30% from the field.
16 points in the second half.
44 points overall.
A terrible loss, 53-44.
This one stings. It stings for a lot of reasons and not just the obvious ones. It drops the Boilers into a three-way tie for first place in the Big Ten. Assuming everyone wins out, it's a co-championship at best. But it's time to worry about more than that.
Purdue has somehow lost their identity, it seems. We never doubted or argued that Rob Hummel wasn't important. However, there's no reason for E'Twaun Moore or JaJuan Johnson to suddenly become a poor shooters (3-13 and 4-14, respectively, from the field). Or for Chris Kramer to turn the ball over five times. Or for the entire team to get outrebounded by such a ridiculous margin.
The only good I take from this game was that the Boilers can still play defense. They induced 22 turnovers by the Spartans and held them to just 40% shooting and 53 points, which, obviously were enough today.
The bench contributed absolutely nothing and Keaton Grant dipped back to single-digit scoring. All the talk about being #1 was indeed premature, though it is absolutely gut-wrenching that it lined up this way -- is there any doubt that a fully-healthy Boilermaker team doesn't go out and win today and at least get into the discussion for number 1? Painful.
It's time to regroup. The first goal was a Big Ten regular season championship. When the Boilers were 2-3 in conference and had lost three straight, and MSU was 5-0, that looked comically unattainable. Talking about it was verboten and we all said we should move on to other things. Then our boys reeled off ten straight wins to take control of the conference. That win streak allowed them the leeway to lose one game down the stretch and still at least tie for the conference title. That's still within their grasp, with games vs. IU and @PSU this final week. If OSU and MSU can both trip up and the Boilers take care of business, that Big Ten championship will be awfully tasty.
The second goal now needs to be intertwined with the first, and that is to learn how to play without Rob Hummel. Maybe it IS that big a deal and something that requires a complete overhaul of their approach and game plan. It looked like it today, as the Boilers started four guards.
All hope is not lost. The Boilers have their last two regular season games, plus whatever amount of B10 Tourney play they have to sort this out and figure out how the rotation will work and how they will get JJ and Smooge the looks they need to carry the bulk of the scoring. And if they can figure that out at least somewhat, this team is not in dire straits. They can still play defense and you can advance a couple of rounds in the NCAA tourney based on your defense alone. This is not a team that's going to be outworked or outhustled -- if the scoring adjustments can be made, this is still a dangerous team. A wounded, dangerous team.
I'll admit, today was unnerving. But this team just lost for the first time since January 16. They're 24-4. All of their ability did not evaporate with Rob Hummel's ACL.
Keep the faith, let's get two wins to close the season and see where things stand in a week.
- Congrats to Chris Kramer for becoming the all-time steals leader at Purdue, doing so on a nifty steal and breakaway dunk that made the crowd think things could go the Boilers way today.
- Big ups to the Purdue faithful. The students and other fans represented all of us Boilermakers very well, displaying heart and emotion and an undeniable, unwavering loyalty to their boys. Great support, everyone. Please keep it up.
- Congrats to Team USA Hockey, the only thing that could make me channel-flip from a Purdue game, narrowly losing in OT to Team Canada. I finally gave up when the USA-Canada game went to overtime and simply set up two TVs next to one another. Neither gave me the outcome I was looking for.