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The Journal Gazette

Friday, March 23, 2018 11:40 pm

Halftime: No. 2 Purdue vs. No. 3 Texas Tech

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

BOSTON — Twenty minutes. That's all that separates Purdue from its first Elite Eight since 2000. It's that and a few defensive rebounds. Texas Tech shot poorly as a whole in the first half, but got a lot of second chances, pulling down six offensive boards. The second-chance points hurt the Boilermakers and helped erase their early lead, which was as many as seven points. At halftime, Purdue trails 30-25 after Texas Tech ended the half on a 10-0 run.

Promisingly, the Boilermakers didn't seem particularly bothered by the Texas Tech pressure, at least early on, and hit 5 of 6 shots in the opening minutes. Vincent Edwards especially excelled at getting to the rim and scored several times in the paint right away. He finished with eight points in the half to lead the Boilermakers. PJ Thompson also had eight. 

Offense was scant for both teams in general, however. Texas Tech shot just 43 percent as a team, even though it made its last six in a row, while the Boilers turned the ball over nine times. It was a good performance for Purdue's defense, which, outside of the offensive rebounds, largely made Texas Tech a jump-shooting team until the final minutes of the half.

All season, TTU has had those dry spells when shots aren't falling and the offense simply looks stagnant. It had one in the middle of the half, going scoreless for more than six minutes. Unfortunately for the Boilers, they went without a point for a 7:46 stretch at the same time. Between them the two teams missed 13 consecutive shots as what had been well-played game early turned into a slog. It didn't help that six of Purdue's turnovers came during that same stretch.

One of the biggest issues for the Boilers was Matt Haarms catching the ball in the post. When he got it, the Red Raiders sent double- and at times triple-teams at him immediately and he struggled to handle the pressure, turning the ball over twice and nearly doing so several other times. On the other hand, Jacquil Taylor was solid, working hard under the glass in front his home fans (he's a Cambridge, Mass. native). Purdue has been reluctant to use its small-ball lineup, likely for fear that it would exacerbate the problems on the defensive glass. 

Haarms and Taylor will both need to be strong in the second half as this low-scoring game is likely to come down to a few possessions. The Boilers shot 46 percent in the half against the No. 4 defense in the country, but missed its last four in a row. If Purdue goes cold again, it will need its big men creating second chances. Rebounding on both ends and taking care of the ball is clearly the key to this win.

dsinn@jg.net