As a former high school English teacher, grading papers was one of the most tedious tasks I could imagine. Grading 100 of the same 5 paragraph essays, with the same terrible mistakes, made me want to punt kittens (just a figure of speech for any of you PETA inclined, I actually have 3 cats, 2 dogs and a foster dog). Anyway, I figure it is time to break out the ol' red marker and grade the Purdue players today.
PG: John "Doctor" Octeus: B+
First off, Matt Painter gets an A+ for picking up a gamer like Octeus so late in the game this year. I don't want to think of a P.J. and Bryson (even though I like both of them) platoon, it makes my old turnover injury ache.
Octeus is the steady hand this Boilermaker team needs at the point. Octeus isn't spectacular, but he does a little bit of everything on the court. Today he scored 8 points, collected 6 rebounds, dished out 4 assists, and only committed 2 turnovers. This is pretty much what I expect from Octeus game in and game out: 8-12 points, 3-6 rebounds, 4-8 assists, and a reasonable number of turnovers. He hit those expectations today, but loses a few points for getting sloppy with his handles at the end. A solid B+ for Mr. Octeus, and if you've followed Purdue basketball recently, a B+ at the point is a big improvement.
SG: Kendall Stephens: B-
Kendall went with a less is more approach today. Instead of chucking like Kobe (not quite that bad, but still) Kendall was a little more judicious. I can't remember him launching any WTF shots, which may be a first. Kendall played within the offense, putting up 9 points (3-5 from outside the arc), 3 rebounds, and 1 turnover. Kendall would have been in more of the B+/A- range, but the old specter of foul trouble reared it's ugly head again, as Stephens collected 4. Overall, a solid performance.
SF: Raphael "Ray" Davis: A+
I had to double check the roster to make sure Davis was still wearing 35. Davis came to Purdue with a reputation as a strong, slashing player who could finish at the rim. Too often Matt Painter has been forced to file a missing persons report on Davis during games. Today's Ray Davis is the Ray Davis people expected to see when he came to Purdue as a 4* recruit. Davis simply refused to be stopped. He got out on the break, took guys off the dribble in the half court, and, on a few occasions, even demanded the ball with the shot clock running down. Most importantly, Davis went 14-18 from the foul line. I'm going to wait a second and let that sink in.....
Ok, back to Davis, his final stat line was awesome. Davis scored 22 points on 4-7 shooting and was 14-18 from the line (again, just take a moment and reflect). He pulled down 3 rebounds, collected 2 steals, and only turned the ball over once. This is the Ray Davis Purdue needs to make some noise in the Big? this season.
PF: Vince "Prince" Edwards: C
Vince had an OK game today, which is better than the defensive train wreck we saw from him yesterday. Nothing to write home about, but not terrible either. He is a good rebounder and that continues to shine through, regardless of his play in other facets of the game. The ball seems to find him, and he actually goes up and secures the ball in traffic instead of just tipping it out. After a hot shooting start to his career, he has leveled out on the offense and is playing more like a true freshman. Today's he put up 6 points (4/4 from the FT line), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, and 0 turnovers. Vince will have better games this year, Vince will probably have worse games this year, this one was pretty middle of the road.
C: A.J. "Sleepy" Hammons: B
A.J. improved on his F- performance from yesterday by finally putting together a solid, but unspectacular, game. First and foremost, Hammons, while still picking up 4 fouls, spread them out enough to actually participate in large portions of the game. You could tell A.J. was awake when he erased two shots in the first few minutes of the game. I will say that A.J. is sneaky with his scoring. Today his 12 points felt more like 6 points, but they still count for 12 on the scoreboard (does that make any sense?). A.J. put up 12 points (6/6 from the FT line), 6 boards, 3 blocks, and committed only 2 turnovers. Purdue is going to need A.J.'s A game to win against good opponents, but I'll take his B game over his F- game any day of the week.
Isaac "Drago" Haas: B-
Haas didn't break the Tigers quite like he broke the Wildcats. Don't get me wrong, for an 18 year old in his 4th collegiate game, he did fine, but you saw his inexperience today. Personally, I like Haas better when he is incorporated into the offense, and not relied on to post up one on one. When Haas is isolated in the post, he tends to turn the ball over. That happened several times today. When he is isolated in the post he also tends to get fouled, which is usually a good thing, but Haas is struggling at the line. Drago contributed 6 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks, and an assist. He also committed 5 turnovers and went 0-4 from the line. You take the good with the bad with any freshman, and in this case, the good far exceeds the bad.
