Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Storylines Galore

You looking for storylines? Well if you are, this Big Ten clash has a plethora of juicy ones, so strap on your seatbelts and get ready for a rumble in Bloomington. First of all Indiana comes into the game with a coach who could possibly be on the Indiana sideline for the last time ever. In case you weren’t near a computer, TV, radio, or newspaper in the past week or so, Kelvin Sampson, Indiana’s head coach was charged by the NCAA with five major rule violations, and may be fired looking for a job come Friday. Purdue comes in to the game with a big target on their back as they sit on top of the Big Ten conference and could all but eliminate Indiana’s title hopes with a win tonight. Indiana on the other hand can get right back in the thick of things and make the Big Ten a 3-man race with a win here tonight. This is also the only meeting between the two teams this year, who might I remind you, haven’t played a meaningful game against each other since the Bob Knight, Gene Keady era. Add that to the fact that Robbie Hummel, Purdue’s big time freshman playmaker, was one of the alleged high school players that Kelvin’s coaches were calling illegally on the phone, and we have ourselves a little ball game. Does a win here save Sampson his job? Probably not, but a thought to keep in mind.
First Half
If I could sum the first half up into a few words I would say, sloppy, good defense, and a bunch of Indiana turnovers. The game started out with Indiana coming out cold, scoring only one basket before the first TV timeout, and continuing their numbness with only 4 points in the first 8 minutes. The two teams would exchange a few 3’s and after a fabulous, possible NBA continuation by Gordon, Indiana would pull within 3. Gordon looked very jittery in the first half, almost trying to force both passes and shots. His counterpart and sidekick DJ White would have his back though. He looked like a true man child scoring 10 points and grabbing 6 boards in the first half and at one point chest bumping and doing his best lion impersonation to fire up the very lively home crowd. As for Purdue they played very good defense forcing Indiana into 12 turnovers in the first half, but a dismal 0 for 7 from 3-point land to finish the half would cost them the lead and allow Indiana to take a 32-29 lead into halftime.
Second Half
The second half began just as the first half ended with a big dose of DJ White. He came out with a huge dunk to get things going, and mix that with Purdue forcing shots and his continuing domination of the Purdue big men and Indiana would build their lead up to a dozen. The Boilermakers would cut the lead to 2 at the 7 minute mark following 7 straight points by the crafty left hander Scott Martin. Free throws and 3 point shooting would prove to be Purdue’s nemesis in the second half though. They came in leading the Big Ten in 3 point shooting percentage but walked away tonight shooting a combined 24% from behind the arc. They also didn’t help themselves out by going 11-21 from the free throw line.
The key all game and all second half was the dynamic duo of DJ White and Eric Gordon. White is my pick for player of the game even though he fouled out, scoring 19 points and bringing down 15 rebounds. He was the workhorse of the Indiana defense and he was a workhorse on the Indiana offense. White and Gordon also teamed up to shoot a combined 20-23 from the stripe. Gordon would finish with a game high 22 points.
Although this team may need a coach in less than a week, they deserve a lot of credit for blocking all of their coaching problems out. I’m not saying they should be hoisted on shoulders just for doing what they are supposed to be doing, but having to deal with situations like this, in the middle of a season no less, will take its toll on anybody. Indiana was by far the better team on Tuesday night, but Purdue did show some heart and they still have everything to play for. The conference is now wide open for Indiana, Purdue, or Wisconsin’s taking. Wisconsin and Indiana still have Michigan State on the schedule so I’d give the edge back to Purdue if I had to pick the easiest schedule in. But then again Indiana already laid quite a whopping on Michigan State earlier this month so if I had to pick a regular season winner I’d have to lean on the Hoosiers. DJ White showed he was anything but, “doubtful,” tonight, so maybe, just maybe for the first time in a week, the actual basketball players will make headlines tomorrow.

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