The Week That Was
Since we last checked in with the Purdue Boilermakers basketball team, Matt Painter’s squad has posted three straight wins to open the '08-'09 season. After defeating Detroit 82-50 last Friday, Purdue knocked off Eastern Michigan and Loyola (Illinois) in the NIT Tip-Off regionals. The pair of home victories ensured the Boilers a Thanksgiving trip to the Big Apple for the tournament’s final four.
If you missed the who’s who rundown of the Boilermaker hoops team from last week, click here.
Now that we’re all caught up, here are the storylines that have jumped out during the first 120 minutes of the Purdue basketball season.
In a significant surprise to Purdue fans, last year’s leading scorer, E’Twaun Moore, found himself watching the first few minutes of the season from the bench.
The possible reasons vary depending on your source. Radio announcers hinted at a disagreement between Moore and Coach Painter in practice, the AP attributed the demotion to “Purdue’s depth and the emergence of freshman point guard Lewis Jackson,” while according to Coach Painter, he simply started the five guys who had the best practices.
Whatever the explanation, the storm appeared to blow over quickly. Moore, a preseason All-Big Ten pick, came off the bench to lead the Boilers with 18 points, and he was back in the starting lineup for Monday and Tuesday’s NIT wins.
Turnovers Are Key
The Boilers have locked down on all three opponents to date with stellar defense, and turnover margin is the No. 1 key to Purdue’s undefeated start. When you force 20 turnovers or more in every game you play, good things will happen. I’m pretty sure it’s written in the laws of basketball somewhere, although the chapter and verse escape me.
To make the turnover disparity even more impressive, the Old Gold and Black has done an exceptional job of taking care of the basketball. Purdue’s season opener featured exactly one Boilermaker first-half turnover (on an iffy illegal screen) and only three miscues overall (a school record).
Tell any coach in the country that his team would set a school record for fewest turnovers in its first game, when play is usually sloppy and uneven, and he would probably laugh in your face. Painter has to be happy with his team’s solid execution so far.
Who Needs Robbie Hummel Anyway?
Well, the answer to that question is that Purdue obviously does. You just can’t play long stretches of basketball without the Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year and expect to have a successful season.
But obviously, you can still expect to beat Detroit, EMU, and Loyola.
Hummel has been saddled with a pair of quick fouls in each of the contests so far and is becoming quite experienced at watching his teammates put on a defensive clinic...while he relaxes with a towel around his neck and a Gatorade cup in his hand. The star sophomore is the only Boilermaker starter that hasn’t played more than 20 minutes in a game yet.
The good news is that Purdue’s depth has carried the team against inferior opponents...and of course, Hummel is still averaging a healthy 15 ppg despite the foul trouble. (Really, 15 points a game? He must be better at shooting from the bench than I gave him credit for!)
If You’re a “Glass Half Empty” Type of Person...
Trying to find something negative in a 3-0 start? Look no further than that half-empty glass.
The rebounding glass, that is. Purdue’s Achilles heel this year is no secret: The Boilermakers must learn to rebound the basketball.
Since we feel the need to be picky and objective, even after winning by an average of 31 points a game, let’s just point out that Purdue still hasn’t outrebounded an opponent this season. (Those would be opponents from the Horizon League, the MAC, and the Horizon League again, if you’re scoring at home.)
Along with Hummel, post players JaJuan Johnson and Nemanja Calasan will be especially counted on to improve the carom totals over the coming weeks and months.
Low Point of the Week
Eastern Michigan 8, Purdue 0. The Boilers recovered for a 20-point halftime lead and were never seriously threatened thereafter, but things obviously didn’t start so hot on Monday.
High Fives To
The Bench: Lewis Jackson posted six assists in his second collegiate game and, as mentioned above, got a start in his first. Marcus Green had a double-double (12 and 10) in a 78-46 second-round win over Loyola, and overall, six of the seven reserves scored against the Ramblers.
JaJuan Johnson: In last week’s poll, 44 percent of you listed JJ as the key to this year’s success. The sophomore center responded with 17 points in game one and figures to be a fixture in the starting lineup for the remainder of his Boilermaker career.
What’s on Tap
The Boilers step out of NIT play quickly for a tune-up with Coppin State on Saturday, and then it’s off to the Garden for a Thanksgiving Eve matchup with Boston College. The winner gets UAB or Oklahoma on Friday for the crown.
Check back next week for a preview of the NIT final (hopefully), as well as a look ahead to a huge Top 10 clash with Duke in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge!
Carrying On About Purdue Basketball is a weekly column for all sports fans...not necessarily limited to college hoops junkies or the Boilermaker faithful. The goal is to write an in-depth story about the 2008-09 Purdue season, with a new chapter coming each week. COAPB will usually be published each Friday on BleacherReport.com. Contact the writer, Tim Cary, at firstname.lastname@example.org.