Oakland, Mich.-Purdue Preview
Purdue had little trouble running over a couple of overmatched opponents in its first two games, but might face a slightly tougher test in the opener of the Chicago Invitational Challenge.
The 14th-ranked Boilermakers look to continue their impressive start Sunday at Mackey Arena against an Oakland (Mich.) team led by Keith Benson, a possible first-round pick in the 2011 NBA draft.
After beating Howard 76-40 in last Sunday's opener, Purdue (2-0) crushed Alcorn State 103-48 on Wednesday. It was the Boilermakers' largest margin of victory since a 106-50 win over Tampa in 1983, and their highest point total since a 107-75 victory over Ohio State in 1998.
Purdue hasn't yet missed star forward Robbie Hummel, who had ACL surgery Tuesday, as the offense is looking efficient.
E'Twaun Moore led the way Wednesday with 19 points, seven assists and six rebounds for Purdue, which shot 51.9 percent from the field. Sophomore John Hart chipped in with a career-best 16 points on 4-of-6 shooting from 3-point range, and is 8 of 11 from beyond the arc through two games.
"We've had some guys step up and shoot the ball well, but we're still going to hold guys accountable from the defensive standpoint and a rebounding standpoint," coach Matt Painter said.
That hasn't been a problem, as Purdue has limited its first two opponents to 26.7 percent shooting, while holding a 103-71 rebounding advantage. The defense also forced 28 turnovers Wednesday.
Although the Boilermakers have looked strong, their performances are hard to gauge because they came against lesser opponents. Howard was picked to finish ninth in the 11-team Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, while Alcorn State is expected to finish last in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
Oakland has considerably higher hopes.
The Golden Grizzlies (1-1) won the Summit League in 2009-10 and are picked to finish first again this season - primarily because of Benson, the 2009-10 mid-major player of the year.
The 6-foot-11 senior led the conference last season in blocks (117), rebounds (368) and double-doubles (18), and will be Purdue senior center JaJuan Johnson's first real test inside. Johnson has combined for 22 points, 16 rebounds and six blocked shots in the Boilermakers' two games, while Benson has totaled 32 points, 21 boards and five blocks for Oakland.
Benson was limited to 10 points and six rebounds in 19 minutes because of foul trouble in Monday's 78-66 win at Ohio, but reserve guard Ledrick Eackles helped pick up the slack offensively, finishing with 18 points. Eackles had six points on 2-of-10 shooting in Oakland's season-opening 95-71 loss at West Virginia.
"I'm very pleased with this," Grizzlies coach Greg Kampe said. "It showed our overall depth, experience, and ability to defend. It showed we are a veteran team and we can do a lot of different things."
Despite its 26-9 record in 2009-10, Oakland still struggled against ranked teams.
The Grizzlies were outscored by an average of 29.0 points in losing all four games against Top-25 foes last season, including an 89-66 loss to then-No. 18 Pittsburgh in the first round of the NCAA tournament. They're 1-23 against ranked opponents since 1996-97.
Purdue, which hosts Austin Peay on Tuesday before traveling to suburban Chicago to continue this tournament, was unranked for an 89-71 victory in the only previous meeting between these two schools Dec. 2, 2001.