After winning a non-conference tilt with Coppin State last weekend by twenty points, 66-46, the Purdue basketball team traveled to New York City for the final four of the NIT Tipoff.
On either side of Thanksgiving Day, the Boilermakers battled two big-time programs—Boston College and Oklahoma—inside the basketball mecca of the universe, Madison Square Garden.
Purdue held off BC in the semis, 71-64, but came up just short of the title by dropping an 87-82 heartbreaker to the nationally-ranked Sooners.
November 22: Taking care of business
With the NYC trip looming, it’s hard to blame the Boilers for overlooking Coppin State last Saturday. Purdue’s offensive execution was definitely subpar, as the Boilermakers committed 13 turnovers.
However, preseason Big Ten POY Robbie Hummel carried his squad with a double-double. His game-high 20 points and 11 boards was enough to get Purdue an ugly triumph in front of a sellout crowd of 14,123 at Mackey Arena. Defensively, Hummel and company were solid as usual—Purdue held the visitors to 30-percent shooting from the floor.
November 26: Big Ten/ACC a week early?
While all the hype has surrounded the upcoming showdown between Purdue and Duke, the Boilermakers got a different ACC challenge with the NIT semifinal matchup against Al Skinner’s Boston College Eagles. Purdue played well for the first 35 minutes, extending their lead to as much as 62-45 in the second half.
In the end, though, the Eagles wouldn’t go quietly. The Boilers made only one field goal in the final seven minutes, and the lead shrunk to as little as six before Purdue finally secured a 71-64 victory.
E’Twaun Moore continued his hot start to the season, leading the way with 19 points and six assists. Purdue placed four scorers in double figures to ensure a happy Thanksgiving, and set up a Top-15 showdown with Oklahoma and star Blake Griffin.
November 28: Forty-six to five
In all my years watching basketball, I’ve never seen a number as absurd as this one. If you need to, read the following sentence out loud so it sinks in: Purdue lost the NIT final 87-82—in overtime—due in some part to a slight discrepancy at the free throw line, where the Boilermakers were out-attempted 46 to five.
Yes, that’s what I said. Despite Oklahoma getting exactly 41 more chances to score from the foul line, the Boilers almost managed to pull out a five-on-eight victory before surrendering late leads in regulation and overtime.
I understand that Purdue’s style lends itself to more perimeter play, while OU’s bruising frontline of the brothers Griffin will draw some calls. I’m not suggesting that Oklahoma shouldn’t have attempted more free throws than Purdue. I’m just saying 41 is a little bit comical.
Looking for a silver lining? It does make for a punny title: "Hosed in the Garden."
Fast break points
A couple random thoughts on Purdue’s season to date:
The Boilers need to figure out where they’re going in crunch time. Although Hummel is the big-name player, Moore is the big-time scorer. Get used to looking for him when the Boilers really, really need a hoop.
Purdue shouldn't completely abandon their motion offense, but they need to make sure E’Twaun gets a chance to make a play with the game on the line.
In fairness to Painter, Moore did get the ball in his hands for the final chance of regulation, but he got the ball knocked away—and his arm bent back behind him—before he could get a shot off.
Color commentator Steve Lavin used the term “glory statistic” when he talked about Purdue’s fondness for taking charges. As a former Gene Keady assistant, he should know—and as a Boiler hoops fan, I love seeing a team in the mold of PU alum Brian Cardinal
Every player on the Purdue roster looks ready and willing to sacrifice their body to draw an offensive foul. It’s fun to watch.
The Boilermakers are showing a disturbing over-reliance on the high-ball screen. I understand being comfortable with what works, but you need more than one play in crunch time.
They need to find a counter to the Moore/post-player pick-and-roll—before they find themselves in another tight game.
Purdue’s offense finally seems to be getting unleashed. The Boilermakers knocked down a season-high 12 three-pointers against Oklahoma on Friday—including at least four in a row from Moore and Keaton Grant in one second-half stretch.
Especially exciting was the pair of triples from freshman point guard Lewis Jackson, who isn’t known for his outside shooting.
If Purdue can establish post players JaJuan Johnson and Nemanja Calasan early, shooters like Moore, Grant, Jackson, Hummel, Chris Kramer, and Marcus Green can have a field day around the arc.
Great to see Calasan playing well off the bench. Last year’s starting center had 11 points in only 19 minutes against Coppin State, and followed that up with a career-high 20 against Oklahoma to help Purdue stay in a game the officials wouldn’t let them win.
Sorry to beat a dead horse, but the way I do the math, I’m completely justified in writing 41 different sentences about the officiating. I settled for three or so.
Rebounding is still an issue. Teams like Oklahoma that are especially proficient on the boards expose the Boilers’ most-glaring weakness—and it ain’t pretty. Blake Griffin had 21 boards by himself to help the Sooners prevail in the NIT championship.
Game of the year
Purdue fans have been buzzing about this one since the news first came out midsummer. Tuesday night in Mackey Arena, the Boilers play host to perennial power Duke in a game that should tell us a lot about the home team’s national title aspirations.
Tickets are going for hundreds of dollars apiece on eBay, and the atmosphere should be electric for a big-time showdown.
Since the inauguration of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, the Midwesterners have never come out on top. I’m looking forward to seeing if Purdue can protect home court against Coach K’s boys, and give the league a chance to finally win one of these Challenges.
After coming up short against OU, a two-game losing streak wouldn’t be any fun. So I’m going to predict a hard-fought Boilermaker win over the Devils—and I can’t wait to watch.
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.