March 1, 2008
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) - Rarely does a coach preach the value of a player who had one field goal in a 25-point victory.
Purdue's Matt Painter gladly did just that for Chris Kramer on Saturday.
The sophomore captain had six steals and three assists, and No. 16 Purdue beat Northwestern 68-43 to move into a tie with Wisconsin for first place in the Big Ten.
Kramer's steals all came in the first half when Purdue couldn't shoot straight. Northwestern led for most of the half, but Purdue finally pulled ahead on a 3-pointer by Marcus Green with 2:13 left that made it 24-23.
With the score 24-23, Northwestern had a chance to take the lead at halftime, but Kramer blocked Nikola Baran's 3-point attempt as time expired.
"Getting six steals in a half, in a possession-type game - it's amazing," Painter said. "He's a very good player. He's the best defensive player in our league."
Purdue shot 62 percent in the second half to pull away. When Kramer left the game with 5:27 to play, the crowd was nearly silent.
"People don't understand or appreciate guys that play defense," an annoyed Painter said. "It's only people who play the game, coached the game, or just been around the game and understand it."
Kramer guarded Northwestern's Craig Moore, who scored 25 points and made eight 3-pointers in the Wildcats' win over Michigan on Tuesday. Kramer held him to eight points on 3-for-6 shooting.
"That's a credit to him and what he's able to do for us to sacrifice for the team," Painter said.
Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said players like Kramer who are willing to fit into a team concept are the reason Purdue has been successful this season.
"They have a nice team, they can go a little bigger or small," he said. "Those guys are good players, most of them can shoot and the guys who can't know their roles."
Freshman Robbie Hummel scored 15 points, Nemanja Calasan added 11 and Scott Martin had 10 points and nine rebounds for the Boilermakers (23-6, 14-2).
Purdue celebrated Senior Day with a victory that gave it a perfect conference record at home and moved it into the first-place tie with the 10th-ranked Badgers, who were idle.
Ivan Peljusic had 13 points for Northwestern (8-19, 1-15), while Kevin Coble added 10.
It was Purdue's largest margin of victory in a conference game this season. The Boilermakers tied a season high with 11 3-pointers, helping them get away with shooting 17-for-28 from the free throw line.
Purdue has won two straight since losing at No. 12 Indiana on Feb. 19. The Boilermakers won the earlier meeting with Northwestern 71-56, on Feb. 16.
Northwestern led 29-28 early in the second half before Purdue's E'Twaun Moore hit a 3-pointer from the left corner, then Hummel made three free throws after being fouled on a 3-pointer to give Purdue a 34-29 lead.
Purdue continued to punch holes in Northwestern's 1-3-1 zone. Calasan made a 3-pointer from the left corner, then Hummel made one from the same spot to make it 40-30.
After Northwestern cut the margin to 43-34 on a basket by Coble, Purdue went on a 7-0 run highlighted by a 3-pointer by Hummel to take a 50-34 lead with just over 9 minutes to play.
"We started getting adjusted to their zone, and how they were playing us," Tarrance Crump, Purdue's lone senior, said. "Once we started attacking, we got some open looks. Once we made some shots, it opened up the zone."
Purdue outrebounded Northwestern 23-9 in the second half and held the Wildcats to 32 percent shooting.
"I thought we did a better job getting to loose balls, getting rebounds, being quicker to the ball in general in the second half," Painter said.
Carmody said Purdue's defense in the second half made the difference.
"I thought Purdue was a little out of whack in the first half," he said. "They just showed why they're near or at the top of the conference. We weren't getting the shots we needed in the second half."