Let's face it, it was a busy weekend. With the basketball team playing three games in four days and our annual defense of the Bucket now complete it has been hard to find time to elaborate on things. Fortunately, all has gone well. The Boilers averted disaster in a tougher-than-expected contest against South Dakota State, then dominated the second half against a solid St. Joseph's team. Admittedly, we might have dodged a bullet by missing Boston College in round two, but we can only play who the schedule says. Before looking at tonight's game against #11 Tennessee, here is a look back at the previous two games.
South Dakota State W 74-63
This effort was a bit sluggish to say the least. Most Summit League teams aren't deep enough to challenge top 10 teams, but I will give the Jackrabbits credit. They had a solid gameplan and never truly went away. It would have been nice to follow this game, but even ESPN denied live stats. We were left to Larry Clisby's dulcet tones over the radio for our only description of this game.
Ultimately, this was a Milton Berle game. We were challenged a little, but took out enough to win in the end. Our depth and physicality won out in the end as SDSU ran out of gas late. E'Twaun put the team on his back to get through this with 22 points. I mentioned in the returning players preview how E'Twaun had that ability, so it was nice to see it. He can take over a game with his ability and, if you believe in trends, it is his turn for a breakout year after Robbie as a freshman and JJ last year. Speaking of Robbie and JJ, they had 14 and 13, respectively, without shooting well.
Free throws were an issue in this one, as was 3-point shooting. We're going to have to shoot better than 57% from the line and 14% from long range. We can get away with that against the South Dakota State's of the world, but not against teams like Tennessee and Wake Forest.
St. Joseph's W 85-60
We're not going to get 16 points from Ryne Smith and 10 from Mark Wohlford in every game. Wohlford had four points in his career before last night. What I like about it, though, is that we showed we have more weapons than E'Twaun, JJ, and Robbie. With Smith and Wohlford notching career highs we now have eight players who have scored in double figures this season. That is what keeps teams guessing on defense because they have no idea who is going to score. Teams now don't get a break from long range when Smith comes in to spell E'Twaun or Keaton Grant. They now have to commit a man to Mark Wohlford when he plays because he can hurt them. That only frees up the floor for others.
Chris Kramer sounded like his normal annoying self in this one. I was also very pleased with the way E'Twaun's defense created transition baskets. Once things got rolling for us we couldn't be stopped. We played like we were capable of playing against a good opponent and blew them out. JJ had 18 and 10 in the middle with several thunderdunks. That is the sign of a team that is playing well. They shook off another cold start to simply dominate an opponent. It made the second half very fun to listen to.
As a team we caused 23 turnovers and committed just nine. Free throw shooting was much better at 85% with Ryne Smith splashing all seven of his attempts. I am very pleased with this game because we didn't need monster games from our starters. That allowed them to rest for tonight's game against Tennessee.
2008-09 Record: 21-13 (lost to Oklahoma State in NCAA First Round 77-75)
Blog Representation: Rocky Top Talk
Series with Purdue: Tied 1-1 (first meeting since 1981)
Our defense will be tested. DePaul held Tennessee to its lowest scoring output of the season in its 57-53 semifinal loss. Other than that, The Volunteers have scored 83, 124, and 105 in their first three games this season. That is impressive, but DePaul is really their first major opponent. East Carolina is losing to SDSU in the 7th place game as I write this. Austin Peay and UNC-Asheville will not be confused with the 1996 Chicago Bulls any time soon, either. As a result, it is hard to judge just how good the Volunteers are. This is especially true with DePaul, as the Blue Demons were awful last year and picked to finished 14th in the Big East.
The high scoring games naturally lead to some pretty good statistics. Bruce pearl's squad ahs four players averaging in double figures. The team is also averaging 22.5 assists as a team per game. They are getting everyone involved and playing total team offense. 6'7" sophomore guard Scotty Hopson is leading the team with 17.5 points in 24 minutes a night. DePaul held him in check, however, with just four points on 2 of 10 shooting. Tyler Smith and Cameron Tatum are each averaging 12.5 per game. Smith is a talented 6'7" senior forward that also averages 6.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Tatum is a 6'6" sophomore that can play both guard and forward. This is a big team in the backcourt, but I think we have the size and quickness to match them.
Wayne Chism is the final double figures scorer. The 6'9" senior forward's scoring is down a bit from last year at 10.5ppg, but it is still early. He is also the team's top rebounder at 6.8 per game. Tennessee does not employ a true center like we do with JaJuan Johnson, but they are plenty good in the paint anyway.
Tennessee is also a very deep team, but again, playing three straight blowouts have a lot to do with that. Ten players are averaging 10 minutes per game and have played in all four games so far. This includes Bobby Maze and Melvin Goins who each average 7.8 points per game. Maze was held scoreless by the Blue Demons though.
Based mostly on the DePaul game, Chism and Smith are the big guns. Smith had 14 points against DePaul while Chism had 13. They are not players that play much on the perimeter. As a team, Tennessee is not a strong 3-point shooting team like our last two opponents. Hopson and Tatum are the biggest three point threats, with Hopson averaging over three 3-pointers per game. Skylar McBee can be a dangerous 3-point threat off the bench, as he is 5 of 15 on the season. Tennessee is shooting just under 50% from long range, but that was severely limited against DePaul.
Tennessee wants to use its size to dominate games. The Vols are grabbing almost 40 rebounds per game, so we must limit them from getting second chance points, especially with their big guards crashing the glass. What we might be able to do is force turnovers. Tennessee also tends to run more than Purdue, which will be a big factor. J.P. Prince and Maze are solid distributors that are excellent at creating points in transition.
Not that this really has much bearing on a game being played thousands of miles from each campus, but I really want to win t is game because of the level of jackassery caused by Tennessee fans on Purdue's GBI forum. All you need to do is take a look and see what I am talking about. Fortunately, their real fans have been much more respectful. Rocky Top Talk is one of the finest blogs out there as well, so we'll be in good hands tonight on the SBNation side of things.
Keys to the Game for Purdue
Make them play our style
Force turnovers with E'Twaun and Kramer
Deny on the perimeter and don't allow easy transition baskets
hassle their guards and slow each possession
Rebound like our lives depend on it.
Continue hot shooting from outside (second half edition last night)
Prediction: Purdue 69, Tennessee 65