Dec. 11, 2006
By Bob Nicholson
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Before a partisan Mackey Arena crowd of 13,505 Saturday afternoon, coach Matt Painter and his Boilermakers demonstrated how to put a Tiger in the tank.
The Old Gold and Black of Purdue went on a 14-0 run five minutes into the second half on the way to caging the previously undefeated Black and Old Gold Tigers of Missouri 79-62.
The Boilermakers take an 8-1 mark into their Dec. 16th encounter against 15th-ranked Butler in the John Wooden Tradition played in Indianapolis' Conseco Fieldhouse. No. 5 Ohio State and Cincinnati play in the second contest.
The loss was for first for Missouri after nine consecutive victories. Noted for its "40 Minutes of Hell" full-court defense, the Boilermakers established a slower game tempo in the final 20 minutes, especially between the 15:17 and 8:04 marks.
After battling to a 39-apiece tie, freshman Chris Kramer hit two free throws to propel Purdue on its 14-0 spurt. Fellow freshman Keaton Grant capped the scoring with a basket at 8:04 that stretched the Boilermaker lead to 62-47.
"We wanted to focus on defense and limit their shots," Painter said after he saw his team register its sixth consecutive victory. "Part of the run was not letting them set up their press. They were going against their strengths.
"We wanted to guard the perimeter, limit their shots and we kept chasing the ball. We wanted to play defense and get rebounds."
Senior forward Carl Landry finished with a double-double, 23 points and 12 rebounds. He was 7 of 8 from the field. Redshirt sophomore Gordon Watt had 10 rebounds as the Boilermakers won the battle of the boards 40-31.
"I thought we could win the game if we stayed even with them in rebounding and turnovers," Painter said.
The Boilermakers did commit two more turnovers - 21-19.
Kramer, who showed little signs of slowness from his recent ankle injury, added 10 points, four rebounds, three steals and three assists. Tarrance Crump finished with 14 points and three assists.
"Basically, we calmed down and was patient in the second half," said Crump, who saw 28 minutes of action. "The key also was to contain their dribble."
First-year Missouri coach Mike Anderson was complimentary of the Boilermakers' intensity.
"Hats off to Purdue," Anderson said. "They came out in the second half with more energy and stepped it up on defense. It's a credit to Matt (Painter) that they play together with a lot of passion."
Though the Boilermakers are off to one of their better starts in recent seasons, Landry treats each game and each win by itself.
"We take it one game at a time," said the 6-foot-7 Landry, who has been named the Big Ten Player of the Week for the past two weeks. "A win is a win. It feels really good winning eight of nine games. I hope the success continues."
Landry is not too concerned if the Boilermakers crack the top 25 rankings.
"I like being the underdog," the Big Ten Player of the Year candidate said. "It's nice. We are fine where we are."
Like Landry, Painter does not look past the Boilermakers' next opponent. In this case, Butler.
"Butler is constant on defense, and I like how hard they play," Painter said about the Bulldogs, who lost Saturday against Indiana State for their first setback of the season. "They do not allow the ball to get into the post. They play good team defense and everybody understands their role and plays to their strengths. They play possession basketball and have intelligent, hard-nosed guys, even when they sub."
Painter admitted he likes the season and team, but knows it might take another loss or two to test the Boilermakers' team chemistry.
"I'm excited," Painter said. "We haven't hit adversity yet. That's when you really find out about your team, when something goes wrong. If you lose a game you should not have back-to-back losses; we haven't hit those stretches.
"Obviously, as a coach you try to avoid that. I think that will really be the telltale for us when we hit the doldrums and how we bounce back. It's a very long season, and we should not get too excited about ourselves.
"Really, we just have to look at our next opponent. If you can't get fired up to play the 15th-ranked team in the country, then you are in the wrong locker room."
And, there's nothing wrong in Painter's locker room.