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November 25, 2008Through four games, Purdue's starting five has been prone to slow starts, muddling through the early minutes offensively while the Boilermaker defense has carried the team.
But somewhere around the game's first media timeout, the Boilermakers have often gotten a bump with their first wave of substitutions, a credit in particular to first three men off the bench: seniors Marcus Green and Nemanja Calasan and freshman Lewis Jackson.
"They come in with great energy and they bring everyone else with them," starting guard Chris Kramer said. "They've made some of those plays that have gotten the game going for us when we've come out stagnant in the beginning."
It's very early in the season still and it may be difficult to maintain, but Green and Calasan have posted career-best production thus far.
Green - playing 21 minutes per game, a number bloated some by the foul trouble that's plagued Robbie Hummel - has averaged 8.3 points and six rebounds.
Last season, Green he averaged 5.6 points and three boards.
Calasan, in fewer than 20 minutes per outing, is averaging nearly double-digit points, 9.8 to be exact, and shooting 56 percent from the floor. He's also grabbing an average of four-and-a-half rebounds.
A year ago, mostly as a starter, the big man shot just 38 percent and averaged 6.2 points and three rebounds.
Calasan's given way in the starting lineup this season to sophomore JaJuan Johnson, but the minutes have been divided almost evenly between the team's two primary post players.
Coach Matt Painter's said that Calasan has shown improvement defensively as well, a must for him coming out of his debut season a year ago.
"They're showing we're all team players," Jackson said. "Being seniors, they could want to be starting, but they're doing a great job stepping up when they're needed."
For his part, Jackson's made a profound impact right away, altering the way the game's played immediately upon checking in.
"He changes the tempo of the game," Kramer said.
The speedy rookie point guard averages a team-best 3.75 assists per game, seeing 21.5 minutes on average. In 86 minutes as Purdue's primary ball-handler, he's turned the ball over just four times.
The intangible benefit to Jackson is that he allows Keaton Grant to move off the point, alleviating him of the responsibility of guarding the other team's lead guard from end to end.
"Most teams drop off when they put their reserves in," Grant said. "We don't. We gain more because we get more versatile and it makes it harder for people to guard us."
Indeed, Purdue's top three reserves also impact games by changing the Boilermakers' dynamics.
Green, though undersized for the post, is versatile, energetic and physical; Calasan is much more of a true post body type than is Johnson, stronger and more physical, too; Jackson is a night-and-day departure from the big combo-type guards who play in front of him and Purdue can't play at a different pace with him on the floor.
"They all give us something different," Painter said.
For one, that's Green's goal.
"We're trying to bring intensity off the bench to pick up where the starters leave off," Green said. "We want us to be in position that when we come in, we're an advantage, not a disadvantage.
"Like Coach says, sometimes he wishes he could start six or seven guys, but you can only start five. Any one of us coming off the bench, I feel like we could be starting. It's our job to come in and be productive and help our team win."
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