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December 2, 2006
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Purdue struggled in the Big Ten last season, but the Boilermakers were missing three of their best players.
How much of a difference would those players have made a year ago? Would they have contributed enough to make Purdue a contender?
The Boilermakers are the surprise of the league so far, racing out to a 6-1 start with wins over Oklahoma, DePaul and Virginia. The team's only loss came against No. 21 Georgia Tech. All this from a squad that won nine games last season and just seven two seasons ago.
The return of seniors Carl Landry and David Teague and the emergence of junior guard Tarrance Crump are mainly to thank for the newfound success. Landry and Teague missed most of last season with ACL tears and Crump was redshirted.
Landry looks like the big man who earned second-team All-Big Ten honors in 2004-05 - if not better. He has led the Boilermakers in scoring in six of their seven games, averaging a team-high 19.3 points and 7.6 rebounds.
The 6-foot-7, 245-pound Landry - who lost 15 pounds in the offseason - was particularly impressive in the Maui Invitational. He scored 30 points against Oklahoma and finished with 22 against DePaul, hitting 10-of-12 free throws in each contest and creating plenty of foul trouble for his defenders in the process. His performances earned him a spot on the all-tournament team.
"I saw some things last year sitting out that I didn't see playing on the court," Landry told Rivals.com. "I got more of a coaching perspective and started to understand why we were doing this or weren't doing that a little more. I've improved mentally and physically."
Teague appears to be the same scoring and rebounding threat he was before the knee injury. He's averaging 9.9 points and 5.1 rebounds. He put together the second double-double of his career against DePaul, scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 boards.
"David gives us a lot of energy and is a great example for the younger guys," Landry said. "He gives it all in every practice. Even in walk-throughs he's giving 110 percent. Everybody feeds off that."
Crump can attest to that. The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder's stats are fairly modest. He's averaging 7.1 points but he has given the Boilermakers a solid ballhandler and a playmaker they lacked on the perimeter. He scored 20 points against DePaul and hit a game-winning floater in the final second to give the Boilermakers a dramatic 61-59 win over Virginia at home.
Landry credits much of the team's success to the bond he and his teammates have formed. All the losing seems to have made them one of the closest teams in the Big Ten, on-and-off the court.
"The chemistry of this team is so tight," Landry said. "What we've been through the last couple of years has made us closer. We are like a family, and that's something you can't coach or teach. We just have fun being around one another and I think that's helped us win some ballgames."
If the Boilermakers keep winning at this rate, they'll be in the running for the nation's most improved team and Landry will be a strong candidate for the nation's comeback player of the year.
For more coverage of Purdue, visit GoldandBlack.com