Saturday, November 20, 2010

Game Preview: Oakland at Purdue

Game 3: Oakland (1-1) at Purdue (2-0)
Sunday, November 21, 2010 | 7:00pm

This is the first of five games the Oakland Golden Grizzlies will play against Big Ten teams in 2010-11. Prior to the practice season beginning, it also looked like the most difficult of the five. However, a season-ending injury to forward Robbie Hummel just a day after Midnight Madness knocked off one of the heads of Purdue's three-headed monster of seniors. However, the Boilermakers surely aren't playing like they're down a star, as their blowout wins over Howard and Alcorn State indicate. Oakland should be a tougher test for Purdue and the first team which will have a guy who can go at All-American candidate JaJuan Johnson in the paint. Oakland should be plenty rested having played its last game on Monday, a solid win at Ohio University. The Grizzlies will look to come out strong against its toughest competition yet, hoping to prove their black and gold superiority.

The Star Goes Down, Again
Many words have been written about Robbie Hummel and the impact his injuries have had on the dreams of Purdue fans everywhere. In fact, for perhaps the best rendition of this story, check out Luke Winn's piece for Sports Illustrated. But to bring Grizzlies fans up to speed, essentially last season was supposed to be "the season" for Purdue. The team had a three-pronged attack: JaJuan Johnson in the paint, E-Twaun Moore on the perimeter, and Robbie Hummel as the do-all forward (not to mention Chris Kramer's defensive tenacity at point guard). And the NCAA Tournament was going to be in Indianapolis, just a short jaunt from West Lafayette. However, Hummel tore his ACL just as the regular season was ending, and dreams of the Final Four were put to rest with a Sweet Sixteen exit. Heading into this season, Johnson and Moore put off the NBA in order for one last chance at a title with Hummel, who would come back fully healed. Yet one day into the practice season, Hummel retore the same ACL. Purdue still has a wealth of talent, but many think Hummel is the difference between an NCAA Tournament run and a deep NCAA Tournament run. The story is a sad one, especially for the Boilermaker faithful, and even though opposing fans would never wish injury upon a great player, the fact remains that Purdue is a bit more manageable opponent without Hummel. Key word: "a bit."

College Painters
Oakland students should do their best to catch this game not only for the basketball action, but also to see and hear Purdue's student section in action. The Paint Crew, as it is affectionately known, is one of the country's best student sections. Its membership is huge, and its members are loud. Perhaps most importantly, they are also incredibly unified in their chants, movements, and attire. So when they call for a black-out, you can expect every single person in the Paint Crew to be sporting a black t-shirt. The student section's leaders also have a scouting report for every home game which features a mix of legitimate information and any dirt gathered on the opponent. We still like Utah State's version better, but it just shows how seriously Purdue students take their role at basketball games. Oakland's Grizz Gang has been solid of late, but it could surely learn a thing or two by seeing the Paint Crew in all its glory.

Key Personnel Match-Up
Keith Benson vs. JaJuan Johnson
This one is a no brainer. Benson vs. Johnson checked in as one of our most anticipated individual match-ups of the season when the schedule first came out, and that anticipation has hardly waned. The implications of this game could extend all the way to next June's NBA Draft, where Benson and Johnson have been projected as second-rounders. Their history in college is quite similar too, as this anecdote from Blue Ribbon suggests:
In short, Johnson has the skills to be a power forward at the next level and and he's working on gaining the necessary strength. Johnson has done yeoman's work during his time at Purdue. "He weighed around 180 pounds when he committed to us," Painter said. "He's a little over 220 now. He gained over 10 pounds this summer." Moreover, he's more than a one-way player. Johnson has made the Big Ten's all-defensive team the last two seasons.
That analysis sure does sound a lot like Benson's path to becoming an NBA prospect. In the here and now, this match-up represents Oakland's best way of stunting Purdue's quest for a blow-out win. The Boilermakers will not face a big man quite like Benson in any of their other games against mid-majors, so this match-up levels the playing field a bit. If Benson can have a monster game while containing Johnson, the odds of Oakland keeping the game close increase tenfold.

Purdue Player To Watch: E'Twaun Moore
When I think of Purdue, I think about engineers, Gene Keady's combover, and Glenn Robinson. The last person in that list was a star for the Boilermakers in the early 1990s and a mainstay of the Milwaukee Bucks during his tenure in the NBA. But E'Twaun Moore, who might not be the first guy people think of when thinking of Purdue basketball, is on pace to score over 2,000 points for his career, a list that doesn't include Robinson. In fact, if his team wins at least 21 games this year, he'll go down as Purdue's winningest player, according to Blue Ribbon. He's about as solid as they come and gets his points from all over the floor. At 6'4" it's likely that Larry Wright and Ledrick Eackles will guard Moore during this game, a task that will surely prove difficult. If Purdue manages to run all over Oakland, Moore will be the chief reason why.

Oakland Player To Watch: Will Hudson
Without Hummel, the Purdue frontcourt loses one of its most experienced and proven forwards. Having Johnson around certainly helps, but it is hoped that Benson will more or less contain him throughout this game. Therefore, we should look out for Will Hudson in this game. The senior forward's experience, size, and toughness will make him a challenging match-up for several of Purdue's younger big men who will fill the power forward role. While some of these sophomores and freshmen might have more upside playing in the Big Ten, there is no doubt that right now, Hudson will be a test for them. We hope he comes out on top.

