Defense leads No. 6 Purdue past C. Michigan 64-38
Purdue coach Matt Painter will take this kind of defensive masterpiece any time. The No. 6 Boilermakers used their staunch defense to overcome a sluggish offensive start, routing Central Michigan 64-38 on Saturday. "It was a different pace of the game for us, not as many possessions, and I thought our guys struggled at times," Painter said. "But anytime you hold a team to 38 points and you have no guys in double figures, that's a good job." Especially under the circumstances. The game fell perfectly between Monday's big win over No. 9 Tennessee and next Tuesday's game against Wake Forest, came two days after Thanksgiving and included a rare 11:30 a.m. start time - all factors that had Painter worried. So he changed the team's pregame routine. Instead of eating pasta four hours before tip-off, players gathered an hour later than usual for breakfast. And instead of their usual gameday shoot-around, players slept in. The result: Purdue (5-0) went 9 of 22 from the field in the first half before waking up in the second half. E'Twaun Moore led the Boilermakers with 15 points, Robbie Hummel added 11 points and 11 rebounds, and Chris Kramer not only was held scoreless for the first time since last December, he didn't even attempt a shot. Defensively, however, the Boilers were relentless. They limited the Chippewas (2-4) to five baskets in the first half and 13 for the game. Finis Craddock finished with eight points, the only Central Michigan player to top six, and William McClure was the only Central player with more than two baskets. He had six points. The Chippewas scored only 14 in the first half, two more than Purdue's modern-era record of 12. Plus, the 38 points allowed matched the lowest point total allowed by Purdue in the Painter era, now in its fifth season. Michigan State also scored 38 on Feb. 7, 2007. All this against a team that was Mid-American Conference West Division co-champs last season and is favored to win the division outright this season. How impressive was Purdue? "We ran into a buzzsaw here defensively and it actually reminded me a lot of some of those teams we had at Pittsburgh," said Central coach Ernie Zeigler, a former Ben Howland assistant. "These guys all buy into that level of toughness, a lot like we had with some of those Big East championship teams." The 38 points were also the fewest in Zeigler's tenure, now in its fourth season. Purdue will gladly take it. "We have a tendency to sometimes, like last year, win a big game and then come out sort of lackluster," Keaton Grant said. "I think we did a pretty good job coming out today." It still took a while for the Boilermakers to get going, and seven minutes into the game, the scrappy teams were locked in a 9-9 tie. Moore's only 3-pointer of the game was the break the Boilermakers needed. It started a 9-0 run, which Purdue used to take control for good. Over the final 32 minutes, Central Michigan endured four long droughts without a basket. The total elapsed time consumed more than 25 1/2 minutes, with the longest being 8:10 separated by the halftime break. Central Michigan finished the game shooting 26.5 percent from 2-point range and 33.3 percent from beyond the arc. It also committed 19 fouls and 16 turnovers, and once the Boilermakers defense started causing havoc, it didn't stop. "We got a little momentum and once you get a turnover, you start following that with another one and another one," Grant said after scoring 10 points. Purdue took advantage of the miscues. It forced turnovers on Central's last four possessions of the first half, closing on an 11-0 spurt to make it 29-14. After Central Michigan made it 29-17 on Craddock's driving, spinning layup, with 17:58 to go, the Boilers went on a 7-3 mini-run and used a 10-0 run to make it 49-24. The Chippewas didn't get closer than 19 the rest of the way. "Any time you have a game over the break, sandwiched between two very good teams, you have to show them a lot of film to understand Central Michigan has a lot of size and strength," Painter said. "You have to show them that. But defense is what you hang your hat on, and that's what we did today."