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January 17, 2012The pretty face-up, in-a-defender's-face jump shot from the wing that Travis Carroll made in the final minute of the first half wasn't what got him feeling good offensively on Tuesday night.
It was a simple stroke about two minutes earlier.
After making only 2 of 8 free throws in his first 18 games of the season, Carroll stepped to the line after grabbing an offensive rebound and getting fouled with 2:04 to go in the half against Iowa. He swished the first. Then made the second.
And, then, he was on.
Carroll made all three shots he took, including that jumper later in the half, scored eight points, had five rebounds and played a career-high 31 minutes in Purdue's 75-68 victory at Mackey Arena.
"I felt good all game," Carroll said. "I was out there hustling all game, my body felt good. But when I hit those free throws, it kind of got my offensive confidence up so I was looking to score a little bit more."
Carroll started the season as Purdue's top center, but then Coach Matt Painter changed the lineup and tried Sandi Marcius and Jacob Lawson at the starting spot. Carroll finally found his way back with the top group against Minnesota, thanks to some solid work in practice.
During Big Ten play, including Tuesday's game against Iowa, Carroll is shooting 58 percent from the field and averaging 4.2 points and 3.5 rebounds. But a look at the stats doesn't tell all of Carroll's game.
He's impressed with his screens, on the ball and off it, and he's showed savvy in other ways to free up opportunities for teammates. He often does a good job of sealing his defender away from the basket when one of his teammates is driving, opening up the lane for a layup. It happened again against the Hawkeyes when Terone Johnson drove baseline, and Carroll boxed off his defender to allow for an easy hoop.
"It's important to get those easy buckets, and I'll do whatever I can to get them," Carroll said.
Carroll said he doesn't care if he starts or not - he just wants minutes.
He's earning them, especially of late.
"He's finally giving us that solidified 5 position," Lewis Jackson said. "He's giving us a spark."
Kramer is back in the States for a week on break from playing professionally in Germany. He was able to check out the Mackey renovations for the first time on Tuesday night.
"It's wonderful," he said. "They definitely upgraded all the way around. The floor looks great. I love what they did with the students, putting them on both sides. Obviously the club seating section and individual seats is big-time. The upgrades have made this a better environment. The atmosphere is still the same, one of the toughest places in the Big Ten, in the country to play."
Kramer was able to see the team's new locker room and practice facility after the game. He said he's not jealous of the new digs, unlike what former teammate JaJuan Johnson said earlier this season when he stopped back on campus.
"We were part of it that made some of that happen," Kramer said. "I'm happy we were able to do that and happy for those guys because now it's a marketing and a recruiting tool."
Kramer has followed Purdue throughout the season, even watching some games on the internet. He was happy to see the Boilermakers get a victory but knows that the team needs to show more consistency.
"It's been up and down," Kramer said. "We showed signs we could be a very good team, if you look at Xavier in the first half and the way we played against Illinois, winning at Minnesota, those were some tough games. Some of those teams be great people. It's just we have to bring the offense and defense every night and find consistency in our play. I think the thing that's going to win chance to win basketball games if we can play defense and not turn the basketball over.
"We're a work in progress, but I think there's light moving forward for us."
Sandi Marcius didn't have a wrap on his calf on Tuesday, and he played three minutes. He was rusty, often looking a step slow on defense.
Ryne Smith's shot was on - he made three three-pointers - but it was his defense that was especially solid against Iowa leading scorer Matt Gatens. Smith hardly allowed Gatens any good looks much of the night, chasing him through screens and sticking tight. Gatens finished with 12 points, but eight of those came in the last four minutes.
D.J. Byrd was in foul trouble much of the night - he finished with four - and played only eight minutes. He averaged 21 in the first five league games.
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