|This says it all|
At Michigan, I had expected a big loss for the Boilers, and while the final score was just about the predicted point spread, the game was much closer than it looked. Thanks to a high-intensity first half, Purdue had a one point lead at halftime. How on earth did they do that on the road against the top* team in the country? By playing defense, shooting an uncharacteristically high percentage (and volume) on three pointers, and Michigan missing a lot of buckets they should have made (regardless of the defensive pressure). It was impressive but also one of those halves where you know that the better team isn't playing anywhere near their potential, and the underdog is having an atypical game. It kind of reminded me of some of those early round NCAA Tournament games, where the 15 seed makes life miserable for the 2 seed, only to have the favorite make adjustments at halftime and play like everyone expected. Purdue was certainly the 15 seed in this situation.
After shooting 50% through a good chunk of the first half, including 7 of 13 from downtown (what?!?), everything cooled off and the Boilers finished shooting 39% (32% from three) to Michigan's 49%/44%. Purdue actually hit five of its first seven three pointers, four in the first five minute of the game. I thought I was watching a different team. But then of course they missed all nine attempts in the second half, and I knew the small screen at the pub hadn't accidentally switched to another game.
The second half started much like the first, and Michigan couldn't pull away. With less than 15 minutes to play in the game, Purdue still led by one point, but then the wheels finally fell off. Over the next eight minutes of regulation, the Boilers made only one basket (thanks Terone) while tallying four missed three pointers, four other missed shots, five dreadful turnovers, and four fouls. Stints like that will make Painter pull his hair out until he looks like Gene Keady.
Purdue would try to rally, cutting the deficit to six points, but they had dug too deep a hole as the Wolverines proved too good and determined to let this game slip away - exactly what good teams do.
The Purdue stat line looked eerily familiar:
- The scorers are getting their points, but not doing it as efficiently as needed. Terone was 6 of 14 and DJ was 4 of 10.
- Three point shooting cooled off and looked like the Boilers' usual low percentage (but with 22 attempts!)
- Ronnie Johnson continues to have issues with his shot, going 2 for 10. He just can't be relied upon to hit anything (definitely not a jumper or a 3), and if he doesn't finish on his quick drives to the basket, he's quite the offensive liability. It reminds me of Lewis Jackson when he was younger and less consistent.
- Ray Davis continued to progress, scoring 10 points, but with him starting, the bench was fairly unproductive, only pulling down 3 rebounds while scoring 10 points. That's pretty sad when you play four bigs off the bench when AJ Hammons only played 24 minutes, and they only have two rebounds between them.
- Speaking of Hammons, he was the outlier on the box score, with only two points and two rebounds. It's really rough when your only interior threat disappears, which is what seemed to happen Thursday night. I'm not sure what was wrong with him, but hopefully he was sick and not having "effort issues."
After another hard fought loss to one of the Big Ten's top-ranked teams, it becomes more and more apparent that there are big things down the road for this team, just not this season. The Boilers will not win a road game against a ranked opponent this season, and that's OK. We have to be realistic, and this team might, just might, be able to upset a ranked team at home if everything is clicking. Sure, they already beat Illinois, but we all now know that win isn't something to crow about since the Illini are average at best.
Now the Boilers need to regroup to face a tough test against an Iowa team scratching and clawing to make the NCAA Tournament this season. Win that game and post-season play is definitely still a possibility, as is making a small move up the Big Ten ladder.