Big Ten Tournament, Quarterfinals: Torrid shooting leads Purdue to easy romp over Penn State
Purdue vs Penn State
In the fourth and last quarterfinal of the 2009 Big Ten Tournament, the Penn State Nittany Lions produced a solid first half at the offensive end of the court.
It didn't mean anything.
Ed DeChellis saw his sixth-seeded squad shoot 46 percent from the field against a Purdue team that prides itself on defense. Penn State hit 5-of-12 3-point shots and went 6-of-8 from the foul line. All told, the hardwood heroes of Happy Valley put 35 points on the board.
If you had told a member of Nittany Nation that PSU would post a mid-60s or low-70s score against the third-seeded Boilermakers, such a scenario would have been gleefully accepted in the moments before game time. Offensively, Penn State performed well enough to win Friday's final fistfight in America's deepest and most competitive conference.
There was just one problem: While the boys in blue jerseys delivered a steady and solid offensive performance, their defense was nowhere to be found. Picture-perfect Purdue buried the Lions with an avalanche of threes, hitting 12-of-22 long-distance shots en route to a runaway 79-65 triumph at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The win moves Purdue into the late Saturday semifinal against second-seeded Illinois.
There just wasn't much mystery to this max-out performance by the winners from West Lafayette. The men in white shirts knocked down shots, as the most elemental part of basketball cut sharply in Purdue's favor. In a sport where effort, unselfishness, and off-ball plays often determine the outcome of a 40-minute competition, this was one night when the raw numbers accurately reflected the end result.
In the first half and the second half, Purdue simply shot the cover off the ball. Before halftime, guard E'Twaun Moore hit five of seven shots, while teammates Keaton Grant (4-of-4, entirely from 3-point range) and Chris Kramer (3-of-3 from the field) nailed every shot they attempted. Penn State might have hung 35 on the Conseco scoreboard in the first half, but Purdue went to the locker room with a fat "51" under its name. The Nittany Lions, despite above-average offensive production according to Big Ten standards, found themselves trailing by 16 at the break. That reality would demoralize almost any ballclub, and as the second half began, it became clear that that's exactly how Penn State felt.
After the intermission, Robbie Hummel joined the shooting gallery for Purdue by hitting five of his first six shots. The addition of yet one more bulls-eye basketballer in the Boilermaker arsenal made Matt Painter's team even more difficult to defend. Simply but shockingly, Purdue made roughly two-thirds of its shots (29-of-45) in the first 32 minutes of play, taking a 77-54 lead to the eight-minute mark of regulation time. The third seed then shut things down in the final minutes and rested in preparation for a fight with the Illini on Saturday afternoon.
If there's a big story to emerge from this game, it's the fact that Penn State--unlike Minnesota against Michigan State in the day's first quarterfinal--couldn't be legitimately competitive. That might not seem like a big deal, and quite frankly, it shouldn't be--Penn State should be in the NCAA Tournament, period.
However, there are a few voices in the crowd--voices who make projections and monitor that nasty thing called the bubble--who think that Penn State's extremely soft non-conference schedule could penalize the Nittany Lions on Selection Sunday. Again, that shouldn't be a concern when one looks at the quality of PSU's 10-8 record (11-9 after this tournament in Indy) in the Big Ten. A road win at Michigan State plus a home win over Purdue and a sweep of Illinois makes Penn State's conference record solid. The attractive conference records of other bubble teams, such as Creighton's 14-4 record in the Missouri Valley Conference, and South Carolina's 10-6 SEC mark, are not as substantial because those two teams didn't beat the kinds of foes Penn State conquered.
The Nittany Lions should be in, but some will say that this decisive loss will give the selection committee a good reason to doubt Penn State's credentials. It's not fair, and it shouldn't make a difference, but if the disciples of DeChellis are relegated to the NIT roughly 36 hours from now, the Purdue Boilermakers, and their roster of snipers, will be guilty of assassinating some big dreams in State College.