Something was off last night. GameDay wasn't in town, but even with the hated Indiana Hoosiers as our opposition that crowd was a little dull. Purdue didn't play particularly well, but the Hoosiers made just one serious run when they took a 16-12 lead halfway through the first half. After that, we couldn't quite put Indiana away, but the result never felt like it was in doubt. It was almost like the teams agreed to keep the margin between 7 and 11 the rest of the way.
I am not quite sure what to think about this game. Let's face it: If this occurred against any other opponent we would be talking about a mundane win that gets grouped with all the others. Since the opponent was Indiana, we're disappointed that we didn't take the game by the throat and throttle them. Honestly, we shouldn't care that much though. This season has always been about March, while Indiana was expected to struggle. We have bigger goals than beating Indiana, so let's take this for what it was: Just another conference win.
Positives from the first Indiana game:
E`Twaun Moore - I never thought I would see a player score 25 points, yet be disappointed still. The truth is that Smooge still isn't shooting the ball well. He was excellent in the stretch we needed him to be last night. That was when we fell behind, but he connected on his three 3-pointers. E`Twaun worked his way to the free throw line like a senior should in games like this. The Boiled Sports guys seem to think E`twaun is battling some sort of nagging injury, but I'm not so sure. Whatever it is, I am glad it is happening now instead of a month from now.
Lewis Jackson - The Hoosiers didn't have anyone that could match LewJack's quickness. It is a little disturbing that he didn't have any assists, but Indiana is a team still prone to defensive breakdowns and LewJack took advantage. That's what happened on the game's first play. Indiana got confused on defense and LewJack attacked. He also regularly won hustle plays and loose balls last night, something that Indiana will get better at.
D.J. Byrd - D.J. continues to be a guy that does a lot of little things and is developing a knack for hitting a couple of big second half shots. He is also giving us quality defense and heady passing too.
Patrick Bade - Last night was the Patrick Bade we expected when the season started. Something has lit a fire under his ass. It is almost like someone went into his brain and implanted a single order: Crash the glass. He showed a nice touch on his one jump shot, burying it and forcing Indiana to respect him as a shooter the rest of the way. Sometimes that is all it takes. If a player like Bade hits one jumpshot early it sticks in the opposition's mind and they have to respect him the rest of the way even if he doesn't shoot. I would like to have seen Travis Carroll and Sandi Marcius play some, but when Bade is outplaying Tom Pritchard there wasn't much of a need.
Kelsey Barlow - I love the way Barlow is becoming a defender and a rebounder for this team. He is also a guy that can provide a spark every now and then with a vicious "bad intentions" dunk on someone. He tried to do that to Will Sheehey last night, but came up a little short. I also like the way he handled the elbow from Jordan Hulls. He shook it off and let the scoreboard do the talking. Don't forget his cross court dime to Smooge, either.
JaJuan Johnson - I was surprised we didn't go to him more considering that he made Pritchard look silly almost all night. I will give JJ credit for handling a lack of uncalled hacks well. He also was a solid passer. Indiana decided that they weren't going to let JJ beat them and even triple teamed him at times in the second half. They still couldn't really stop him. Defensively, JJ was an absolute force with four huge blocks.
Terone Johnson - TJ had a bit of an edge last night and seemed ready to attack more. Now he just needs to finish. I think we're starting to see the stirring of the E`traun 2.0 we thought he could be.
Defense - Both teams played the defense that we're accustomed to seeing from an IU-Purdue game. We did a good job of extending their possessions and forcing them into tough shots (which Hulls, Sheehey, and Verdell Jones III knocked down occasionally), while Indiana allowed us few easy baskets. There was your typical Jim Burr officiating (re: touch fouls on some possessions were called, while everything short of "penetration" on other wwasn't called), but it went both ways. Ultimately, we did a good job of maximizing IU's liabilities. Jeremiah Rivers, Pritchard, and virtually the entire bench were offensively liabilities last night. Victor Oladipo, who is a solid player that is very effective when he is in, was their only bench scorer and he fouled out.
Negatives from the first Indiana game:
Sloppy play - This is where we are glad this was the home game at Indiana. Since Burr favors the home team in every game it is a sure thing that we don't benefit from some of the calls last night if it was played in Bloomington. Even then, we had a lot of sloppy turnovers, especially in the first half. Our play was good enough to beat a team like Indiana, but far from what we need in March. We need to tighten up our ball security and defend the end fo the shot clock as well as we do at the beginning. We simply must play better, or this is a game we could lose in Bloomington.
Field Goal shooting - We couldn't hit anything for long stretches last night despite good lucks. If we shoot even 5% better we win by about 25.
It feels like we ahve another long break before heading to Illinois on Sunday. I will be in attendance at that one as the first credentialed media game for Hammer & Rails of the season. The Fighting Illini are struggling, but they are still a tournament -worthy team. right now I would say we're a target for a second round upset for our play, while Illinois is good enough to get to the second round. That means it is a good test to see if we can make it out of the first weekend. We need a good road win and this may be our best opportunity left considering how far Michigan State has fallen.