Thursday, November 15, 2018

Green's five takeaways from DePaul's 72-70 win over Penn State in overtime

Photo Credit: David Banks- Getty Images

By: Geno Green
Twitter: @TheGenoGreen

In a back and forth affair in the Gavitt Tipoff Games, the DePaul Blue Demons came out on top with a 72-70 win overtime over the Penn State Nittany Lions. Here are my five things to take away from Wintrust Arena.

1) Bench mob:

The Blue Demons offense looked lethargic in the first 3:20 of the game, which led to the Nittany Lions scoring the first 11 points of the game. Penn State’s defense made Max Strus a non-factor as he did not get a single touch in that stretch.

Enter Paul Reed and Femi Olujobi off the bench. Reed and Olujobi delivered instant energy in the post and gave the Blue Demons some identity with a combined 21 points. DePaul coach Dave Leitao wants to see the everyone in rotation contribute when the chips are down going forward.

“The seven guys that played are all interchangeable and I want to be able to start and finish any one of them,” Leitao said. “If they look at it in that way, then present those guys to the other team and have to have them deal with the variances of what each one of them can bring to the table.”

2) Unchartered territory:

When coach Dave Leitao returned to DePaul for his second stint at DePaul in 2015, the process for taking steps back to relevance would be a long journey.

While many steps need to be taken, the overtime win over Penn State gave DePaul its first 3-0 start since the 2008-09 season.

“We had an opportunity to make incremental advancements in different areas of our program, mostly the psyche of our team,” Leitao said. “The way this group is constructed, we will have opportunities to do things we have not done in a while and have to be able to seize those moments. The biggest challenge will be to stay as razor sharp in the moment as we possibly can.”

3) Mad Max:

After going almost the first four minutes without a touch, it would be a matter of when, not if DePaul leading scorer Max Strus would strike.

The second half would be Strus’ calling card as he found his groove with a timely long range make to put DePaul ahead 52-50, which got the student section in a frenzy. Strus showed his ability to soar at the 9:24 mark in the second half with a dunk off a crisp alley oop pass from Eli Cain, which gave the Blue Demons their largest lead at 63-53.

The senior finished with a team-high 21 points to go along with nine rebounds, but focused on being able to overcome late-game struggles to flourish in overtime.

4) Nittany Lions ran out of gas:

There is a reason why Penn State won the NIT last season and the resiliency showed in the final 3:41 as it scored the final 10 points in regulation to force overtime.

The comeback came at a cost as the Nittany Lions went 0-of-6 in the extra session with the only points on a pair of free throws from Lamar Stevens.

Nittany Lions coach Patrick Chambers admitted it was combination of fatigue and quality defense by the Blue Demons.

“It was a combination of both,” Chambers said. “If [Leitao] went small, I went small. He was working his fives in and out. We turned the ball too much and will learn from that. Last game, we had six turnovers and had 16 tonight. We have to slow things down and it will be okay.”

5) Lamar being Lamar:

Fresh off a 25-point, nine-rebound showing against Jacksonville State on Nov. 12, Stevens kept the momentum going with a double-double (25 points and 12 rebounds) in the loss.

Despite his second double-double of the season, Chambers knows Stevens needs others to contribute in order for them to prosper.

“[Lamar] is a workhorse, but needs help desperately,” Patrick Chambers said. “He can’t do that every single night because he is going to wear down. He is scoring points for us and defended Strus for the half game. Strus would agree that he had to work for his points tonight. The only thing he didn’t do was drive us to the arena.”

Purdue looks to become bowl eligible on senior day against Wisconsin

Photo Credit: Steven Branscombe- Getty Images
By: Jon Opiela
Twitter: @jonopiela24

For the last time in their careers, 29 Purdue Boilermaker players will take the field in West Lafayette on Saturday for senior day against the Wisconsin Badgers (6-4, 4-3 Big Ten West). The two teams are tied for second place in the Big Ten West, after No. 22 Northwestern clinched the division title last weekend.

During what has been an extremely roller coaster-like season, Purdue (5-5, 4-3 Big Ten) has shocked the nation with major wins over then-No.23 Boston College, 30-13, then-No. 2 Ohio State, 49-20 and No. 19 Iowa, 38-36. The Boilermakers have also suffered unexpected losses to Eastern Michigan, 20-19 and most recently, on the wrong side of a 41-10 loss to Minnesota.

Wisconsin began the season ranked No. 4 in the AP Poll with hopes of reaching the College Football Playoff. After starting the season 4-1, the Badgers went 2-3 in their last five games – with the wins coming against Big Ten bottom dwellers Rutgers (1-9, 0-7 Big Ten) and Illinois (4-6, 2-5 Big Ten). Nonetheless, Wisconsin is bowl eligible for the seventeenth consecutive season, which is tied for the sixth longest active streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

The Wisconsin Badgers offense is powered by Heisman Trophy hopeful Jonathan Taylor. The sophomore running back has accrued 1548 yards on 228 carries– 6.8 yards per carry. As a freshman, Taylor finished with 1977 yards of rushing and finished in sixth place of Heisman Trophy voting. Taylor has eclipsed 100 yards of rushing in all but one game this season and has reached the 200-yard plateau in three games.

