There is a sign in the student section - “Defense Lives Here” with the turnover counter. Rules have changed, defense isn’t allowed to do as much as they used to be able to do, during the Keady Era and the early Painter years.
But the slogan stays the same, “Defense Lives Here” and of course, the “Play Hard” slogan instilled by Coach Keady so many years ago.
Last night, we faced an inferior opponent, one that struggles scoring, they like to slow the game down and make it messy, dirty, scrappy, whatever you want to call it. They successfully did that too, holding Purdue to only 61 points.
But we were better than Old Dominion at their own game, we were scrappy, mean, aggressive, but played clean, holding Old Dominion to a season low 48 points- Without our best defender for the entire first half.
Defense lived in the XL Center from about 10:15 PM to 12:15 AM, with everyone focused in on their role.
Under the XL center is an ice rink, Twitter rumors swirled about what happened to Nojel, the consensus was there was condensation on the court from the ice rink, which makes sense as there were players sliding all over.
Ahmad Caver scored 19 points, with 13 in the first half before our All-B1G defensive player came back in the game. This was a miracle in standards for us Purdue fans, as we always expect the worse when it comes to injuries- which is fair
But, it wasn’t just Nojel; defense lived through our entire starting five last night.
Carsen Edwards may have saved his best defensive performance of the season for last night, shooting gaps, making the correct rotations and constantly being a gnat to whoever he was defending.
Eric Hunter Jr, with the surprise start had to defend their best player, Ahmad Carver and did a pretty good job, for being thrown in 15 minutes before tip. The True Freshman played great in his first start with a +/- of 26.
Ryan Cline, while struggling offensively, rebounded the hell out of the ball for a guard. Finishing the game with 7 defensive rebounds. His man, Aaron Carver, was held to 0 points for the game.
Grady Eifert, drew a charge, was excellent on his rotations and was his usual Mr. Hustle, as he was on the floor all night for loose balls.
The last starter, Matt Haarms had a couple of blocks and a couple of fouls (which I thought were blocks). Matty’s presence was felt protecting the rim. His man was no offensive threat and most of the night ODU did not want anything to do with our 7-3 big man, mostly settling for bad mid range jumpers.
The point is, Purdue can win in a variety of ways. Last night, we muddied it up and played defense.
Saturday night, when we play Villanova at the XL Center, we will need the defense ti step up again. They can score in a variety of ways.
While they do it boast a lot of size, they do have athletes all over the court.
Phil Booth - Sr, 6-3, 195 Pounds - 18 PPG, 4 RPG, 4 APG
The senior who has one two championships at Nova is their best guard. If healthy, which is expected since he looked okay in the 2nd half, Nojel Eastern should defend Booth. Booth can do it all, he can shoot from 3 (36%) and get to the rim if needed. Nojel will have his hands full, but I believe he will do a great job.
Eric Paschall - Sr, 6-8, 255 Pounds - 16 PPG, 6 RPG, 2 APG
Arguably their best player, Paschall can do it all and his big frame reminds me of Jordan Murphy, also the way he moves as well. Except, he is a better shooter, Eric is 35% from 3 this season. We will probably see a mixture of defenders on him, with Eifert drawing him early.
Collin Gillespie - SO, 6-3, 185 Pounds - 11 PPG, 2 RPG, 3 APG
This will be the Carsen Edwards assignment. Gillespie is near 40% from three this season, Carsen was jumping gaps out to the perimeter pretty well last night, he will need to do the same thing Saturday Night, dodging screeners and getting on top of screeners as well.
Saddig Bey - FR, 6-8, 220 Pounds - 8 PPG, 5 RPG
Bey is another near 40% shooter from three, my prediction is that Haarms will draw him early, but between he and Eifert, they will switch back and forth with Bey and Paschall. Bey is athletic and will get on the glass if allowed.
Jermaine Samuels - SO, 6-7, 220 Pounds - 6 PPG, 5 RPG
Of the starting 5, Samuels is the least effective 3 point shooter. But, he still sits at 34%. Samuels is a high flyer and likes to make the highlight plays. Perfect for the grit and grind defense of Ryan Cline. Expect a lot of switching this game, especially with the forwards, as they are all similar in height and skill.
While Nova is listed as a 6 seed, I believe they are playing at a level closer to a 4 seed. Nova will be smaller than us, but they will also be more athletic and they have deep tournament experience with their upperclassmen.
In the match-up of two top fifteen coaches, who comes out on top?
The defense will have to come alive again, if we hope to slow down fast paced wildcats.