An eight day lay off usually affects a team in two ways. They are either unfocused and lazy, or completely and energized. For the last eight days, Purdue must have been watching film of Minnesota’s loss to Florida State in the early days of the season. Using an in your face defense that extended at time all the way out to half court, Purdue forced the Gophers to set up their offense far out from the basket, way to far out to allow for entry passes or anything other than desperate drives with the shot clock running out. This stifling defense enabled Purdue to overcome a run by the Gophers at the end of the first half to win 65-53.
In the preview for last night’s game, I mentioned that the Gopher big men would need to have strong performances to free up the outside shooters. Spencer Tollackson and Dan Coleman were not a complete let down. Coleman in fact played his strongest half of the season, nearly getting a double-double in the first half. He was all over the glass and managed to make a few lay-ups. Spencer Tollackson scored 8 points in the first half too, and while they were mostly lay-ups, even easy and open shots have proven to be a difficulty this year. However, without the Gopher guards able to make entry passes, it really didn’t matter how many shots they made, because they just couldn’t get the ball.

Towards the end of the first half, Minnesota was able to force a few turnovers and score in transition. During Minnesota’s run they turned a 10 point deficit into a 3 point lead, but to win on the road, particularly at Purdue, such a run needed to secure a comfortable lead, not just make up for another slow start. It certainly didn’t help that for seemly the 20th time this year, a Gopher opponent was able to score just before the first half buzzer. Wednesday’s edition was supplied by Keaton Grant who knocked a three as time expired from a step in front of mid-court.

The second half was ugly, and just not worth writing much about. So in bullet form:

  • The Gophers scored 3 points in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
  • Spencer Tollackson was benched after hitting the side of the backboard from about 3 feet out.
  • Kevin Payton was booed mercilessly every time he touched the ball after taunting Purdue’s student section.
  • Damian Johnson and Lawrence McKenzie needed to be separated by Blake Hoffarber after they nearly punch each other.

Needless to say, this season has been much more successful than last season, but it can’t end soon enough.

Who did what?

  • Dan Coleman continues to play aggressively, but may be padding his own stats by getting rebounds off of his own missed lay-ups. He had 10 points on 13 rebounds (5 offensive).
  • Spencer Tollackson made his shots, but his ugly flailing miss was just too much for Tubby to take. He also opened the game with three turnovers, all on stupid passes that no one in their right mind should have attempted. Tollackson finished with 10 points and 3 rebounds in 19 minutes of work.
  • Al Nolen struggled mightily against the extended defense, and his shot didn’t fall either. He had 5 points and 5 turnovers.
  • Lawrence McKenzie tried to hard, and clearly isn’t showing much leadership if he needs to be restrained from hitting a team mate. He had 13 points, but fouled out after only 25 minutes. You can’t make up for an entire mediocre career in one game.
  • Lawrence Westbrook had been the most steady Gopher, and a dark horse for team MVP, but his shot just wasn’t falling as he missed everything from the field. He made 4 free throws, and like Nolen, had 5 turnovers.
  • Kevin Payton got under the skin of a few thousand people. I didn’t see that coming.
  • Blake Hoffarber couldn’t shoot either, but he was more than happy to follow his shot, and the shot of everyone else. He had 6 points and 3 offensive rebounds.
  • Jamal Abu-Shamala had 2 assists.
  • Damian Johnson needs to stop shooting from more than 5 feet from the basket. He had 5 points on 2-8 shooting, along with 5 rebounds.