Thursday, November 17, 2011

Purdue 91, Iona 90

[recap] [box score]

I'm certainly not used to seeing a Purdue team give up 90 points -- or score 91, for that matter. And head coach Matt Painter can't be happy about his team's shot selection, its defensive lapses, or its free throw shooting.

But he can be happy with a win over an under-rated opponent. And he can be happy with what he's seen so far in the return to the court of senior Robbie Hummel.

Hummel, of course, wasn't supposed to be in a Purdue uniform this season. He was a classmate of JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore, the group that was supposed to lead Purdue to the Final Four. The Boilers have been fantastic the last several seasons, but fell short of that goal -- in part due to Hummel's two ACL tears.

Hummel was never the smoothest player, and because we didn't see him at all last year, I don't have a fresh vision in my mind of what he used to look like. So I can't tell how well he's moving, relative to how he used to move. He's not limping noticeably, though, which is a good sign, and while he's still a big threat from three-point land, he got a lot of stuff going to the basket -- something I don't remember a lot of from previous seasons. (Credit Iona's non-existent help defense for some of that.)

Hummel had 24 points and nine rebounds. Both are season highs, though Hummel is averaging 21 a game through the first three. His play is a great sign for Purdue.

On the Iona side, it was the Gaels' season opener, and the big question was how Scott Machado and Momo Jones would fare occupying the same backcourt. Machado is the returning point guard, a senior who averaged 7.6 assists per game last season. Jones is a transfer from Arizona who got a hardship waiver to be immediately eligible because his grandmother is ill. Jones needs the ball in his hands, and he tends to shoot more than you'd like your point guard to.

The two played just fine together, which makes sense when you think about it. Machado is about as unselfish a player as you'll find, and so he's not going to complain about the ball going through Jones -- at least until Jones starts taking so many shots that the whole offense is disrupted. And Jones won't mind being relieved of some of his distribution responsibilities.

Both guards played very well, with Machado posting 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 11 assists, and Jones contributing with 17/5/5.

However, Jones' presence did seem to have a negative impact on forward Mike Glover. The senior averaged 18.4 points last year in his first after transferring from junior college, and is many people's pick to be the MAAC player of the year this season. But Glover excelled in the pick and roll with Machado last season, and with the ball needing to spend quite a bit of time in Jones' hands, Glover's production suffered. He averaged 11.5 shots per game last year -- he got just seven on Thursday in a fast-paced game. It was more than six-and-a-half minutes before Glover got an opportunity offensively (he was fouled) and he didn't get an official field goal attempt until there was 12:18 remaining in the first half. And he had to create that one himself.

To be fair, Glover didn't always help his case. He's gained weight, and it looks like he is out of shape. He was tired through most of the second half. And when he did get the ball, he often tried to do too much with it off the dribble.

Once Machado fouled out, Iona became completely one-dimensional. Trailing by two with under three minutes to go, these were the final Gael possessions:

* Jones misses wild stepback three-pointer

* After a Purdue bucket, Jones drives and has his left-handed layup from the right side blocked out of bounds by Hummel.

* On the restart, Jones drives left and throws up a wild shot that has no chance of going in. He is bailed by the officials on a truly phantom foul call. He makes both free throws.

* Glover grabs a Purdue miss and is fouled in the backcourt. He ties the score with two free throws.

* Jones finally makes a positive contribution in the endgame by grabbing the long rebound off a Barlow miss, rushing upcourt, and burying a 12-foot pull-up.

* After Hummel put Purdue up with a three, Iona called timeout to set up its final possession. They ran a high screen for Jones on the right wing. Purdue blitzed the screen and Jones, hounded by two defenders, dribbled toward a third -- the baseline. Nearing the basket, Jones finally sensed the helplessness of his situation, and attempted a cross-court bounce pass along the baseline that Ryne Smith easily intercepted -- ending the game, for all intents and purposes.

I know it looks like I'm being hard on Jones. He's not a bad player, and he did a lot of positive things in this game. But the knock on him at Arizona was that he didn't always remember that he was playing with talented teammates, and for the time being, it appears the same criticism applies now that he's with Iona.

Purdue notes: Kelsey Barlow hit a running 50-footer at the halftime buzzer to knot the score at 50-50 ... Smith hit three threes to start the game, and then hit a couple big ones late in the second half ... Iona likes to push the tempo, and I really expected Purdue to try and slow it down. Instead, Purdue went to a lot of early offense, but it seemed to lack a purpose. In other words, it wasn't an attempt to try to speed the opposition up or take advantage of some poor transition defense. It was just shooting quickly for the sake of shooting quickly.

Iona notes: The Gaels had a third backcourt standout in this one in Jermel Jenkins, who caught fire off the bench in the first half and played a bunch of minutes in the second half in place of starter Sean Armand ... Taaj Ridley showed a nice offensive game, including range to about 15 feet, but had a really hard time with Hummel ... Iona's help defense was terrible all game, and it really hurt them on Hummel's game-winning three. Jones was checking Hummel for some reason, and got stuck on a screen. The screener's defender was too far back from the play to help, and Hummel got a great look.

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