One Good Half Isn't Enough: Purdue Falls To Wisconsin 72-58

One Good Half Isn't Enough: Purdue Falls To Wisconsin 72-58

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Gah. Purdue’s weak second half cost them today, as they fell 72-58 to #9 Wisconsin in Mackey Arena. This is only Wisconsin’s third win in West Lafayette, but that factoid doesn’t make me feel better. Those tuxedo t-shirt warmups , however, were pretty sweet.

Below the break for more. Warning: it's aggravating.

Wisconsin opened the game attacking Purdue’s lackluster defensive effort. Nobody in black and gold (and white) bothered to box out after missed Wisconsin shots, nobody was watching for cuts straight down the lane, and nobody was moving on offense. Purdue even had Jay Simpson flare out for a three after setting a screen, moving without hesitation like that was a typical playcall. It was extremely frustrating to watch Jay float around the perimeter while Wisconsin doesn’t have a reliable post defender.

Purdue somehow stayed in the game on the hustling shoulders of Ray Davis and Errick Peck. Ray D’s spotty jumper was on point today, hitting two in-flow shots to force Wisconsin’s defense his way. Peck was doing his thing, engaged in a great battle with Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker (a bit more on that below). Purdue and Wisconsin were trading jabs, with some momentum-killing shots hit by freshman Nigel Hayes over Travis Carroll.

That’s when the old Terone Johnson showed up. After settling for some weak jumpers, TJ started attacking the basket with utmost confidence. Once his floaters started to fall, he started working in the paint and overpowering wings with sheer strength. This is the TJ I want to see more often, but this aggression only seems to appear without a Purdue post presence (due to foul trouble) or while mounting a too-little-too-late comeback. Today, TJ’s first half (8 points on 4/9 shooting) gave Purdue a much-needed spark.

Like every young team, Purdue’s offensive surge fueled their defensive efforts, and the Boilers started staying tight on their assignments and cut off passing lanes without fouling. Wisconsin found way to score, however, and kept their lead after two quick perimeter misses from Kid Stephens (that would be a trend today). But, with seconds left to play in the first half, Jay Simpson authoritatively grabbed a missed Wisconsin jumper and launched a perfect outlet pass to a streaking Sterling Carter, who nailed the layup as the clock expired.

Simpson's beautiful outlet pass to Carter to beat the ha... on Twitpic

Wisconsin’s lead was cut to 3, and it looked like Purdue was in a great spot to steal a win against a slipping top 10 team. Then, unfortunately…the second half started.

TJ decides to take a nap. on Twitpic

I wish I could superimpose cartoon-like zzzzz’s over TJ’s head. When a half starts out with “defense” like that, followed by a frustration-inspired timeout 50 seconds in…it’s not gonna be the best day. Purdue’s wings stopped attacking the basket, and Confused TJ made a fierce return. Off-ball movement disappeared, and our ball-handling wings became flustered when the post man wasn’t set.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that I haven’t mentioned AJ Hammons yet. The 7 foot NBA prospect was neutralized in the first half by two ticky-tack fouls in the first minute and a half of play. He came back in at the 10 minute mark, immediately picking up an insanely boneheaded over-the-back foul that sent him back to the bench. I really wanted to post a gif of that, but I was too afraid it might cause casualties. Hammons didn’t start in the second half, but when it was clear that the Boilermakers left their intensity shoes in the locker room, Painter tried to jumpstart our offense by calling multiple plays for the big fella in the post. The only results were a few AJ turnovers after Wisconsin aggressively collapsed inside. A few were the result of AJ hesitating, but his mistakes were often compounded by hideous wing spacing:

Sterling Carter cuts after delivering an entry pass to AJ, and his man doubles the ball. Carter hangs out under the basket, hoping that AJ will get enough daylight to pass him the ball for an easy layup. Well, that’s the idea. Instead, Carter’s passing lane is completely obscured, and Wisconsin doubles AJ so aggressively he loses the ball. Carter should have recognized that his defender was doubling immediately after he cut into the paint, and reversed direction to the strong side corner. This would either give AJ an easy pass to Carter for a wide open corner three (the second-best shot in basketball, only behind a dunk), or force Carter’s man to recover and give AJ more room to work. Instead, turnover. Hooray. AJ finished with 2 points and 2 rebounds in only 12 minutes of play.

Purdue was so out of sync in the second half, and Wisconsin never relented. The Badgers took away Purdue’s driving lane, and Coach Painter didn’t have a counter. Jay Simpson (6 points, 5 rebounds on 2/7 shooting) had a few strong post moves in the second half, but most of the sets ended in the Boilers settling for less-than-ideal  jumpers very early in the shot clock (ahem, RJ and Stephens). Offensively, Wisconsin had an effective balance of backbreaking threes and steady free throw shooting. Who knew that going 27/33 from the line could make such a difference? Sigh.

A few additional notes:

-  The Errick Peck/Sam Dekker matchup was really fun to watch from a neutral point of view. Both became offensive focal points midway through the first half, and their craftiness in the post was fantastic. Peck played his part as Purdue’s no-stats all star, and was seemingly always in the right spot. A few tip-ins, some great post looks, injecting hustle into a few lifeless sets…it seemed like there were 3 Pecks on the floor at times. Dekker couldn’t get his shot going in the first half, but did his damage from the free throw line and on the glass to keep Wisconsin ahead. He finished with 15 points and 7 rebounds, going 3/9 from the field but 8/11 from the line. Two very intelligent players attacking each other with different games…I enjoyed the matchup, except for the fact that Peck lost.

-  The tux look was pretty amazing, and got props from more than a few viewers. But, more importantly, Pete looked like a mob boss, and it might be my favorite thing ever.

Can we start a petition to make Hitman Pete a permanent fixture?

-  Bryson Scott finished with 10 points and 5 rebounds on 4/10 shooting, but all of those were in garbage time. Recently, he’s been severely lacking during the actual flow of the game, and transforms into Blistering Bryson only while we’re down big. He was caught multiple times overhelping off of very good three point shooters, and made some awful unforced turnovers. It’s frustrating, but I guess late-game performances are better than him making freshman mistakes all the time.

-  Kid Stephens has the ultimate green light, but it let him down today. 2/7 shooting, all from beyond the arc, no free throws…man was he ice cold. If even one more of those momentum-building threes lands and the game could have been very different.

Wisconsin had lost three straight, didn’t have a defensive stopper inside, and looked extremely vulnerable in the first half…and Purdue threw the opportunity away. I know these Boilermakers are “very young”, but when will they take that step from ‘promising’ to ‘dangerous’? I, for one, expected that to happen before Purdue’s 20th game of the season.

The Boilermakers travel to Ann Arbor on Thursday, January 30th, to take on the (currently) #21 Michigan Wolverines. All we can do is cross our fingers and hope for a transformation before then.

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