Hoosier MVP…Statistically speaking, it's hard to argue with the 18 points and 10 rebounds that Marco Killingsworth put up. He also finished with a team-high three assists, including a pair early in the first half when he quickly found Marshall Strickland when faced with a double team for open 3-pointers. But…I'll go with Robert Vaden for one reason – he was at his best during the decisive second half, and more specifically during the all-important second half run that put Purdue away for good. Vaden hit a pair of 3-pointers – including one over Matt Kiefer with the shot clock winding down – during an 11-2, three-minute IU run that turned a four-point lead into a 54-41 Hoosier margin with 4:19 remaining. Vaden scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half, and also had eight rebounds, three assists and two steals while playing a game-high 37 minutes. After starting the game at the wing forward position with Ben Allen in the starting lineup, Vaden slid over to the power forward spot in the second half and responded. That seems to be a matchup that always favors Vaden, and IU Coach Mike Davis said after the game that he'll likely move Vaden back there for Tuesday's Iowa game.
Finding Ways to Win…it's an old sports cliché about good teams finding ways to win, but it's also one that rings true. The best teams in any sport and at any level are ones that can win basketball games in a variety of different ways, and that's what Indiana did against Purdue.
Much of Indiana's early-season success has been due to its NCAA-best field goal and 3-point shooting, but Indiana shot a season-low 39.1 percent against Purdue overall and was 8-of-19 from behind the 3-point arc. Unable to overwhelm the out-manned Boilermakers with a barrage of 3-pointers or with a huge game from Killingsworth, Indiana instead used a solid defensive effort to emerge with a much-needed victory. That was especially true in the second half, when the Hoosiers began picking up the Boilermakers fullcourt and produced a couple of turnovers and some fastbreak opportunities.
In my mind, it's a good thing that Indiana won a game when failing to score in the 70s and struggling from the field. The same was true in the Illinois game, when the Hoosiers beat a top-five team despite Robert Vaden going just 1-of-9 from the floor. A team that's too reliant on one player or one style of play or one statistic becomes too easy for other teams to prepare for.
What I Found Most Concerning… IU fans continue to ride fifth-year senior Sean Kline when he enters games, "greeting" him with a spattering of boos and chants of "We Want Allen" when he takes to the floor. After the game Kline said the fans' reaction doesn't phase him, suggesting that he doesn't "give a buck" about it, but it's impossible to imagine that any player wouldn't be bothered by that sort of treatment from the home crowd. Getting beyond the fact that the treatment seems unfair – to put it mildly - considering the fact Kline has been battling a bad knee for nearly two years now, the fact of the matter is Indiana is going to need Kline to be a contributor the rest of the way now that D.J. White is sidelined. While Ben Allen has been a solid offensive contributor, Kline has been better on the defensive end and there's no question that he will play from here on out. IU fans need to understand that, accept that, and appreciate the little things Kline can contribute. He did that Saturday, drawing a charge from Gary Ware and blocking a Matt Kiefer shot late in the second half. It's been an embarrassing scene during the last two years to witness the treatment Kline and Mike Roberts have received from the IU student body, one that needs to be a thing of the past.
What I Found Most Surprising… Suddenly, Purdue looks like a team that will be very difficult to beat away from Assembly Hall. With the losses of players like Carl Landry, David Teague, Terrance Crump and most recently Nate Minnoy, Purdue looked like a team that would provide Big Ten title contenders with a free pass when they arrived at Mackey. But Saturday's effort in Bloomington suggested otherwise. Purdue played Indiana tough, and had Matt Kiefer and Gary Ware been able to convert on a slew of point blank efforts in the post, this game could have remained very much up-in-the-air in the closing minutes. Compounding the challenge for Indiana is the fact that when it journeys into Mackey Arena, it will be faced with a much more hostile and boisterous crowd than other league title contenders will. It's a good bet Mackey will be at its 15,500-seat capacity when Indiana arrives either Feb. 28 or March 1, but the team's recent struggles has resulted in a huge dip in attendance (Purdue is averaging 9,608 for its home games this year). That will make a win in Mackey much easier to come by for teams such as Iowa (Feb. 1) and Wisconsin (Feb. 4).
