Crean attempts to push...his team toward victory in Mackey
J pointed this out earlier today- this was a game that Purdue's expected to win...a game that the media expects to be easy for Purdue. Honestly, it was a must-win for Purdue as the schedule gets tougher in the coming week. And the Boilers handled their business by keeping the pesky Hoosiers at an arm's length.
To illustrate the point- Prior to the game, Purdue's radio affiliate had Brent Mussberger talk about his thoughts on the game. The host said something along the lines of 'throw the records out...rivalry game...blah blah'. Ole Brent came back quickly saying that he didn't think IU really had much of a shot because of the talent and depth disparity. So like we said, it's a lose-lose situation.
Make no mistake, this isn't the mid-90s. You can't throw the records out. In the 90s it might have been the first place team versus the 5th place team. Now, it's the number two team in the conference v. the last place team. Purdue should win games like this and they did it...in unexciting fashion.
Moore played well, but still is not himself. The more I watch him, the more I think there's a nagging injury he's struggling through. He shot below 50%, yet again and had a few shots that were way off. His on-ball defense was very good, as usual. But on the other side of the court, he still struggles selling the idea that he's being fouled when he drives. I think much of that comes from the way he finishes- he tends to fade away instead of going strong to the defender. He ended the day with 25 points 8 rebounds and two blocks.
Happy Birthday, 25!
And speaking of blocks, Purdue ended the day with eight. Not surprisingly, four of those came from JJ. Johnson, like Smooge, had some awful looking shots though. Plus, he took a few that were a bit forced as he tried to establish his perimeter game in the second half instead of taking it at Pritchard (who is pretty awful). JJ finished with 15 points, 8 rebounds, 4 blocks and shot well from the stripe as usual (7/8).
LewJack was one of the four players that guarded Hulls on the evening. Coming in, Hulls was shooting just under 50% from behind the arc. Tonight, Purdue took that away from him as he went 1-5. Atop of using his quickness on the defensive side, Jackson shredded IU on secondary fast breaks a few times and had some nifty finishes while avoiding contact. He finished with 15 points, 4 rebounds...but his pace really kept IU on its collective heels for chunks of the game.
Ryne Smith didn't shoot too much, but played a solid 26 minutes, had 3 assists and 2 steals and took a couple of big charges. I like what I saw from both Byrd and Bade. Byrd doesn't hesitate to shoot the ball when given space, he's fearless when battling larger bodies on the glass and sees the court well. Bade only had two points, but added three rebounds and set high screens well and was active without the ball in his seven minutes of playing time.
Barlow and Johnson were two of my favorite players tonight, because they both seem to play with a chip on their shoulder and tend to like sticking their noses into the middle of trouble. Neither scored a bunch, but Barlow's eight rebounds, four assists and three steals were integral in frustrating IU and keeping the lead at an uninteresting 6-9 points for much of the second half.
Granted, there were a couple noteworthy moments of the game...both involved Barlow:
-Jordy (what adult would go by Jordy) Hulls throwing a high elbow during a dead ball after Barlow had frustrated him. While no technical foul was called, the official did give Hulls a good talking-to...so hats off, BT officiating!
-Barlow had one of the best passes of the season as he fired a breaking ball between two IU defenders to Smooge, who finished with an easy dunk.
Other than that, it was kinda business-like.
Tom Crean was Tom Crean. He paced, he clapped, he drank, he turned around and clapped to his team, he was on the court, he paced some more. I've watched IU quite a few times and I can't get over how annoying his sideline mannerisms are. And in his defense, he finally has IU playing with some energy on defense. But without Watford for a few games, Crean turns to one of the worst D1 big men for significant minutes.
I'm always impressed with Verdell Jones, and he was once again solid versus Purdue. But, Barlow matches up with him better than a season ago, so he was wrangled a bit. Hulls is a consummate IU player- sure, he has the shooting mechanics of a girl, but his girl shot is effective. He's Steve Alford, Dane Fife, Neil Reid and any number of other scrappy (read as white) IU guards all rolled into one. But that's kinda where it stops with tradition. IU has some very good athletes- Oladipo, Rivers, Watford (injured) and Sheehy are uber-talented. And Elston, while he is used as little more than a goon at this point, was a 4-star guy out of high school.
What's my point? My point is IU should be better than they are. The excuse of attrition is tired and old. While IU's fan base is OK with Clapping-Crean rah-rah-ing his way to sub-.500 in-conference records, I'm not buying it. There are plenty of tools in Bloomington (not just in the stands) at The Forehead's disposal. If used correctly, IU would be NCAA tourney-bound this season. Let's remember, Matty led a team to the NCAA tournament in which he needed Bobby Riddell to play significant minutes. No matter. My point is I'm not really surprised IU has beaten a few respectable teams...I'm more surprised that they're a sub-.500 team overall this late in the season.
The game in Bloomington will be a lot different than that in Mackey. They won't be fighting for a post-season birth, in my opinion after falling back off the tracks. Instead, they'll be playing in their own one-team invitation for all the marbles (in their opinion). Hopefully, Matty and Co. are ready for that atmosphere.
But, in the meantime, the most-brutal three-game stretch of the season is ahead of our Boilers. The very beatable Illini host The Forces of Good on Saint Valentine's Day Eve at 1:00pm on CBS. Historically, this is a tough contest for Matty...but, Smooge plays well in Champaign, and JJ is probably due for a good game and Tisdale won't be able to do much about it.
While March isn't in sight just yet, it's not too far off...and Purdue's March, in my opinion, will be defined by their performance in February. It's time for this team to win a couple more big games.