Saturday, November 28, 2009

No. 6 Purdue 64, Central Michigan 38

Purdue 64, CMU 38, FINAL
AP Photo by Michael Conroy/Purdue's Chris Kramer defends CMU's Robbie Harman

What we saw: CMU simply was overmatched and never established an offensive rhythm. Running down the shot clock (mostly in the first half) and shooting 28.3 percent will do that. It was the Chippewas' lowest scoring output in Ernie Zeigler's tenure and the least amount CMU has scored since a 61-36 loss at Dayton on Dec. 7, 2005 in Jay Smith's final year as coach.

This game was eerily similar to a 64-43 loss at Akron on Jan. 31. In that game, CMU shot a little better (32.6 percent), but also scored only 14 points in the first half. They committed 17 turnovers in that game compared to 16 today.

What is the common denominator, you ask? Well, we all know Robbie Harman makes this offense go. He only had six points today (after averaging a team-high 16.4 coming in) and played only 24 minutes (he was averaging 36.8 coming in) because of foul trouble. Against Akron last season, Harman fouled out after scoring only three points in 10 minutes. Harman sparks the Chippewas offense not just because of his scoring, but he also knows where to go with the ball. Without him, CMU turns largely stagnant, and backcourt mate Jordan Bitzer, another guy who gets most of his production with Harman on the floor, stumbled to just three points on 1-of-9 shooting. He forced a lot of shots early after finally hitting a 3-pointer late in the second half. Bitzer ranked second on the team with 14.0 points per game entering today's game.

No bigs: It also didn't help that CMU was smothered down low by the Boilermakers defense. Marko Spica (4 points) and Chris Kellermann (2 points) largely were nonexistent. Purdue collected five blocks, including three by JaJuan Johnson down low.

There was one bright spot, however. Central's second-half defense stole the ball five times and largely hung with the No. 6-ranked Boilermakers, being outscored 35-24. CMU also forced 10 turnovers in the second half, which gave Purdue 17 for the game.

With point guard Amir Rashid back,the junior college transfer who missed the first five games with a knee injury can begin to become accustomed to his teammates at game speed. He had 4 points, 3 assists, and 3 rebounds in 28 minutes, a good sign. He's a quick guy who can take some pressure off Harman once he gets acclimated. 

Purdue's free-throw dominance: The Boilermakers hit 19-of-20 for the game (95 percent). But it really would not have mattered. CMU went 8-of-13 (61.5 percent) from the stripe.
CMU's Amir Rashid tries to shoot over Purdue's Keaton Grant. AP photo/Michael Conroy

CMU leaders:
Finis Craddock: 8
Robbie Harman: 6
William McClure: 6
Amir Rashid: 4
Marko Spica:4

Jalin Thomas: 3 
Jordan Bitzer: 3
Chris Kellermann: 2
Tyler Brown: 2
Marko Spica: 4
Chris Kellermann: 4
Jordan Bitzer: 3
Jalin Thomas:3
Amir Rashid: 3
Robbie Harman: 2 
Finis Craddock/William McClure: 1

Marko Spica: 4
Jalin Thomas: 4
Jordan Bitzer: 3
Amir Rashid/Finis Craddock: 2
Jalin Thomas/Robbie Harman:1
Total: 16

Purdue 29, CMU 14, Halftime
Midway through: Something Purdue coach Matt Painter said during his halftime interview with the Big Ten Network was revealing about how this one's gone so far. He said CMU is trying to "set tempo," by running out the shot clock on nearly every possession. This, of course, gives Purdue fewer possessions, but also hinders offensive rhythm, of which Central has not come close to possessing. The strategy is something CMU coach Ernie Zeigler has gone to in times when he knows his team is outmanned by its opponents. He went to it last season during the team's MAC schedule, when the Chippewas were without Kellermann and Spica. The objective is to keep the score close, and  maybe give the team the chance to steal the game at the end. But it won't work against a top-10 team such as Purdue. The Boilermakers have too much talent to toy with like this. It might work in the Mid-American Conference, where teams can be lulled to sleep by the slow pace. But it's a disservice to CMU players and fans to imploy it in a game where the objective simply seems to be "we're trying not get blown out on national television," rather than win. Purdue still outscored CMU by 15, even with minimal field-goal attempts (21).

Purdue 18, CMU 11 6:47, first half
It's starting to get away from the Chippewas now. An easy dunk by JaJuan Johnson off an inbounds pass on the baseline, a 9-0 run, and a lack of CMU offense (one field goal in 6 minutes and counting) have not helped.

Purdue leads 14-9 with 11:06 remaining in the first half. Neither team has looked very good so far, but CMU's defense has rotated nicely, especially down low, and reacted to Purdue's solid ball movement.

It's 9-5 Purdue at the first media timeout.

Early thoughts: CMU absolutely cannot miss finishing around the basket and win this game. Soon after Marko Spica entered the game, he had nearly an uncontested look inside and clanged it. Jordan Bitzer has forced some shots, but the Robbie Harman-Bitzer backcourt has looked solid thus far.

Coach Ernie Zeigler went with a starting lineup of:
PG Robbie Harman
SG Jordan Bitzer
G Finis Craddock
F Jalin Thomas
F William McClure

5-foot-9 junior guard Amir Rashid made his first appearance of the season, subbing in for Harman. He made a nice steal and got fouled to tie the game at 9 with 13:06 left in the first half.

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