Much like Purdue's basketball season, today had its ups and down. I got in the car and heard the new HURT song when I started driving to Marion, which rocked. A St. Patrick's Day race in downtown Indy delayed me from getting my coffee, which sucked. My breakfast sandwich from Dunkin's rocked, but I got pulled over on the way to Marion. Kokomo lost, but Purdue won in the ultimate up and down. Both were in games against rivals that had already beaten my respective teams this season. In the end the Purdue win triumphed over everything, even the difficult Marion loss. I am very happy that I can sit on my couch with laptop in hand exhausted and sated, knowing that the morning will bring the Big Ten HoopsDay 5k and the potential to hang a new banner in Mackey Arena.
It has been a relief the past two nights to see the team that we all expected to see for the past few months. It's amazing how just a few minors tweaks can make us look like an entirely different team. We're hitting our shots again. We're disrupting teams on the defensive end. When we're hitting shots from outside it frees things up for JaJuan in the paint. The motion offense we run actually has motion in that regard. Things are running so smoothly right now that we will be very dangerous in the big tournament next week if it keeps up.
It was a fun day to be JaJuan Johnson
Positives from the Illinois game:
Robbie Hummel - For the second straight game he gave us the play we have desperately needed from him. Robbie has become the type of guy that is essential to our offense because he opens things up for everyone else. This is because of Robbie's versatility. He play virtually anywhere on the floor, a trait that no one else has on our team. JaJuan is primarily and inside guy. E'Twaun is a shooter and a slasher. Keaton is strictly a shooter, but can occasionally drive. LewJack pushes tempo and distributes. Robbie can do all of these, and that allows everyone else to do what they do best. Best of all, Robbie's back is holding up nicely with games on consecutive games.
Chris Kramer - Chris' offensive play gets back to a key point for our offense. When we get surprise offense him, such as 8-10 points when he usually only has a couple, that is another thing that opens things up everywhere else. Kramer is also a guy that gets what I like to call momentum points. For example, his authoritative dunk last night was worth just two points, but it had untold value in terms of setting tone and gaining momentum. Since many of Kramer's baskets come from steals created by his defensive play they lend themselves to getting the crowd involved. They also motivate the rest of the team and play a vital role in giving us confidence.
JaJuan Johnson - It was a doubly good day for JaJuan. He had a Chevy Player of the Game level of performance. Later in the evening his old high school, led by future teammate Patrick Bade, won its first ever regional title by taking down state power Lawrence North in a shocking upset. JaJuan is another guy that provides momentum points because you have to be clinically dead if you don't get out of your seat when he thunderdunks like he does. If he can ever become a dominant rebounder he will have a completely unstoppable game. When our defense contains the perimeter like we have in the past two games it allows JaJuan to eliminate everything within five feet of the basket. Just wait until we get to the NCAA Tournament and we start plying teams that haven't seen him yet.
Defense - Illinois is an up and down offensive team. When they are hitting they look very good, but today was one of those days, especially in the first half, where Illinois was completely disrupted by our defense. A large reason for that is the loss of Chester Frazier, who clearly makes them go. After Meacham made those two early 3-pointers we made the necessary adjustments and Illinois did virtually nothing for the rest of the half. It's easy to win when you hold a team scoreless for the last eight and a half minutes of the half.
Negatives from the Illinois game:
Second half - The second half of this game seemed very lackluster to me. Instead of going for the kill we just kind of held them at arm's length and didn't allow them to get too close. We still hit some shots, but it was almost like we simply tried to conserve the lead and energy for tomorrow instead of push for more. Hopefully this strategy will pay off in the long run.
Ohio State Preview: Eleven Warriors game wrap
Tomorrow is obviously a big day for us. We get another team that is capable of playing very well or very poorly, just like Illinois. Today was a day when they looked every bit as good as their talent level on paper indicates. We have seen both already. In Columbus Evan turner and William Buford went nuts. In West Lafayette we stomped the life out of them. I think we'll see a little bit of both in this game. Ohio State will play better because they will certainly remember the 25 point loss at Mackey Arena. We will play better because we have the confidence of that win.
The same things from my earlier Ohio State preview will apply tomorrow. We have to step out and not let Turner and Buford drive. When they drive they can either finish or set up Mullens and Lauderdale for easy baskets. We have to rebound well, which we refused to do in Columbus. Robbie Hummel will be huge in this area. He has been a rebounding machine in this tournament, and he was absent in the overtime loss at Ohio State.
JaJuan and Chally have to repeat their performance from the second Ohio State game. They completely dominated Mullens and Lauderdale the second time around. We had a 32-17 rebounding edge in that game. Surprisingly E'Twaun led in rebounding that day with 10. It's time for him to get more involved in the flow of things too. I honestly feel like we're going to take this thing tomorrow. We're finally getting on a bit of a roll at just the right now. Let's go raise a banner tomorrow. Purdue 62, Ohio State 58
For now though I am exhausted. It's time fall asleep on the couch and get ready for tomorrow. I apologize for the disjointed thoughts here tonight, as I am so tired I feel like I am just repeating myself. I will be running in the 5k in the morning at 11am, then I will be trying to scalp some tickets and actually attend the game. Though I won't be online since I'll probably be at the game, the Big Ten bloggers have proposed a giant Cover It Live to participate in for the final. That will be going up some time before tipoff, so I encourage you to stop by and participate.