ATB: Purdue Silences the Villain’s TeammatesPosted by rtmsf on February 18th, 2010
Boilers Continue to Ride JaJuan Johnson. #4 Purdue 60, #12 Ohio State 57. Something had to give tonight, as Matt Painter’s Purdue team came into their visit to central Ohio riding a seven-game winning streak, and Thad Matta’s OSU team was riding their own six-game run (nine if you include only conference games). The game started out similar to the last one, with Purdue running out to a sizable lead, although this time Robbie Hummel didn’t have 29 points at the halftime break. But in stark contrast to their previous encounter, Purdue was able to hang onto their lead after the half in large part due to the dominance of their center JaJuan Johnson and his 24/7/3 assts on 11-17 FGs. It’s been said in this space before, but it needs to be noted again. Since Painter called out his team’s toughness, and in particular that of his big man, JJJ has been the best center in the Big Ten, averaging 20/8/2 blks in his last eight games. When he plays to his capabilities as he has in the last four weeks, Purdue is Final Four-good. When he doesn’t, as was the case in the previous game against the Buckeyes (4/5 on 2-5 FGs), they’re a Sweet Sixteen-level team. Robbie Hummel didn’t even need to score tonight (4/4), which shows how important JJJ is to his team’s offense. The strategy to allow Buckeye star Evan Turner to get his (29/7/5 assts) generally worked, as nobody else for Matta’s team was able to produce (9-27 FGs for the rest of the team). Still, this game wasn’t decided until the last few seconds when Purdue’s Chris Kramer seemingly swooped out of nowhere to block a fast-break attempt by William Buford, leading to a rushed three at the horn for Jon Diebler that bounced off. The Boilermakers with this huge road win move to 10-3 in the Big Ten, a half-game behind Michigan State, while OSU drops to 10-4, a full game behind the Spartans. Both teams will have games with MSU in the next two weeks.
- Louisville 91, Notre Dame 89 (2OT). This was the game of the night, both in play and relative importance, as both teams came into this one fighting for their bubble lives this evening. The Cards can breathe a little easier after outlasting the plucky Irish behind the best game of sophomore Samardo Samuels’ career (36/6/2 blks in 45 minutes). It was looking ugly for the home team in the first OT, however, as Notre Dame scored the first seven points of the period. Reginald Delk’s huge three and-1 cut the lead back to three and gave UL enough energy to come back and force the second overtime. In that period, ND’s Tim Abromaitis (who otherwise played a great 29/5 game) made a couple of important mistakes that essentially sealed the game for Louisville. The Cards should be safely on the warm side of the bubble after this week, but with games against Georgetown, Marquette and Syracuse looming, you never know with this team. Notre Dame has now lost five of seven, and will need a few upsets down the stretch to get back into the picture.
- Penn State 81, Northwestern 70. Simply an incomprehensible loss for a team like Northwestern fighting for its NCAA Tournament life tonight. Penn State came into this game 0-12 in the Big Ten, and left Evanston with its first win in league play (in relatively easy fashion!) against the Wildcats. All five PSU starters scored in double figures and the team shot 56% from the field, but where Northwestern really got killed tonight was on the boards (-17). The Wildcats are now at 6-8 in the Big Ten race, but with a road game coming up at Wisconsin, they’d probably need to win all three remaining conference games and have a good showing in the B10 Tourney to even put themselves back in the NCAA conversation.
Mess With Texas. Missouri 82, #17 Texas 77. Is it too late for the Horns to turn their season around, now that they’ve lost six of their last nine including tonight’s loss at Missouri? UT is currently at 6-5 in the Big 12, and since there are five league games remaining, second place behind Kansas is still in their sights… but so is eighth place, an unthinkable proposition and potential disaster considering the amount of elite talent that Rick Barnes has at his disposal. So what was the problem this time? Well, first of all, Dexter Pittman was terrible, contributing just two points and four rebounds in only twelve minutes of foul-plagued action. Secondly, the old bugaboo of foul shooting was problematic again (10-19). And last, they often seemed incapable of dealing with the quick outlet pass and running game of Missouri and in particular Kim English (18/4). Jordan Hamilton came off the bench for 24/5, but we’re still unsure about the roles on this team. After Damion James, is Avery Bradley, Pittman or Hamilton the go-to scorer? Who is the point guard — Dogus Balbay or J’Covan Brown? Do the young players have enough respect for their elders to accept a dressing-down of their play? Does anyone, including Rick Barnes, know the answers to these questions?
