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.

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