The Matchup: Purdue (14-2) @ Northwestern (12-4)
Location: Welsh-Ryan Arena (Evanston, IL)
TV: Big Ten Network (4:30 PM CT Saturday January 16th, 2010)
Radio: WGN 720 AM
Fun Fact: Northwestern and Purdue have split their last ten meetings. Before last year’s season split, both teams ran off four game win streaks. Northwestern first and then Purdue in the 2007 and 2008 Big Ten seasons.
About the Game
I didn’t expect Purdue to come into to this game having lost two straight. The loss at Wisconsin wasn’t totally unexpected, but Purdue losing at home to Ohio State was a big surprise to me. Of course, when I first looked at the schedule I didn’t think Ohio State would have Evan Turner back for that contest. I know NU doesn’t play Ohio State till next Tuesday, but as an aside, I still can’t believe Turner wasn’t Big Ten Player of the Year last season. I’m a Kalin Lucas fan, don’t get me wrong, but I can’t think of a more complete player than Turner.
Back to Purdue, obviously their best player is 6-8 forward Robbie Hummel, but before scoring 29 points and hitting 8 threes in the first half against Ohio State, Hummel was shooting just 28% from beyond the arc. Hummel’s performance in that first half should serve as an education for NU. He got those numbers because OSU played a lazy 1-3-1 zone. I’m not saying Coach Carmody shouldn’t play the 1-3-1, but NU cannot lapse into their lazy mode that they sometimes fall into if they want to beat the Boilermakers. To be honest, though, I’d like to see NU try some man-to-man against Purdue. Ohio State basically shut down Purdue in man-to-man and last year in NU’s win over Purdue, NU played man-to-man with their bench players and basically shut the Boilers down as well. The only missing element for NU might be that Jeff Ryan was the guy who guarded Hummel, but I think Drew Crawford could do the job this season.
Another note on NU’s victory over Purdue was the Wildcats did a good job cutting to the wing to get open threes or mid-range shots and avoiding Purdue shot blocker JaJuan Johnson inside. Johnson is an improving offensive player (14.2 ppg, 54.3% FGs), but he is potentially even more of a game changer on the defensive end of the floor. Johnson is the type of guy who can shutdown an inside game like NU’s by being a one man recovery unit for his teammates who get beat backdoor.
Other key Boilers, many of whom it seems have been in West Lafayette so long they must have played with Glenn Robinson, include E’Twaun Moore and Chris Kramer. Moore (16.9 ppg, 34.5% 3FG) is the Boilermakers top scorer this year and a traditional pain in NU’s backside. The most frustrating moment might have been two years ago when Moore scored 28 points against NU and then declared that he really wanted to attend NU, but wasn’t recruited by Bill Carmody. I have no idea of the truth of that story, but it was annoying to hear from a guy who just hit 10-of-15 field goals and pretty much won the game for his team. Chris Kramer is called by some the best on-ball defender in college basketball. He’ll probably get the job of chasing around John Shurna. Can Shurna use his height advantage on Kramer? If he can NU might have a recipe for easy points in the post, but Shurna better be ready for a battle because Kramer won’t shy away from contact.
Purdue and Northwestern are both pretty desperate. Purdue is trying to save their shot at the Big Ten Title (which to them is what this season was about) and NU is trying to save their shot at the NCAA Tournament (which to them is what this season was about). Both teams are also somewhat flawed in areas where the other can take advantage. Without Lewis Jackson, Purdue struggles against pressure. Without a consistent effort to blockout, Northwestern struggles against good rebounding teams. I could see Northwestern using pressure defense to turn Purdue over about 20 times and literally stealing a win. I won’t be shocked at all if that happens. However, I think it is more likely the game plays out like Wednesday, NU and Purdue will play close, but Purdue’s talent will win out. The game will just feature more points. Purdue, 70 Northwestern, 65