RTC Live. Utah State 67, Louisiana Tech 61. With the game in the balance late in the 2nd half, and the Aggies down 46-43 it became the Pooh Williams show for Utah State, as the junior guard scored the Aggies’ next nine points on his way to 15, including some acrobatic driving layups and a huge three to lead the Aggies to a 67-61 victory over Louisiana Tech in front of a sold-out and loud crowd. It wasn’t just the scoring from Williams that proved to be decisive; his defense also stood out as the primary defender on soon to be All-WAC 1st-teamer Kyle Gibson. Gibson finished with 14 points but shot just 4-18 from the field. He was helped out by teammate Magnum Rolle who finished with 15 points, 7 boards and 2 blocks, but it just wasn’t enough as the Aggies responded with four players finishing in double figures, including Tai Wesley’s 16 and point guard Jared Quayle’s double-double with 13 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. The loss all but eliminates Louisiana Tech from WAC title contention with four losses now and a tough road trip to Nevada still pending. For their efforts Louisiana Tech is being shipped out to Boston to play Northeastern in their BracketBuster matchup. Utah State will stay at home and host Wichita State as the nightcap of the day’s event.
Other Games of National Interest.
- #6 Duke 81, Miami (FL) 74. The three S’s combined for 58/15/12 as Duke stormed back on the road from a 12-pt halftime deficit behind their stars’ 49-pt second half. Even though Miami shot 56% for the game, Duke nailed thirteen treys and forced 22 Hurricane turnovers to take control and move to 10-2 in the ACC race. The Devils’ toughest remaining game is at Maryland in two weeks, but it’s unlikely that they’ll drop more than three games in the league this year which means Virginia Tech or Maryland must win out.
- #7 Kansas State 91, Nebraska 87. K-State barely survived in its first game with its highest ranking in a half-century, as Nebraska drilled three straight late treys to quickly come back from a nine-point deficit and put the pressure back on the visiting team from Manhattan. Given how well the Huskers were shooting, though, at 58% for the game and 14-21 from deep, it should have been no surprise. Denis Clemente had 18 of his 21 points after the half to help ensure that his team didn’t lose to the last-place team in the Big 12, but second place is still within their sights at 8-3 in league play.
- Utah 66, UNLV 61. With three straight MWC losses after tonight’s upset loss at Utah, UNLV has put themselves into a precarious situation heading into their last four games. All of the remainder are against the bottom of the conference (three at home), but the Rebels can’t afford to lose another one. Tre’Von Willis had 32 points to account for more than half of his team’s scoring, but he didn’t get much offensive help and the team defense was poor (Utah shot 53% for the game).
- St. Louis 62, Rhode Island 57. With the Billikens’ fifth straight win tonight, SLU has put themselves at 8-3 into the conversation for the Atlantic 10 regular season title. If they can beat Xavier and Temple at home in coming weekends, they’d be right there at the top of the standings. Incredibly, this is the same team that laid a 36-point/no threes/no FTs egg at Richmond just two weeks ago. Four starters reach double figures tonight as SLU came back from a double-digit deficit to win for the fourth straight time.
- Arkansas 92, South Carolina 79. Speaking of surprising conference runs, Arkansas won its sixth in their last seven games by shooting 55% behind Marshawn Powell’s 26/8 and Courtney Fortson’s (19/9/8 assts) uncanny ability to get to the foul line (10-12 FTs). If the Hawgs can get to ten or eleven wins in the SEC West, are they an at-large team? Our inclination is to say no, but the fact that John Pelphrey has been able to save this team (and his job) with the return of Fortson has been an impressive turn of events.
- Florida State 69, Virginia 50. It’s been a great first-season run at the helm for Tony Bennett’s team at UVa, but with their fourth consecutive loss tonight versus FSU, the Hoos are likely looking at an NIT appearance this year. That should honestly be good enough given where they were projected coming into the season. The Seminoles had a balanced night with seven players at six points scored or more, but it was their defense that shut down Virginia star Sylven Landesberg (4 pts) and their offense (50 pts on 38% shooting). The ‘Noles have a realistic shot at winning their last six ACC games (including tonight), with two road games at UNC and Miami (FL) sandwiching home games versus Wake and Clemson.