College Hoops Thursday/Friday Recap: Purdue Blasts West Virginia
It was billed as the college basketball game that would drag people away from college football on New Year's Day, and the matchup between West Virginia and Purdue had the look of a stellar contest on paper. But in the flesh the Boilermakers put together a virtuoso performance in whipping the Mountaineers in West Lafayette 77-62. And to be fair the game really wasn't that close despite WVU going into the locker room down by just five (37-32) at the half. JaJuan Johnson led all scorers with 25 points and added ten rebounds in the win while West Virginia was led by Da'Sean Butler, who finished with seventeen points.
How did Purdue get the job done? Matt Painter's team plays defense as if their lives depended on it and they forced seventeen Mountaineer turnovers while also limiting Devin Ebanks to eleven points on 3-8 shooting from the field. The primary culprit for Ebanks' performance? None other than Chris Kramer, who has to be considered one of the best (I say he is the best) defensive players in the nation. He and his teammates were able to exploit West Virginia's lack of a point guard that they can rely on for long stretches of time.
Joe Mazzulla (shoulder) and Truck Bryant (ankle) are both banged up right now and of the two Bryant would be the more likely choice when it comes to which one can be that guy at the point. But West Virginia will need someone to step up in that role; whether it be struggles against pressure defense in wins over Cleveland State and Seton Hall or Friday's beating at Purdue the Mountaineers have found out that they need someone to rely on as a point guard. Purdue's had no such problems and this wins cements them as a candidate to get to the Final Four come March.
Three Key Happenings
1. Tennessee beats Memphis...then four players shred the gained momentum the following morning. Led by Wayne Chism's 15 points and nine rebounds the Volunteers were able to take advantage of a Memphis squad that it's particularly deep inside and suited up just eight scholarship players total in their 66-59 win at the FedEx Forum. The Volunteers won the rebounding battle 42-26 and also held the Tigers to 31.4% shooting from the field in the win. Tennessee didn't shoot much better but the rebounding and their ability to get to the foul line (26-36) carried the day. But less than 24 hours after that win head coach Bruce Pearl had to suspend four players.
Melvin Goins, Tyler Smith, Cameron Tatum and Brian Williams were hit with gun and drug possession charges following a traffic stop for speeding near the Knoxville campus. While all of the counts that the players face are misdemeanors Coach Pearl has suspended them indefinitely until he gets enough information on the situation. But when you lose four players who rank among the top eight on the team in minutes and scoring there's the potential for things to head downhill if the suspensions are for an extended period of time. The Volunteers don't play again until Wednesday so there should be more answers in regards to what happened and possible punishments.
2. Indiana picks up a huge win in their Big Ten opener. When Maurice Creek was lost for the season with a knee injury many expected an immediate fall to the depths of the Big Ten standings. You don't just replace a player the caliber of Creek and move on as if nothing happened. But if there was anything to be learned from last year's shorthanded squad it was that Tom Crean's team will compete for forty minutes. And that's exactly what they did on Thursday, knocking off Michigan 71-65 in the Big Ten opener for both.
Verdell Jones (20 points, 8 rebounds) and Christian Watford (19 points), two youngsters who have to step up with Creek out, got the job done and defensively the Hoosiers limited Michigan to 39.3% from the field (9-28 3PT). Not to say that Indiana is a contender in the Big Ten; they're far from that due to their youth. But to expect them to fall straight to the bottom of the Big Ten may have been a bit premature. This is a dangerous team that won't roll over for anyone.
3. Missouri State defeats Illinois State to move to 2-0 in the Valley. The Bears are tied with Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois atop the Missouri Valley standings as a result of the 68-64 win. Cuonzo Martin's squad wasn't expected to be a contender in the preseason but they've set themselves up for a showdown with preseason favorite UNI on Sunday afternoon. Adam Leonard led the Bears with 20 points and five assists while Kyle Weems (19 points) and Jermaine Mallett (15 points, 11 rebounds) chipped in.
The last time Missouri State (12-1) got off to a start like this was in 1996-97, when they were known as Southwest Missouri State and Steve Alford was the head coach. Now they've got a lead guard in Adam Leonard who is simply a playmaker; he made many plays down the stretch and while all of them didn't make the box score there's no ignoring their importance. Coach Martin preaches defense and rebounding, and they limited Illinois State to 7-22 from behind the arc. Can the Bears keep this going? If they continue to defend why not?
Top Three Games
1. Oregon 91, Washington St 89 (2OT) The Ducks won a wild one in Pullman on Thursday, with Malcolm Armstead's shot with three seconds left in the second overtime providing the winning points. Tajuan Porter led the Ducks with 31 points while the Cougars were led by Klay Thompson, who scored a game-high 33.
2. Texas Tech 76, McNeese St 75 The Red Raiders needed a pair of Mike Singletary free throws with 18.4 seconds remaining to beat the Cowboys in Lubbock. Singletary led all scorers with 27 points while Diego Kapelan led the Cowboys with twenty.
3. Texas-San Antonio 83, Houston 82 The Cougars dropped another one, this time falling to the Roadrunners at home despite forcing 22 turnovers. UTSA enjoyed a +9 points edge from the foul line and was led by Demarco Stepter's 18 points and 11 rebounds. Houston's Zamal Nixon led all scorers with 29.
Three Notable Performances
1. F Jarvis Varnado (Mississippi St) Jarvis scored 23 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in the Bulldogs' 77-68 win at San Diego on Thursday.
2. F/C JaJuan Johnson (Purdue) Johnson scored 25 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked two shots in the Boilermakers' 77-62 win over West Virginia on Friday.
3. G Tony Freeman (Southern Illinois) For the second straight game Freeman knocked down five three pointers, this time scoring 23 points in the Salukis' 86-81 win at Bradley.