Purdue looked like two different teams Saturday.
What seemed like a carbon copy of its game against Xavier just two weeks ago, Purdue came out sharp in the first half. Lewis Jackson, Ryne Smith and Rob Hummel all played like seniors should.
Purdue had several chances, by playing so well, to blow the game wide open in the first half. There were several big plays that contributed to Purdue losing this game and there isn't one that ever really decides the entire game. Every play was significant in a game like this. With that being said, however, here are some plays that were BIG.
-Purdue had the ball, a 13 point lead, and the last possession of the first half. The ball was swung into the short corner where Ryne Smith (who played a great first half and was knocking down shots) put up a three-pointer. It missed and Purdue, trying to fight and gather a rebound, fouled Butler. Butler, who was in the bonus, walked to the other side of the court and knocked down 2 free throws that they otherwise shouldn't have had.
-Purdue missed several opportunities around the bucket to go up strong, welcome contact, and finish. Jacob Lawson and Ryne Smith both had a chance to do just this at the end of the game and their shots winded up getting blocked. Not converting these and more importantly, not even drawing a foul was huge for not only the score but also the momentum. I could put this in its own bullet point, but I decided to be civil. Travis Carroll's missed bunny just a few minutes into the second half seemed insignificant at the time, but proved more than costly when it was all said and done. Carroll has missed several layups this year with seemingly no defenders in the vicinity, let alone the arena. At almost 6' 9'', Carroll should be able to finish with consistency around the basket and if its not too much to ask, dunk. His reoccurring habit of missing easy baskets is tiresome, and its happening in big games (Xavier).
-Lewis Jackson played well in the first half as he did at Xavier. It just seems, whether it's him running out of gas or hampered by an injury (he was ruffed up in this game and had to have hit the floor hard about 5-7 times, if not more), that his production falls significantly in the second half. Obviously this is not a play, but I wanted to tie it into my actual point, free throws. Jackson has been pretty good from the line this year and by no means am I blaming this loss on him. But he did have a chance to put Purdue up 3 with under 30 seconds to play. Instead he missed the front end, and Butler went down the other end and hit a floater over the outstretched arm of Jacob Lawson. Purdue is down 1 now. Jackson on the next possession gets an opening to the basket off a screen and goes to the bucket and gets fouled. He misses the first and hits the second. Looking back on it, that first miss in the end didn't matter because Butler still would've won by one. However, Butler is definitely in a different situation mentally when they are down one as opposed to tied and really nothing to lose. The missed front end was crucial. Not sure if these misses can be attributed to his injuries or even how much energy he exerts throughout the game, but they were costly. I might even suggest sitting him next game as we should be able to handle IPFW with Barlow or Terone running the point. Give him a much needed break (11 days until Big Ten season starts on the 28th at Iowa) to get healthier, because as he goes, so does Purdue.
There are probably some more key plays that I could have listed, but these are the ones that come to mind. I did think it was interesting, when Purdue was struggling to score for about a 8 minute stretch to end the game, that no adjustments were made. I'm not going to sit here and act like I know a lick about coaching - I don't. But it just seemed to me that it could have been beneficial to call a timeout, calm your guys down and set up a play for Hummel or Smith to get them a good look. How about putting A.J. in there for a minute or two and see if he provides a spark offensively. It looked to me that when Purdue was struggling to score they were just hoping it would turn around instead of making changes and adjustments. Now if that goes on Painter or the players, I don't know.
Two weekends ago Purdue blew a 19 point lead at Xavier. I said at the time that the loss would not hurt Purdue come March, well, this one today will. Sitting at 9-3, Purdue faces IPFW in its final game in the non-conference. Let's say Purdue wins and goes to 10-3. Let's also say that they go 9-9 in the Big Ten. I would say that's reasonable, but I do think they can do better (11-7 or maybe even 12-6). With that situation Purdue would be 19-12 going into the Big Ten tournament. There they go 1-1 and finish 20-13. I would think Purdue's chances to make the tourney in that situation are slim to none.
Obviously a long way to go and perhaps my hypothetical is a bit extreme - who knows. But I will say this: today's loss by Purdue was a BIG one both in what it means for them come March and for the mentality of this team going forward.