Jan. 6, 2011
We start the new year on a roll with a couple of wins, if you include the Northwestern victory on the last day of last year. OK, I'm not making any sense. So what else is new?
Speaking of not making sense, the Penn State road win was one of those games that just didn't add up when it was all said and done.
I certainly didn't think it was our best effort of the season, yet Purdue managed a 15-point road win over a veteran team. How does that happen?
We didn't pass the ball well at all, yet had only 12 turnovers. E'Twaun Moore scored only four points against a 20-point scoring average and Lewis Jackson had only one assist. Throw in 16 missed free throws, and how can you possibly dominate a game like that?
Here's how you get it done. First, play pretty good defense all night, which this team does most of the time.
Secondly, totally dominate on the glass. Purdue out-rebounded the Nittany Lions by 15. Finally, make the hustle plays. Despite throwing the ball all over the place, the players did go after the loose balls and captured a high percentage of them.
Then, you have to look at the shooting numbers of Jackson and Ryne Smith. The two guards combined to score 37 points on only 11 shot attempts. Throw in the fact that the two combined to miss eight free throws between them, and that number could have been much higher.
What Smith did was incredible. He averaged 4 points a shot! Think about how tough it is to score 20 points only five shot attempts in a major college basketball game? That's Houdini-like.
Consider these numbers for Smith: in three conference games, he's scored 50 points on 19 shot attempts.
He's averaging 2.6 points per shot! He's also made his last seven three-point goals, and is averaging nearly 17 points a game.
I've said this several times here, so I'm not surprised. Smith has been a tremendous practice shooter since he arrived on campus. Ryne was a very successful high school player and was recruited to do exactly what he is doing. As I said last week, he has improved tremendously in other areas of his game, allowing him to play more minutes. That allows him to find his rhythm shooting the ball, which he is doing at a very high level.
There has been constant criticism of this team for lacking scorers other than Moore and JaJuan Johnson
I found it interesting last night that, for the first time this year, someone other than Moore and Johnson led the team in scoring. In this case, it was two players.
Speaking of E'Twaun. How great a team player is he? Think about this, how many 20-point-per-game scorers defer to teammates like he did last night? He was having a 2-of-10 shooting night, and said,
"Let's feed the hot hand." He rebounded, assisted, defended, and once again proved in not scoring what a tremendous talent he is. Oh, by the way, he didn't have a turnover.
One other milestone to report from last night. With the win, Purdue won its eighth-straight conference road game, a new school record.
Iowa is next, and then road games at Minnesota and West Virginia. As I've said many times before and will continue to repeat, it's a long journey.