What I Found Most Impressive…The trouble Indiana was able to cause with its fullcourt pressure in the second half. Indiana has been selective when it opts to pick other teams up fullcourt, and it had a great deal of success against the turnover-prone Boilermakers. Indiana managed to force players other than Bryant Dillon and Korey Spates to bring the ball up the floor, and that resulted in turnovers and easy baskets for Indiana. Don't be surprised to see more of this from Indiana in upcoming games, especially against teams that make an effort to dictate the game's tempo to keep the game in the 50s and 60s. While Indiana is a good halfcourt team with Marco Killingsworth setting up shop in the post, it wants to get some runs started thanks to its defense. Look for more pressure this week in road trips to Iowa and Minnesota.
Sean Kline on his defensive plays against Matt Kiefer and Gary Ware:
"We were actually double teaming him, and I was late on getting to him. I saw that we had him buried in the post, and I came over on it and blocked his shot. The offensive foul on Ware, it is one of those things, you either get the call or look silly."
Purdue Coach Matt Painter on Marco Killingsworth:
" When he's on the (right) side (of the block) and can turn with his left hand he's dangerous, not only form a scoring standpoint, but a passing standpoint."
Painter on whether Purdue took a step forward with its effort against Indiana:
"You don't want to take a loss as a step forward. I was happy with our effort, I thought we played hard. At times I didn't think we played smart, and you have to do that, especially on the road."
IU Coach Mike Davis on Sean Kline's play:
"He's a fifth year senior, and that's the difference – Kline is going in, (knowing) ‘this is my role. I play with energy and defend.' He was the first guy tonight to front the post. We have to get our other guys doing that. We can't have Ben and Marco in the game and neither playing with energy on the defensive end."
Davis on the job Matt Painter is doing at Purdue:
"Matt Painter is doing an unbelievable job. To lose of your starters and put a team on the floor that plays hard and competes…I don't know another team that could lose four starters, and still compete at all."
Rod Wilmont on the Indiana-Purdue rivalry:
"Every time you play Purdue it's a huge game. I was telling the new guys, this game is huge. You never know, if you're 0-7, this game is going to be like the national championship game just because of the way it is here."
Sean Kline on the slow starts:
"You should always win at home, no matter who you are playing. I can't really explain the lackadaisicalness. It's the mentality of the players, and it has to change if you want to be the best in this conference, because other teams have it like Michigan State and Illinois. If you're going to beat them, compete with the best teams on a daily or nightly basis, it has to be all the time."
Random Thoughts…Purdue had a two-pronged strategy to slow down Marco Killingsworth – double and triple team him when he had the ball, and then attack him regularly on the other end of the floor to try to get him in foul trouble. It's a strategy that other teams will likely use as well…Killingsworth is at his best when he's catching the ball in the post and either attacking immediately or kicking the ball back out as soon as he feels the double team coming. When he gets himself into trouble is when he's slow in finding an open player on the wing and is forced to try to split the double team or pass out once he's surrounded and the other team has been able to rotate its defense…Purdue might not be as far as from being an NCAA tourney team as people think. Next season, Painter will have high scoring seniors Carl Landry and David Teague back to team with Marcus White to give Purdue plenty of firepower and athleticism. If Terrance Crump is as good as some suggest, Purdue could very well be a top-five team in the league next year and an NCAA tourney team as well…After getting whipped on the boards in its first three Big Ten games, Indiana won the rebounding battle for a second straight game, 38-31 over Purdue. Most impressive was the fact Indiana's top four perimeter players – Lewis Monroe, Robert Vaden, Marshall Strickland and Rod Wilmont – all had at least five rebounds in the win over Purdue.
Upon Further Review…Purdue
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