Thursday, January 15, 2009

Game 14: Purdue @ Northwestern

The Matchup: #19 Purdue (12-4) @ Northwestern (8-5)

Location: Welsh-Ryan Arena (Evanston, IL)

TV: ESPN2 (6:00 CT)
Radio: WGN 720 AM

Fun Fact: Northwestern heavily recruited Purdue star Robbie Hummel and his high school teammate Scott Martin (now at Notre Dame).

About the Purdue Game
Finally it’s time for the Wildcats to get back on the court against somebody other than themselves. This a great thing for the Wildcats as they can put the loss to Wisconsin behind them, and its great for the fans as we’ll finally have something else to talk about. That’s the good news. The bad news is Purdue is hardly a team Northwestern can expect show up and get well against. In fact, if NU doesn’t improve, a Boiler blowout is possible.

The Boilermakers average 72.6 points per game, but even more impressive is their defense. The Boilermakers allow 57.4 points per games along with 7.8 steals and 4.9 blocks. One item which does work in the Wildcats favor is Purdue stands at -1.1 in rebound margin, though, they actually average 6 rebounds more per game than Northwestern. The inside matchup will be interesting to watch as NU desperately needs to improve their play in the paint both on offense and defense. On paper, it looks like NU could matchup favorably with Purdue down low as the Boilers aren’t a huge team, but neither was Wisconsin. After the disaster at Wisconsin, NU coach Bill Carmody mentioned the possibility he might make some changes. Though Carmody didn’t say what he meant by this, I suspect the center and forward positions might factor into whatever changes he makes. Freshman forward Davide Curletti played for the first time in a while at Wisconsin and showed some nice skill and looked far more aggressive than Rowley and Mirkovic. Also, in addition to his more aggressive play, Curletti’s ability to play either the four or five position could make him a key factor against Purdue’s Johnson and Hummel.

When looking at the Boilermakers individual stats, Robbie Hummel immediately jumps out with his 14.0 ppg 7.9 rpg and 2.3 apg. However, he is hardly Purdue’s only threat. Center JaJuan Johnson is having a breakout year with 12.7 ppg and 5.6 rpg. Johnson showed some flashes of skill last year, but this year he is making a huge impact in nearly every game. At the guard position, defensive specialist Chris Kramer has returned to the Boiler lineup after injury. While he was hurt, guard Lewis Jackson made a major impact with his ability to penetrate the lane to score or pass. Finally, NU needs to improve its three point shooting defense on E’Twaun Moore who torched the Wildcats from three last year. Over the last three games NU’s three point defense, which was a strength early in the year, has struggled mightily. Improving in this area is just as important as improving rebounding.

This game is tough to predict. Northwestern needs a win and desperation counts for a lot in sports. However, Purdue which sits at 1-2 in conference is almost equally desperate as a 1-3 team isn’t going to come back to win the league. The two keys will be three point shooting and rebounding, and right now it looks like Purdue is stronger in these areas. Purdue, 71 Northwestern, 66

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