Just another day at the office...

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It wasn’t the blowout we all expected, but it was enough. Neither team really played that well, but that is where talent comes in. The Hoosiers had no answer for JaJuan inside and E’Twaun Moore simply went off. In the end, this was a game in which everyone contributed and though we struggled somewhat, the outcome was never seriously in doubt.

It was a relief to be able to play a poor game and still win comfortably. Let’s face it, there was bound to be some sort of a letdown after Tuesday’s masterpiece against MichiganState. Our passes weren’t crisp, the offense was a bit sluggish, but we still didn’t allow IU to even get within 8 points in the second half. Everyone on the GBI board was upset hat this game wasn’t worse in the final margin, but that’s often what happens in rivalry games.

This game was very similar to the Indiana-Purdue contests during Keady’s final season and Painter’s first season. Indiana was clearly the better team, but Purdue gave them a better game than expected. In those cases the Hoosiers were expected to trounce us by 30 points just as we were supposed to win by 30 today. Instead, we fought hard and kept it under 20 each time. Indiana showed me enough today to make me believe they will be back, and they aren’t as bad as everyone thinks. Verdell Jones III is an especially promising player that will cause problems for a lot of teams once he gets a better supporting cast around him.

 

Positives from the Indiana game:

E’Twaun Moore26 points was two off of his career high, and it is a new high for the season. He was actually a little disappointing late because he didn’t do a whole lot in the second half. It was nice to see him have a game where he simply took it over early on. That made Indiana concentrate on him more and we were able to shift the offense to JJ and others at that point. The second half was mostly an "offense by committee" half, but I don’t care where the points come from as long as we get them.

Marcus Green – Marcus has really come on in the last two games. He has played like we need him to play. In 20 minutes he gave us nine points, five boards, a steal, and two assists. It was probably his best game since the Michigan game in terms of filling the stat sheet in multiple areas. With the star power we have I think Marcus is one of our most important players. He does all those Little Things that we need role players like him to do. He also has the experience of formerly being a major contributor from earlier in his career.

His freshman year we needed him to play because of injuries and he posted career highs for minutes and points per night. The numbers have dropped off since, but the experience gained in that dismal year is now invaluable as a senior leader. In our six losses he has been shut out twice and has scored a total nine points and 18 rebounds. He is too important for us on the glass, especially on the offensive end, for him not to contribute his usual numbers. He even had another play today that was very similar to the way he ripped an offensive rebound away from a MichiganState player. Though that play only nets two points, it is demoralizing because it emphatically erases what opposing teams think is a big defensive stop.

JaJuan Johnson – 14 and 10 from him and it didn’t even feel like a big game. It’s only going to get better from here, folks. His scoring is up over 8 points per game from last season and he had a much better rebounding game than the past couple. He also had a couple of tips on the offensive end that he couldn’t fully corral, but he kept it alive for others. With five first half blocks there were even discussions about a possible triple-double. If he doesn’t go pro early we have possibly our best chance of winning a national championship ever in a year or two. Just imagine him with Travis Carroll, Patrick Bade, and Jeff Robinson in two years.

Sharing the basketball – This is probably linked in with our high shooting percentage today, but 17 team assists is a statistic that cannot be ignored. Best of all, it wasn’t LewJack dropping 12 dimes to get there. Four different players had at least three assists. When everyone is sharing the basketball like that it can make up for a lot of mistakes (like poor passes and poor free throw shooting).

Negatives from the Indiana game:

Free throw shooting – This is just getting ridiculous. I don’t understand the games that we struggle to shoot free throws at home. I know we’re capable of being a good team. Most bad free throw shooting teams are bad all around. We’ll be good, then bad, then good again, then abysmal like we were today. It just feels like this is going to be our undoing when we get to the tournament.

What hurts even more is that we had numerous chances from the line to make this a 20 point game. Two guys from IU fouled out and a third in Pritchard came very close. There is no excuse to shoot this poorly from the line at home. I just don’t get it. It’s like one guy starts to miss and it infects everyone else. It’s good that we got to the line 33 times, but to hit for just 54% is pitiful. It could have been worse too. We actually hit our last eight in a row (four courtesy of Bobby Buckets) to make the percentage even better.

The rule of 64 – This applied until today. When Purdue had held teams to 64 points or less we were 20-0. When they score 65 or more we were 0-6. The closest examples were the 71-64 win over BostonCollege and the 66-48 loss to Illinois. It’s a silly thing because I don’t care how many points we give up as long as we score at least one more. Still, to give up 67 points to one of the worst teams we have played is concerning. That was the result of 50% shooting and Indiana really played way too well in the paint for my taste. They are the worst shooting team in the league, but they had one of the best days shooting against us. Maybe Tom Crean knows what he is doing.

This just proves our defensive vulnerability. We were fine on the perimeter, but we allowed Indiana to do way too much inside. Pritchard and Taber are far from All-Big Ten big men and they were tearing us up. It was a game where I was glad our offense came to play, because our defense was very disappointing. That’s discouraging because we’re one of the few teams that has made Blake Griffin actually work this season. Were Kyle Taber and Tom Pritchard just that good? I doubt it.

Robbie Hummel – It’s not a mistake to see his name here. Yes, even if he plays hurt he gives us a boost that makes everyone else better, but I would have rather saved him for a game in which we needed him. His contributions to the game did not outweigh the multiple shots he took, including Pritchard’s shoulder. I don’t think it was a dirty hit. Our guys failed to call the screen out and Robbie got nailed at a poor angle.

It is clear Robbie is not going to be better until the season is over. That’s why I think we really need to pick and choose when he going to play. It’s a delicate balance we must find because we can still win the Big Ten and make a deep NCAA run without him playing in every game. I would rather have him sit today and use him in the Michigan game this week than the other way around.

The Paint Crew - An overrated chant? Are you kidding me? I didn't realize their RPI (197 according to CBS Sports) was so high. Were we comparing this to Indiana State (#202), IPFW (#231), Arkansas Pine Bluff (#252), Valpo (#253), or Detroit (#265)? Come on, we can come up with something better than this.

Final Analysis:

Indiana played well. We took their best shot today when we didn’t play that well, but our talent alone in the end was the difference. Any game you can win where you don’t play well is a positive. That is what separates the elite from the very good. We didn’t get the huge blowout people wanted, but what does it really matter? In the end, today counted exactly the same as Tuesday’s win over MichiganState. We survived a desperate team’s best shot, and we can move on.

The Hoosiers will be back and I want them to be back. As I said in the preview, I want them to get better because then beating them means that much more. It’s not a rivalry unless both teams are good and that extra element is there. It’s been missing for about a decade now, and I want it back.

Despite Robbie Hummel’s situation we are still in the midst of a tight battle for the Big Ten title. That is a battle that will get much more interesting if a hot Wisconsin team can beat the Spartans tomorrow. Here is what we need to cheer for at this point, assuming we can take care of business ourselves in the next three games:

  1. Wisconsin beating MichiganState in East Lansing tomorrow
  2. Illinois beating MichiganState in Champaign March 1st.

Should both happen, we can actually clinch a share of the Big Ten title with three more wins before we even go to East Lansing.

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