Basil "Smooth" Smotherman: B-
Basil certainly made his mark on the game. If you had to pick out 3 highlights from the game, Basil's two dunks and his crazy block in transition might be the top 3 plays. Overall, Basil had a very nice floor game, but he loses points because he is really fighting his shot right now. Basil put up 4 points, 2 blocks, 1 steal, 1 assist, 3 rebounds a turn over. Unfortunately, Smooth only went 2-8 from the floor, including 0-2 from behind the arc. Basil has an important role to play for this team, but 3 point marksman just isn't that role. I like Basil attacking in basket, getting into transition, and putting people on posters. If he can just focus on that, it will be all good for B. Smooth.
Bryson Scott: D
Bryson is going to learn to stop driving the ball into traffic, or he's not going to play. It's really as simple as that. Painter has the depth to sit him on the bench for long stretches of time, and that's exactly what he did today. When Bryson drove the ball at the post player and turned it over instead of just passing it to our post player, Painter used the bench as a teacher. I like Bryson, I really do, and at some point, you just have to accept him, for better or worse, but he can't make plays like that in Big? games. Bryson sat, P.J. picked up extra minutes, and hopefully a lesson was learned. Bryson put up 2 points (on a nice mid range jumper) and had an assist and a turnover in limited minutes. Bryson seems like a kid who wants to play, and in order to do that, he's going to have to stop making the same mistake over and over again.
P.J. Thompson: A
There was much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth when Painter offered P.J. Thompson. Internet screams of "He's too short, He's not athletic enough, He'll never play" could be heard echoing from one Purdue message board to the next. I mean, the fact of the matter is that P.J. Thompson is a short, relatively (in terms of D-1 PG's) unathletic, 3* prospect that can straight up play the game of basketball. P.J. is the type of player Painter was skipping over a few years ago because of his shortcomings, but Painter is back in the business of recruiting basketball players and competitors, and P.J. fits the bill in both of those categories. Today, P.J. but up 7 points (leading the bench), a steal, 2 assists and a rebound. He did this without committing a turnover and was generally a pest on defense. The charge Thompson took last game against K. State is what has been missing from Purdue's program the last few years. P.J. "wants to" and that beats out "is capable of doing" more times than not.
Dakota Mathias: B
Dakota did what Dakota was recruited to do today. He had 3 open looks behind the arc and he drained 2 of them. No one is going to confuse Mathias with an elite athlete, but much like Thompson, the kid can play basketball. It's no secret that Dakota is going to struggle some on the defensive end. He's going to get beat to the basket, but Purdue has a couple of 7'0ers waiting in the paint to help out. He's also going to foul some, but Purdue has enough depth for that not to be much of a concern. He's also going to knock down 3 pointers and make great passes. Today Dakota contributed 6 points (2-3 from downtown) an assist, a rebound, no turnovers and 3 fouls. Once he figures it out on the defensive end I expect to see much more of Mr. Mathias.
Jacquil Taylor: I
Taylor is a work in progress. He's a kid that's got potential but it might take a little while to coax it out of him. You can't teach his length and athleticism, and he really does have a decent stroke for a kid his size, but Painter is going to have to teach him how to play basketball. If Purdue needs Taylor to play extended minutes this year, things have gone horribly wrong. Today, Hammons and Haas were able to restrain their urge to foul everyone within a 10 yard radius, so Jacquil was able to sit on the bench and learn. He did produce 3 rebounds in limited minutes, but it was so deep into garbage time that it was really hard to evaluate his play.
Matt Painter: A+
No offense to Matt, but if I wanted a coach to run zone defense and post Iso offense I would fire him and hire a coach more familiar with both of those ideas. However, if I wanted a coach to run man to man defense and a nice motion offense, Painter would be the guy. Sometimes you've just got to do what you're good at, and today Painter stopped trying to pretend to be someone else and decided to be Matt Painter. Purdue scrapped the passive zone early in favor of the familiar aggressive man to man defense, ran more motion instead of just the one pass post up offense that has been the absolute bane of my existence since A.J. stepped on campus, got after it on the boards, and were first on the floor to loose balls. Basically, Purdue did Matt Painter shit today, and I for one, welcome it back.