With the firing of Bobby Petrino at the University of Louisville, Purdue coach Jeff Brohm’s name has emerged as the early favorite to become the successor. Brohm was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky and eventually played quarterback for the Cardinals from 1989-1993. Brohm also was on the Louisville coaching staff from 2003-2008, working under several different titles, including offensive coordinator in his final season.

While Brohm leaving Purdue for Louisville would make sense, he has denied the rumors to this point. Despite denying the rumors, Brohm’s answers to questions can be left open to interpretation. 

“Right now, I have a job to do,” Brohm said. “I’m going to stay focused on that.  I’m very appreciative of the job I have right now.”

The Boilermaker offense has been lead this year by quarterback David Blough, who will most likely eclipse 3,000 passing yards on the season against Wisconsin on Saturday. Blough comes in with 2,825 passing yards and 18 touchdowns on the season. Rondale Moore leads all Purdue receivers with 909 receiving yards and eight touchdowns on 82 receptions this season. 

All-Time Series:

In the storied history between Wisconsin and Purdue, the Badgers hold the all-time series lead 48-29-8. In West Lafayette, the series is much closer, but Wisconsin still holds a 21-17-3 advantage over Purdue. 

The Badgers have won each of the past twelve contests against the Boilermakers, a streak that dates back at 2004. Saturday’s game between Purdue and Wisconsin will take place at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon and can be viewed on the Big Ten Network.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Green's five takeaways from Loyola-Chicago's 75-62 win over Niagara

Photo Credit: Geno Green

By: Geno Green
Twitter: @TheGenoGreen

After an eight-game home winning streak was snapped in a 60-58 loss to Furman on Nov. 9, Loyola-Chicago bounced back in style with a 75-62 win over Niagara on Wednesday night. Here are my five takeaways from Gentile Arena.

1) Slow motion:

It is not normal when a game begins with an administrative technical foul, but Niagara would be called for one before the opening tip. The result would be a missed free throw attempt from Clayton Custer.

Ramblers coach Porter Moser settled Custer down and encouraged him to shrug it off as a full game was still in play.

“I wanted him to feel loose as I said to him that it was just a bonus free throw,” Moser said. “It was 40 minutes of play still and it was a missed point, so I joked with him and did not want to dwell on it.”

The miss served as a harbinger for early shooting woes as Loyola-Chicago went 6:00 until without a basket. Kruwtig’s layup in the post snapped the drought, but Niagara remained ahead at 15-12 with 11:49 left in the opening half.

2) Disciplinary action:

The bread and butter of the Ramblers’ run to the Final Four last season was their ability to keep turnovers to a minimum, but the first two games of this campaign have been the opposite.

After 14 turnovers each against UMKC and Furman, Loyola-Chicago clamped down with 10 turnovers and shared the wealth with 16 assists against Niagara. Ramblers forward Aher Uguak wants the reduction of mistakes to be consistent once more and not a one-game deal.

“I feel like we can still clean the turnovers up and has been a point of emphasis in practice to drive the ball in the paint,” Uguak said.

3) The Krutwig factor:

In need of a consistent presence on both ends, Cameron Krutwig filled the void with a double-double (18 points and 11 rebounds). The sophomore started the 19-5 run in the latter stages of the first half with back-to-back layups in the post.

Krutwig’s improved athleticism was on full display with an incredible spin move and a flawless turn to the rim for a layup which gave Loyola its biggest lead at 44-29 at the 18:02 mark in the second half.

“It felt good to get back out there after last Friday and play the way we played tonight. We focused on offense given it wasn’t up to par last week and today it showed,” Krutwig said.

4) New Mexico transfer making the little plays:

Despite a 15-point game, sophomore Aher Uguak executed a play that did not appear in the scoring column. Ahead by single digits in the early portion of the second half, Krutwig missed the free throw for the conventional three-point play, but the 6-foot-7 sophomore made a timely play. Uguak slapped of the ball back to Krutwig for the layup, which completed a four-point possession for Loyola-Chicago.

“I was screaming from the bench and loved that play. After that, Krutwig drove it to the rim for the basket. Those are the little things,” Moser said.

Uguak sat out the previous two seasons and is still looking find his identity in his third game.

“I met with [Aher] after the Furman game and told him to have some fun,” Moser said. “He just sat out two years and looked so tight and almost unhappy. I told him that you got to smile and let your defense and all of the little things dictate everything.”

Uguak’s hustle play gave the Ramblers their first double-digit lead of the night at 39-29, but would make an impact on the next offensive possession with a conventional three-point play to further the lead to 13.

5) Paint dominance:

The Ramblers pounded the paint and wore the Purple Eagles down as the game progressed with 50 compared to the latter’s 18.

After finishing with 28 points in the paint against Niagara, Moser wanted to see Loyola get back to getting precise touches inside.

“I like how it was an emphasis for us to get it in the paint,” Moser said. “We had 50 points in the paint tonight and drove to the rim, instead of settling.”