It has been 15 up and 15 down so far. The Boilermakers are perfect at Mackey Arena this season with one game to go. The interesting statistic is that as much as people credit Mackey as being a great home court advantage, Purdue has not had an undefeated home season since 1968-69. That means even our great teams have had at least one stumble at home. The closest that this Purdue team has come to losing at home was against Penn State, when JaJuan Johnson hit a 19-footer with less than five seconds left for a one point win. Wisconsin is the only other team to be within 10 points of Purdue at home.
Of course, this is senior night for E`Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson as well. Here are the home records of the duo in each of their four seasons:
2007-08: 16-1 (lost to Wofford 69-66)
2008-09: 15-3 (lost to #4 Duke 76-60, Illinois 71-67 OT, Northwestern 64-61)
2009-10: 15-2 (lost to Ohio State 70-66, #14 Michigan State 53-44)
2010-11: 15-0 (so far)
That is a composite 61-6 record in Mackey Arena for their careers with only one real WTF loss (Wofford). The Michigan State one is a slight outlier because that was the first full game without Robbie Hummel. Both teams played atrocious basketball in that second half. Purdue was merely worse. The Ohio State loss was probably the most frustrating, as Hummel went off and Purdue was clearly the better team for 38 of 40 minutes, only to have Evan Turner go apeshit and steal the game late.
I was at three of the six losses (Northwestern, Michigan State, Duke) and the Duke loss was the only one where I feel Purdue didn't beat themselves. In the Northwestern game (also a Senior Night) Purdue made the conscious decision not to rebound in the second half. I don't see this team having a letdown tonight and beating themselves, but Illinois has the talent to straight up beat us.
2009-10 record: 21-15, 10-8 Big Ten
Postseason result: Lost to Dayton 77-71 in NIT quarterfinals
2010-11 record: 18-11, 8-8 Big Ten
Blog representation: Hail to the Orange
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 92-84
Last Purdue win: 2/13/11 at Illinois 81-70 (Purdue has won 4 straight)
Last Illinois win: 2/8/09 at Illinois 66-48
Time & TV: 7pm ESPN
Illinois has four seniors of its own that have been playing better basketball of late despite going 2-3 in the five games since we played them. Their win over Michigan may have been just enough to secure their place in the NCAA field (Assuming they don't lose to Indiana this weekend). They have some nice wins over Wisconsin, Oakland, Gonzaga, North Carolina, but bad losses to Illinois-Chicago and Indiana. I would say they are safe as long as they don't lose to IU, whom they could end up playing twice in a row thanks to the 6/11 game in Indianapolis.
Honestly, The Fighting Illini concern me only if they play to their potential. Unfortunately for them, that has been a major question all season. Demetri McCamey has been about as consistent as the French Government after the monarchy. He had a four point, four assist game against us, but had a 17-7 (with 5 rebounds) game against Iowa. Bill Cole has done very little of late. Mike Davis had 16 in our first game, but only eight against Michigan. Mike Tisdale, who, in my opinion, is one of the few players that matches up well against JaJuan Johnson if used properly, had a huge 25 against Iowa, but only nine against us.
If Illinois commits to putting Tisdale on the low block he can be very effective against us. When they went to him late in the game in Champaign he had seven points in the final two minutes, but they were already down nine when they started going to him down low. That would be incredibly frustrating for me if I was an Illinois fan. Illinois has the tools to beat us because Tisdale can keep JJ close to the basket while Davis can exploit our general lack of size.
The player we struggled to stop in Champaign was Brandon Paul. He had 23 points and consistently got to the free throw line. If he can do that again with McCamey actually showing up (and he has done so in the past against us) we could be in trouble. McCamey had a memorable Big Ten Tournament game against us as a freshman and dished out a ton of assists in the loss in Mackey last year, so there is a precedent for him to have a good game against us.
D.J. Richardson will likely miss tonight's game with a groin injury, (Sidebar: I cannot help but giggle hearing about Weber mentioning that his groin could stiffen up before the game. Send the Silver Twins after him then!). He had 13 points with a couple of three-pointers in Champaign against us, but I think McCamey is more than capable of picking up that scoring.
It is a mystery to me why this team could possibly miss the NCAA Tournament in three of four seasons. I thought they were in last year, but they were likely the infamous "first team out" With four solid seniors and impressive young players like Richardson, Paul, and Jereme Richmond this team should have been a Big Ten title contender instead of a .500 team. Then again, Michigan State is a similar type of team. So was Minnesota before losing Al Nolen. I think they, along with the Spartans and Golden Gophers, have been the victims of falling to the elite teams in the conference as well as dropping games to the surprises.
They still have plenty of talent that is capable of beating us. If I were Bruce Weber, I would keep Tisdale on the low block offensively and try to pound JJ on defense with Tisdale and Davis. McCamey, Paul, and Richardson then need to be able to create their own shots, which will be difficult against our perimeter defense. They can get around our perimeter defense if we have to pack it in to help JJ against Tisdale and Davis though. This is where Travis Carroll, as the best defensive Hanson, needs to do well. He didn't play at all in the first game, while Patrick Bade and Sandi Marcius combined for three minutes. The perimeter game didn't work the first time, so why not try the pounding interior game?
On offense, we need E`Twaun to be E`Twaun (20 points and the Assassin clincher at the end) and Lewis Jackson to keep up his run of solid play. Since it is Senior Night, I think it is appropriate that we let them do what they have done. It has worked for 61 of 67 games, so let's do it one more time with gusto.