Oakland and Purdue have only played one time, an 89-71 Boilermaker win in West Lafayette in 2001.

Opponent Q&A
We checked in with Travis from the Purdue blog Hammer and Rails for a deeper look at this year's Boilermakers.

We've read a lot about Patrick Bade, his off-season body transformation, and the opportunities he'll get this year. He hasn't had a whole lot of time on the court yet this season because Coach Matt Painter has really utilized his whole roster, but how do you feel so far about his game this year? Where can you see direct and subtle differences? How do you see him progressing against better competition?

Travis: He is more aggressive about getting to the basket and getting to the line so far. Last year he looked like he was playing on rollerblades at times. This year he looks to be in more control of his body. He is rebounding better and defending better, which is the #1 thing we ask him to do. I would like to see him stretch the defense a little more because allegedly he has a nice jumper, but we have yet to see it.

So far D.J. Byrd and John Hart have been playing really well. They may only play a few minutes but make their presence known. What do you expect from them against Oakland?

Travis: D.J. Byrd is the type of player that can be forgotten about until he has a big game. He's going to do a little bit of everything and is versatile enough to possibly play both forward spots. John Hart has been the better shooter from long range so far, hitting 8 of 11 attempts off the bench. These are just two of the guys that will likely rotate as our third offensive option from game to game. As long as one of them is hitting, the loss of Hummel has less of an impact.

It's been a bit hard to get a firm grasp on who will be a regular contributor this season because Coach Painter has had a very deep bench thus far. If this game is closer than those against Howard and Alcorn State, who do you see Painter sticking with outside of starting guys like JaJuan Johnson, E'Twuan Moore, Ryne Smith, and Lewis Jackson?

Travis: I think you'll see Sandi Marcius as a big rebounder and low post presence in crunch time. He has been impressive so far and he allows JJ (JaJuan Johnson) to move outside and stretch defenses. Ultimately he and Travis Carroll are the players that will free JJ from his post obligations. Teams must then decide if they want to commit a center on JJ and get crushed by our size advantage down low, or let JJ have better looks from 15 feet out. I also like John Hart and Terone Johnson to develop some crunch time minutes.

Purdue is currently holding its opponents to 26.7% field goal shooting. Looking at that you'd think this is a team defining itself on the defensive end, yet they're putting up gobs of points, too. What is it about this current Purdue squad that causes them to be so tough on the defensive end? In your mind, what is this team's defining characteristic early on?

Travis: Defense has alsways been our trademark. Gene Keady taught it and Matt Painter had to learn it as a player, so naturally it has carried over to his coaching style. I love it because it makes victory more likely. You don't have to work as hard to win on offense if you're holding teams below 60 points.

We thank Travis for taking the time to answer our questions (we also answered some of his over at the Hammer and Rails blog). There are a lot of Purdue players to keep an eye on, especially considering the scenario Travis lays out where Johnson can stretch the defense and cause match-up problems down-low. Hudson and Ilija will have to come to play to help out if Benson ends up trailing Johnson.

The Extra Pass
With Hummel gone for the year, the Boilermakers have thus far looked to a number of different players to replace his production. One of those players is 6'8" sophomore Patrick Bade. Bade is the typical kind of player who flies under the radar before getting his shot to shine; in essence, the kind of player good programs always have waiting in the wings. Travis gave us a good idea of what Bade has been doing this season, but to reach that point he also had to do his part in the off-season, as the Journal Gazette's Stacy Clardie found out:

When Lewis Jackson, Rob Hummel and JaJuan Johnson were asked who has been most impressive over the summer and early in Purdue's workouts, they all gave the same answer.

Patrick Bade. Not hard to see why. Bade's body has been transformed.

As a freshman last season, the 6-foot-8 Bade weighed 243 pounds. In the offseason, he focused on changing his diet and running and he'd dropped to 225 pounds at the start of the second week of individual workouts. Instead of looking a bit cumbersome as a big man, now Bade has an athletic-looking body and is moving well.

So far this season, Bade has started both games for the Boilermakers. He's averaging 4.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in 14.5 minutes per game. He's just another player the Grizzlies will have to watch out for tonight, especially since his minutes will probably grow if OU can keep things closer than Howard and Alcorn State did.

To get in on the Oakland-Purdue conversation, you can head over to the Golden Grizzly Hoops forum to post with other fans before, during, and after the game: Game Thread. Paul Kampe of The Oakland Press will also be running a live blog starting at 6:45pm on Sunday night at his Grizz Den outlet. There was a nice contingent of folks chatting for the Ohio game, so we highly recommend checking it out.


  1. The BTN absolutely should have slated this for TV rather than making people pay extra for the internet feed. As it is, the 6-8pm TV slot is WBB (Wisconsin vs Kansas) followed by one of the least appealing men's games on earth (Northwestern vs Arkansas Pine Bluff). Come on...

    Either way, go Grizzlies. And thank God for Mario and Neal on WDFN.

  2. Wow, Germane. That really makes me wonder more and more why this game isn't on the TV channel proper. I'm sure there is a certain allocation each school and each sport gets, but Ark-Pine Bluff v. Northwestern, really?