Boilers avoid disastrous weekend in Orlando; barely.
In the losses to both OK St. and Wassu, Purdue had one bad half of basketball that really spelled their doom. Today, they continued the trend of playing really, really bad basketball for a half before scratching and clawing their way back to a close victory versus Siena.
Rarely does a team play a non-con opponent multiple times in the same year, but Purdue had the honor of playing Siena twice in just seven days. Lasty week's game looked like a solid victory as Purdue kind of kept Siena at an arm's length...today was a much different story as our Boilers had to crawl out of the self-made prison that they had dug with a shovel made of bad three-point shooting and poor defense.
Purdue rotated slowly, didn't come up with loose balls and was weak on the glass in the in the first half of the game versus a weak Siena team...and the lead swelled and swelled. Siena's late first half momentum continued into the second bfore the momentum was stalled at around the 17 minute mark of the second half...but just prior to that, Siena held a SIXTEEN POINT lead.
That's right- if you didn't tune in, you missed Purdue allow a 2-win team pretty much have their way with for a large chunk of this game.
I'll stand by my belief that winning close games, even to less-than-great teams is alright by me...but losing to teams of similar caliber, at home or on the road, is unacceptable. A team like Purdue can't afford it...so winning today, even in an extremely-ugly fashion, was paramount.
If Stephens shoots poorly, it seems Purdue is in trouble...today, he went 1-4 from deep, and other than TJohn (2-4), his teammates followed suit. Purdue went 3-13 from three point range. But, this is another example of a game that Purdue would have lost last year. Why? because of FT shooting. Tonight, Purdue shot 80% from the stripe...four shots in particular- two from RonJohn and two from Hammons really helped Purdue's cause.
And speaking of Hammons, while his inconsistency is maddening, his talent is undeniable when he's motivated. He had 6 block shots; two of those in the closing minutes were absolutely HUGE...and he kind of forced Siena to stay out of the lane during big chunks of the game, especially in the second half. He finished with 16 points, 9 rebounds and 6 blocks. Sadly, he also had 6 turnovers. But, Matty not starting him, I believe didn't have the effect he was looking for as Hammons was far from dominant in the first half...and did the most damage as Purdue began to turn up the pressure in the second. In fact, Hammons even dove for a loose ball; something that surely warmed the hearts of the Boilers watching in the wake of a horrendous team effort in the previous two halves of action.
A slow start and six turnovers kept AJ out of the far left of BS' meter.
RonJohn had 13 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 0 turnovers...but the most-encouraging stat from his line was going 11-of-12 from the free throw line...Purdue needed every one of them.
The Forces of Good won this 68-63...but it felt MUCH closer than that. In fact, Purdue's first lead came with just :27 left off of an acrobatic pass by RonJohn to Smotherman who finished with an easy dunk.
TJohn played OK (10/2/2), but my gut continues to tell me that the way zero plays and leads is the way this team will play. Purdue was simply apathetic in the first half of this game. That reflects poorly on ALL of the Seniors as well as Painter. Just as in the Wassu game, Purdue had no business losing to this team...mercifully, they didn't lose this one.
At this point, Purdue lacks identity, lacks consistency, lacks leadership and lacks continuity. I don't feel like they lack talent, basketball athleticism or offensive firepower as they did last year. They take stupid shots at times, the defense has major lapses for spells during nearly every game and Painter and his staff don't seem to be proactive in their adjustments...That's the most-disconcerting aspect of this team at the moment.
As we've said, there is definitely improvement from last year. But based on this long weekend's performance, it's kinda tough seeing my 20-21 win season and an NCAA tourney invite come to fruition. It's a long season...a lot can happen, but as I said in the last post-game wrap-up, it's gotta start happening soon. The team needs to gel, players need to find their roles and Painter's gotta start pushing the right buttons.
Next up, Purdue hosts BC at 9:00 on Wednesday in the B1G/ACC Challenge. At this point, I don't think beating BC would be considered a good win, but beating a major conference foe would be a step in the right direction.