the loss to Xavier, but look for him to get going early as the Nittany Lions have nobody that can match-up with him.

Obviously no game in the Big Ten is taken for granted, and on the road it's even more tough. Purdue needs to come out ready to play and sustain it for 40 minutes.

This is another chance for freshman Jacob Lawson to log some more valuable minutes as he continues to get a feel for the competitive nature of the Big Ten, and it also gives a chance to Travis Carroll to get more confidence and continue to get better and improve.

Prediction: Purdue 73, Penn State 56

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Hammons is huge for Purdue in more ways than one

Last week InsideMackey profiled three of the four commits in the 2012 class, today we take a look at the last addition to that class, A.J. Hammons.

With the 2012 class always projecting to be a four-man class, Matt Painter entered the 2011-2012 season with three verbals. It turned out with Gary Harris' interest late, Purdue was willing to add two. The only two players that Matt Painter wanted were Gary Harris and A.J. Hammons.

Well, Painter got one of those two, and probably not a better player than Harris, Hammons seems to fit what Purdue "needed" more. 

It would have been nice to get Hammons and Harris, but realistically Purdue got in on Harris pretty late and going against Michigan State, with all those Final Fours and Tom Izzo, it was too much to ask (even with all the signs pointing to Purdue). With this said, Purdue has plenty of talented guards on its roster and some promising recruits on the way. 

What they didn't have before Hammons was a true 5. 

It can be argued whether a team ever truly needs a true center, but with Purdue's inability to recruit game changers in the frountcourt after J.J., it can only help.

It seems like there is so much to talk about with the other three recruits in this class and there is, but with Hammons, there seems to be even more talk. 

Hammons is one of the few true centers to come to Purdue in some time. A true center with ability and potential that is. 

At 7 feet, weighing around 270 pounds, Hammons is that physically imposing post player that Purdue fans have been looking for, for what seems like forever. He is that back-to-the-basket player Purdue fans have always wanted. 

With the ability to use both hands around the rim, Hammons has great touch for such a big human being. He can shoot over either shoulder with equal effectiveness. Sometimes you just want to see him put on a mean face and just dunk on everybody, and it looks like he could do it - he is that big. His footwork is equally as good as his touch. For a big man, his footwork is quite remarkable and it gets him a lot of easy buckets around the rim. 

As he joins fellow big man Jay Simpson in the 2012 class, he and Simpson posses many of the same attributes, both good and bad. The good: size, rebounding, footwork, touch around the rim, passing out of the post and in transition. The bad: work ethic and motivation. 

Simpson has been working on this and has gotten in better shape, so has Hammons. He looks a lot more in shape this year and he is moving better than ever before. You have to remember folks, this guy is 7 feet tall. You can't expect this guy to run up and down the floor like JaJuan. Those types of players don't come around very often. So Hammons looks to be in better shape, but he needs to start showing more emotion and effort out on the court. He needs to develop a mean streak because right now, as a 7 footer, he can sometimes be labeled as "soft".

From watching some of his games on televison, playing for Oak Hill Academy this season, he plays in a system that really isn't suited for him to succeed. With several Division I guards on this team, they like to get out and run, and rarely look to feed him in the post when in the half court. Consequently, it looks like Hammons doesn't give it his all because of this. Its like he says, "Well, if you're not going to pass to me or even give me a look, why should I work hard for you?" That's what it looks like while watching him play on television. Now, that's not an excuse for Hammons to not give it his all, but you can see that might be where he's coming from. Again, it's not like he's giving no effort, just at times it looks like he can give more than what he's giving.

Ranked a three-star and 123rd by Rivals.com for his class, Hammons has that one all important word that rides side by side with his name: potential. At 7 feet, he has size that no more than a handful of players have in his class. With the change of system, a weight training and diet program implemented and some added motivation, Hammons has all the tools to be a special player at Purdue. 

As he arrives next year as a freshman, he will bring Purdue a few things right off the bat. Something that Purdue fans are always worrisome about is rebounding. Purdue usually competes well in this category despite its sometimes lack of size, but Hammons will definitely help with this. He has the ability, with that big body, to carve space out of the lane and grab a lot of garbage. The other thing he gives Purdue is that presence inside. That physically intimidating big that makes guards change their shot at the rim. He will block plenty of shots as a freshman. Even if Hammons doesn't change any physically or mentally on into next season, he will still bring those two key skills: rebounding and shot blocking.

He just needs to realize the possibility at Purdue to be the go-to center and give it is all. If he does that, there are some good things ahead for Mr. Hammons and Purdue fans. One thing is for sure, we won't be scared to go up against the UConn's and Duke's of the world like we have been in the past.