Well, I was wrong again. I predicted Purdue would "roll" in its first regular season game. Instead, it stalled, barely, by the skin of its teeth, dodging what would have been an unthinkable loss. I thought I could make a prediction without doing much analysis, if any, because, well, it was Northern Kentucky. Northern Kentucky. One more time: Northern Kentucky. I was wrong.
A few things that I took away from the game:
1. I didn't see its second exhibition game, so take what I am about to say with a grain of salt. They could've been great in this area for all I know. I doubt it, but it's possible. What area am I talking about? Containing the dribble drive/keeping your man in front of you. This is a huge problem for Purdue. Huge. It was bad at containing the dribble in the first game against U of Indy and it was bad again tonight. I started following Purdue closely back in 2008. I know, not a lot of experience following Purdue basketball compared to some alumni that have been following the program for 40-50 years. I've never seen a Purdue teams struggle so much with teams getting into the lane at will. There is no resistance. None. None whatsoever. I don't know if it has to do with the new revisions on hand-checking or what, but to me, this is the biggest concern with Purdue right now. And it's not like Purdue is playing Michigan State or Ohio State. Far from it. It's really odd. Purdue's guards aren't what you would call extremely athletic. But they aren't Jim and Mark from the local Y, either. They have to do better. Maybe they have been so used to having A.J. Hammons at the rim, and he has, in a way, disguised some of the problem. I have know idea.
2. Jay Simpson was impressive. Potential. It's a word that has been linked with Simpson for what seems like a decade. He committed that early, and it seems like fans talk about what he could be every single day. He showed what he can do tonight, and even though it was against a team that has been apart of Division I for like two years, it's progress. That's a positive. To me, a lot of it comes down to Jay just finishing around the rim. Sometimes he makes a really solid move, beats his defender, but fails to concentrate and convert close to the rim. He has a solid shot. Maybe it will just take some time for him to get comfortable. He is a redshirt freshman after all. I thought his stamina looked better as well. Painter took him out fairly quickly in the first half, but he didn't look as fatigued as he did last year (I know, he only played like 10 games). Maybe that's me imagining things, who knows. When Hammons comes back, it will be interesting to see how Painter plays them. Will he play them together? I am going to guess not a lot, but it could happen. More importantly, and it was something that I referenced in my previous post, Hammons' absence provided an opportunity for other players to get more minutes and gain more confidence, so that when A.J. comes back there will be another added dimension that otherwise wouldn't have been there if he didn't get suspended. One of those players is Simpson.
Those are the two things that really stood out to me in this game. Some more jumbled thoughts:
Northern Kentucky was shooting out of its mind (13 of 26 from three) ... Peck hit a critical three in the final minute that probably ended up winning the game ... Ronnie Johnson made some bad decisions, but he played his best when it counted the most: in the final minutes. He hit two clutch free throws, and two three-pointers (one of those coming in the first half), if I remember correctly. Not sure if he could have done all of that last year. I read someone post on GoldandBlack.com basically going crazy (not sure exactly what he said) that Ronnie attacked the rim too early with 13 seconds left in the game. What do you want him to do? Attack with four seconds left, miss and the game is over? You have to give your team time if you miss, so that you can foul and put them on the line, hope that they miss, and go back down the court and try again. Pretty simple ... Terone didn't play too well, that won't happen that much this season, in my opinion ... Stephens is wet ... I'd like to see Scott get more minutes ... It's really hilarious, these message boards. One day Scott should start over Ronnie for the rest of the season. Tonight: He's not good, can't shoot, too much ego, etc... I laugh at some of these posters. Sometimes their statements are so outlandish and pessimistic that I think I am getting punkd. I mean, these people can't be serious, can they?