A Step Forward- Second Look at Illinois Game

Our pal Ed enabled me to take my wife to the Illinois game yesterday and I'm glad I was there to see Purdue's best defensive game of the year...but I don't think the formula for beating the Illini will work versus the better teams in the league.

I was ecstatic to see Illinois forced into bad shots inside 5 seconds on the shot clock time and again.  Those possessions were clearly exhausting and frustrating to Weber's squad.  But, mental lapses and not fighting through picks allowed Paul and Richardson to hit open jumpers from 18-22 feet time and again.

For me, the key to the defensive effort was an unlikely and welcomed source- Travis Carroll. 21 minutes, 2 rebounds, 2 steals and 7 points isn't something to write home about. BUT, he was playing one of the big ten's more formidable centers in Leonard and played him nearly to a draw.  More importantly, he, Lawson and some of the Purdue guards had Leonard completely mentally out of the game early in the second half.

Is any coach in America warned by officials more than Weber?

My favorite moment of the entire game was watching Leonard get his third foul after hip checking Ryne Smith.  Illinois' 7 footer whined, made hand motions and headed toward the bench...his coach, also clearly irritated, didn't welcome him to the bench to keep him out of foul trouble, but just stared at Leonard with his arms crossed and told him to get back in the game.

Purdue won this game because of mental and physical toughness...something we haven't seen a ton of this season.  And while I don't think it's a good formula in the long run for both Hummel and Jackson to score single digit points, I absolutely think it's good for this team to not wait around for those to to do it all.

Limiting both of their minutes, at least for the next two months will probably be the best thing for this team come March.  But this game, especially from a shooting standpoint isn't and won't be the norm for Hummel- he missed some pretty easy shots that he needs to hit and Purdue needs him to hit.

-John Hart is playing limited, but very efficient and effective minutes...and he seems extremely confident with the ball in his hands.

-Barlow showed us yesterday what he's physically capable of when his mind is in the right place.  He had been sizing up Illinois' guards for much of the first half, getting very close to picking off a pass at the top of the key time and again.  His defensive efficiently was matched by offensive tenacity as he seemed unstoppable for about 7 minutes.  Let's keep in mind that this offensive explosion was against some of the most-talented guards in the B1G.

-Smith's three pointer midway through the second half was from about 27 feet and looked perfect.  He had forced a few early in the game in which he didn't get his feet set...but that was the exception, not the rule.  His shot-making ability isn't shocking or noteworthy, because everyone knows he can shoot.  But his rebounding, defense and knack for annoying opponents is immeasurable.

-DJ Byrd's importance to the team shouldn't be minimized. He plays smart, makes big shots and can play about anywhere on defense.

-Terone Johnson's balanced game was a microcosm for the team- 21 minutes, 9 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals were really a continuation of what we've seen the past few games.  BUT, his free throw shooting is deplorable. If he could figure out that part of the game (like the rest of his teammates), he'd be pretty tough to stop.  TJohn's strength against slighter guards is obvious, but he seems to know he's a liability from the line so he doesn't finish the drives.

-AJ's teardrop might be harder to stop than TJohn's because of his length.

Yay BTN!
If you tuned into the BTN Finale show seeking to get some Purdue highlights, sorry, didn't happen.

After showing Purdue in the lead-in, and again on two commercial teasers, BTN's Finale producers thought it'd be best just to read the score.  Excellent work, as usual.

Next Up
Purdue plays two-straight road games...first, versus Penn State on Thursday at 8:00. The BTN might broadcast the game if something else doesn't come up.

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