After today's emphatic win over Ohio State all we need to focus on for the next 24 hours is Illinois. An Illinois win and a victory over Northwestern Wednesday night guarantees that we will have a chance to play Michigan State for the title. The hardest part is fortunately the first part. We need the Illini to put matters back in our hands. After what we showed today I am fully confident that we can take care of business from there. Yes, a likely three-way tie with Illinois and Michigan State is our best case scenario at this point, but who wouldn't take that? After all we have been through with injuries and as tough as this conference has been it is amazing we are even in this position.
My apologies to all groups of Native Americans, but we REALLY need an appearance by the chief tomorrow.
Today was the type of game that restores my confidence. Everything was working. When we play this well there are very few teams that can beat us. We were focused, we were smart, and we were shooting very well. I enjoyed listening to Larry Clisby call this game on the radio. It seemed like it was just raining threes the entire second half. Ohio State is a good team. With the way they systematically took apart our defense in Columbus I was very concerned about this game. It's almost like we were a different team from our first meeting.
Positives from the second Ohio State game
JaJuan Johnson and Namanja Calasan - I don't think there is any more doubt as to how much we need both of these guys. I hope we don't take a step back next season with Calasan gone. Jeff Robinson and Patrick Bade will need to step in immediately and provide help for JaJuan. They gave us 26 combined points this afternoon and their defense really made a difference. I have no doubt in my mind that Thursday night in Ann Arbor would have been different had Calasan played and JaJuan not been in foul trouble. I think Calasan's mere presence allows JaJuan to relax some and therefore keeps him out of foul trouble.
One of our best lineups is with both of them on the floor before Calasan can draw a forward out on the perimeter to him. I know we have essentially eight guys capable of starting, but this could be our best lineup at the moment:
PG: Lewis Jackson
SG: E'Twaun Moore
SF: Robbie Hummel
PF Nemanja Calasan
C: JaJuan Johnson
The only problem with that lineup is that we don't have Kramer in there as a lockdown defender, but I know we can still get him plenty of minutes. That above lineup may be our best offensive five, but defensively I'd put in Kramer for Moore and allow Calasan and Johnson to concentrate on the interior defense. With those two down low I really like LewJack's quickness and Kramer's tenacity on the perimeter. That leave Hummel to range between both and generally cause havoc.
Yes, I have thought about this way too much.
Training Staff - When I first came to Purdue I started as an athletic training major. That lasted all of three weeks when they said that of the 70 in my first athletic training class, they might take 12 into the program. At the time I changed majors because I didn't want to waste a year, but I do regret the decision tot his day since I got A's in all the anatomy classes. Our training staff deserves a round of applause not just for helping Robbie Hummel to get healthy and playing his best these last two games, but for all the injuries and illnesses they have had to fight through. I think E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson are the only guys that have been completely healthy all season long. The training staff has had to deal with an array of injuries that have threatened the seasons of multiple guys, but we still have everyone. My hat is off to them.
Rebounding - I cannot believe the difference between this game and the first one in terms of rebounding. We owned the glass 32-17 today and allowed only five offensive rebounds while getting 13 of our own. In the first game the numbers were almost the complete opposite. In the first game Ohio State outrebounded us 34-18 and had eight offensive rebounds to our two.
3-point shooting - We're not Butler. The Bulldogs are a team that builds its success on its ability to shoot the 3-pointer. In most games they hit a ton of them because they are bunch of Indiana boys that came out of the womb shooting a jump shot. In the rare event they aren't hitting that is when they struggle. While we're a good 3-point shooting team, we're not as good as Butler and I feel like we sometimes take too many. When we do start hitting them, like today, it makes us look that much better. It's easy to blow away a team in the second half when you hit 7 of 11 triples in said half.
The second half of games at Mackey Arena - This year we're like Mariano Rivera in games at home. Against Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan State we have simply blown the doors off of a good team after halftime. Only Duke and Illinois have been able to withstand our second half surges at home.
Defense - Evan Turner got his points, but he was unable to distribute the ball like he did in Columbus and Ohio State's offense suffered for it. Today he had two dimes and five turnovers. In Columbus he had 12 assists with 26 points. Remember my point from the Minnesota game and our defense on Al Nolen. Often it is more important to disrupt the catalyst of the offense rather than the main scorer. If the ball cannot get where it needs to be at the right time then you don't have to worry about blocking a shot or defending an easy opportunity.
Negatives from the second Ohio State game:
Shooting 3-pointers when up 20 with less than two minutes to go - I know it made Chally's stats look better, but I did think it was a pretty classless move to shoot 3-pointers at that point. We're better than that. I don't have a problem with letting the bench mafia runt he offense and even getting some good looks at the basket, but threes are a little excessive. I also probably would have put Reid and Wohlford in about two minutes earlier because the game was clearly in hand.
Yes, this is nit-picking and looking for a negative.
My final thoughts consist of three words, directed at Champaign, Illinois:
Beat The Spartans.