Big Ten Tournament Championship: Moore catches fire as Purdue tops Ohio State
Purdue vs Ohio State
Anyone who saw Sunday's final of the 2009 Big Ten Tournament could point to the sequence when this game was decided. The more fascinating element of E'Twaun Moore's hot shooting streak, midway through the second half, is the way in which it developed.
Moore scored four baskets, three of them from 3-point range, to lead a 15-3 run that powered Purdue to a 65-61 win over Ohio State at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The four-point triumph gave the school from West Lafayette its first-ever Big Ten Tournament title in 12 tries. After losing to Michigan in the inaugural event back in 1998, the Boilermakers hadn't made a single final (let alone won one) since. By besting Thad Matta's Buckeyes in a high-level battle, Matt Painter's team won some form of championship in a league they were expected to win.
Just how did the third-seeded Boilers foil the feisty fifth seed from Columbus? Again, the E'Twaun Moore show made the difference, but it was the way in which the sniper shot down Ohio State that created some food for thought.
Purdue, once down by a 40-37 count with just over 13 minutes left in the second half, found itself leading by nine, at 52-43, with 8 minutes left in regulation, and then did just enough at the foul line to fend off its red-shirted foe. How did this abrupt turnaround occur in a game the Buckeyes had been dictating?
It all started with a dribble... a dribble that could only cause a stir in the hearts and minds of people who know how much the little things can mean in basketball.
One of the reasons Ohio State had accumulated a slight lead, and had the Boilermakers on the defensive, was the fact that, for yet another afternoon in Conseco, Buckeye sharpshooter Jon Diebler made himself a tough assignment for Purdue's decorated defense. By effectively using screens and working all angles of the floor, Diebler--a classic shooter--gained and made open threes after catching passes. Great shooters usually need to shoot after catches, and because Diebler was able to shoot off the catch, his shots normally fell. For the second straight afternoon, Diebler hit 5 3-pointers and provided the kind of scoring punch that will serve OSU well in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
But when Purdue and Moore made their decisive move, Diebler got done in by the dribble.
Twice, during this fatal five-minute time window, Diebler shot threes after one or two dribbles, and unsurprisingly missed both attempts. Moreover, because Purdue defenders didn't have to chase Diebler on the dribble, the Boilermakers had better floor balance. Those two realities--the misses themselves, and the fact that Purdue had better positioning--enabled the white-shirted third seed to grab a rebound in open space and gain a numbers advantage in the other direction. Moore's barrage of 3-point baskets happened because Purdue was able to move the ball and attack before Ohio State's defense could set up in a halfcourt situation.
And oh, one other thing: All of Moore's threes (he hit one two-point basket off dribble penetration) came off catches, not dribbles. That's how a little aspect, seemingly unimportant to many observers, matters to the coaches whose obsessions with small details pay off in the end. Jon Diebler didn't lose this game for Ohio State, because the Buckeyes' defense didn't get back in transition and failed to lock down Moore after the Purdue guard started to knock down shots. Nevertheless, Diebler's use of the dribble limited his own effectiveness, and gave the Boilermakers an opening they most surely seized.
Now, it's on to the Big Dance and the field of 65, but regardless of how March Madness plays out, the people of Purdue University can now claim a Big Ten Tournament championship. They'll remember this for a long time in West Lafayette--it's the kind of memory that doesn't fade away. That's the beauty of college basketball, and the magic of the month of March.