After the unnecessary excitement that was the High Point and Western Carolina games, it was nice to stifle a team defensively in the second half and walk away with a comfortable 25 point win. Sure, it was only a sub.-200 MAC team, but with the difficulty we have had of late against some pretty mediocre teams, I'll take what I can get. I feel like we're hitting a bit of an early season wall right now, especially with the Puerto Rico tournament and some other big-time games like Xavier. It will be nice to have a week off now with no games due to finals.
These games make it hard to learn anything about your team. If you win a close game, people are worried. If you win in a blowout like this you only did exactly what you were expected to do. It's kind of a lose-lose situation. All you can really do is go out and win like you are expected to win.
The good part is that we got a total team effort in this one. Jacob Lawson, Sandi Marcius, and Travis Carroll gave us a halfway decent game in the paint with a combined 11 points and nine rebounds. Those are numbers we can live with if we get them as a combined effort every night. We shared the ball with 14 assists and outrebounded them by nine. At this time of year you want small steps like this.
Positives From The Eastern Michigan Game:
Rebounding - We do not have a singular player that is going to give us 10 boards per night, so we're going to have to rebound by committee in each game. I think Kelsey Barlow can be our best rebounder because of his ability to crash the glass, but it is always a question of effort for him. Today we spread things around. D.J. Byrd gave us six boards. Carroll had five. Robbie Hummel had eight. Ryne Smith had five. There are too many good big men on our upcoming schedule to not work on rebounding, which is always more a question of effort and position than size.
Assists - Purdue is at its best when it shares the basketball and gets everyone involved. We had 14 assists on 20 made field goals. We had 12 different players play and 11 of them scored. The only one that didn't was playing in his first game since yet another foot injury.
John Hart - It was extremely good to see him back on the court. Hart is never going to be a consistent 20 point-per-night scorer, but he has had some very big moments in his career. He has a knack for only scoring a few points per game, but they come at exactly the right time. He is a guy that can be on the floor at any time because he tends to be forgotten, only to hit a big basket. Remember: he hit the 3-pointer to break the 17-0 run at Minnesota in THAT GAME.
Negatives From The Eastern Michigan Game:
Free Throws - Come on guys, this is not that hard. Hit your damn free throws!
Field Goal Shooting - We shot 36.4% at home and won by 25. That will do against the likes of Eastern Michigan, but most Big Ten teams would destroy us.
For the first time this year I am a little concerned. We're just not playing good offensive basketball right now even though the defense was vastly improved over game like the Iona game. We have two games left before conference play, but it seems like we are playing with very little confidence despite a 9-2 record. The Xavier game wrecked us a little. It seems like most teams in the conference are getting better. Illinois is finding ways to win. Indiana is light years better than before. Ohio State (with a healthy Jared Sullinger) is terrifying. Michigan State and Michigan are cruising. We're still struggling with basic things like free throws. This isn't good.
I felt this could still be a special year, such as a top 3 Big Ten finish, when the year started. Unfortunately, there are too many major mistakes like the free throw shooting right now. I hate to admit it, but we are a fringe NCAA team that can play well and beat some good teams, but our lack of consistency at the five and our inability to hit free throws are too major fallacies that cannot be ignored. These things need to be corrected, or things could get ugly in a hurry in conference play.