Purdue slinks past Siena, 81-73
Purdue notched a solid non-conference victory today over the feisty Siena Saints, prevailing 81-73 in West Lafayette. Siena is a young, very aggressive team that just wouldn’t go away, but Matt Painter’s squad put up a consistent attack and didn’t allow the Saints to go on an extended run.
A few notes (browse them at your leisure):
Bryson Scott has officially won my heart. 16 points, 5-8 from the line, with more channeled aggression than Mackey Arena has seen in a while. More importantly, Bryson has ended any and all doubts about our point guard situation over the next few years. As always, he never hesitated to push the ball every chance he got, made well-calculated decisions in half-court sets, and even hit a few zone-busting jumpers to halt Siena's momentum. Defensively he still has a good amount of work to do, but his evolution since high-school (reports as a possible “wild-card”) shows me he’ll be a fan-favorite for the next four years.
Terone Johnson scored 15 points (on 6-11 shooting) and eclipsed the 1,000 Career Points mark, which is definitely worth commending. Ok…are we done commending? Is the commendation over? Good, because our “best perimeter defender” was a disaster today. I’ll show more in the Video Breakdown, but he gambled for a steal on seemingly every possession in the first half, putting an unfair burden on his teammates and causing an inordinate amount of defensive breakdowns. Siena didn’t settle for jumpers like previous teams, though…the pummeled straight to the rim and made Purdue pay for these missteps. TJ will have Marcus Smart to defend on Thursday…and I’m scared. TJ is definitely strong and intelligent enough to put a small dent in Smart’s production, but if he continues to defend like this Smart might go for 50.
Ronnie Johnson missed some of his patented floaters, but made up for it by…running! I apologize for sounding like a broken record on this, but RJ is flat-out explosive in transition. He still made a few freshman-esque mistakes, which need to disappear soon, but I like his progression. Kendall Stephens started off cold from the perimeter yet again…but then…all of a sudden…THE KID was hitting NBA shots like Reggie Miller. He found his rhythm close to halftime, draining back-to-back-to-back threes before being inexplicably taken out by Coach Painter. Siena switched to a zone for periods of this game, and having a deadly shooter lurking on the perimeter is essential to counter this. As I’ve said before, I want The Kid taking seven to ten 3-pointers per game and flirting with NBA Jam-type flames. There’s no doubt The Kid (B-Dowd is really pushing this nickname) eviscerates every Purdue 3-point record in the books. Our other gunner, Sterling Carter, was essentially a non-factor on offense. However, Carter has emerged as our best perimeter defender, balancing his low shooting numbers with very smart on-ball defense. With Carter’s fantastic approach to that side of the ball, it’s no wonder why Coach Painter gave him a Captain’s slot.
AJ Hammons…boy was he active today. Defensively, Hammons was his usual huge self, tallying 6 blocks and doing a fantastic job sliding over to alter Sienna’s shots at the rim. He had a poor shooting night (2-8 from the field, including one perplexing missed three-pointer) but was consistently getting deep post positioning and drawing fouls (8-12 from the line, finished with 12 points and 4 rebounds). Two lingering concerns remain with AJ: poor conditioning and weak finishes. Siena was working Hammons harder today than earlier teams, and it was showing. He was clearly struggling at points and midway through the second half he motioned to the sideline for a breather. This could a result of the early-season suspension, but this has to improve as the season goes on. Maybe as a result of his conditioning, Hammons often goes weak at the rim once he gets the ball in the post. Today, he made a habit of bringing the ball down to guard-level (a big man no-no) or not exploding to the rim and settling for layups (which were blocked at least three times). He made up for it at the free throw line, but as competition gets tougher Hammons will have to compete at a high level every minute he’s on the floor. That was way more space than I intended to dedicate to AJ, but he really does have the power to make or break Purdue’s season.
Errick Peck was a monster on the glass, finishing with 11 rebounds and generally out-hustling everyone around him for loose ball rebounds. Jay Simpson added 6 boards, but his flat-footedness on defensive rotations left me tearing my hair out. Have I mentioned that Basil Smotherman is an athletic freak? Every time he touches the ball, I expect something amazing to happen. His energy paid off on put-backs in transition and furious half-court cuts. With his IQ and athleticism, Smotherman’s ceiling is absurd.
The Saints are much better than their 2-4 record suggests, stemming from a beast of a front court in Imoh Silas, Lavon Long, and Brett Bisping. Hammons and Simpson were fighting in the post all game, and Silas’ intensity particularly impressed anyone watching. And their backcourt…Evan Hymes and Rob Poole are the truth. Frankly, Siena did a much better job driving into the paint than Purdue managed. Hymes was Sienna’s most aggressive ball handler, equaling Bryson Scott’s tenacity with the ball and making great decisions when given a driving lane. Not to spoil the next Video Breakdown, but Purdue really needs to work on “helping the helper”, or sliding over to cover the open big when Hammons helps on a drive. Hymes exploited our slow rotations for 18 points and 5 assists off the bench, willing Siena back into the game in the second half. Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State is our Thanksgiving present, and these rotations need to be much more refined for Purdue to stand a chance.