Coming into yesterday's game, it was clear there was a good opportunity for Terone Johnson, Anthony Johnson and even John Hart to pick up some of the slack left in the absence of Barlow. Hart was given four minutes to make his mark...and I only remember him having the ball in his hands twice- the end result was 0-1...so it's really not fair to put him in the same category as TJohn and AJ.
But for Purdue to win yesterday, it would have taken a sizable effort on both of their parts...and Matty got it, kinda.
TJohn started...and struggled offensively for the entire game. He missed at least three shots inside 3 feet. Sure, MSU's biggins had something to do with that, but really, it wasn't that they were altering his shot...physically anyway. But, they were in Number Nil's head; there's not doubt about that. In his 23 minutes of play, he went 1-8...and had four rebounds and an assist. But, there was something very positive on the defensive side of the ball from TJohn, at times. On a few occasions, he rotated well and played with the physicality that is his greatest advantage. But on others, he had trouble finding his man through screens. It's too late in the season to make TJohn a good free throw shooter and a lock-down defender. But, with the tools at hand, I don't think it's too much to ask him to hit the close shots and play consistent and solid defense. Really, if Purdue is to have a successful finish to the season, it'll take that type of effort from #0.
AJ played about the same amount of time as did TJohn- 24 minutes, and played his best game in a Purdue uniform. He's averaging ten fewer minutes this season than what he played yesterday v. MSU...and the extra ten minutes allowed him to get into the flow of the game. On offense he looked comfortable shooting within the system, and at the right times...honestly, that's more than what can be said for many of the Juniors and Seniors yesterday. On top of playing well on offense, he played better on-ball defense than we've seen from him this season. It's surely no coincidence that he was rewarded with more minutes. Painter hates seeing bad shots...but more than that, he can't stand lazy defense in which a guy doesn't rotate, communicate and play fearlessly-hard. AJ will get better on the defensive side of the ball, but showed that his future is bright...but make no mistake, he's no Kelsey Barlow. He'll never be able to finish like him, he's not as long-armed...but he's a much better shooter.
Just like when Hummel went down, it took multiple guys to do what he does, the same can be said for Barlow. It'll take Byrd and LewJack's defense and TJohn and AJ's offense to all get better for Purdue to go on and become a better team...but on the court is only part of the story. It's a lot to ask a team to gel with a starter no longer on the team and in practice...but perhaps they can gel better since there will be no fly in the ointment...if a few guys can morn Barlow's departure in quick fashion. Clearly there are a few guys who aren't happy with the decision.
We will see in the coming week how this team comes together.