Boilers Serve Up Delicious Turnovers To Badgers

Purdue went into another difficult Big Ten venue -- perhaps the most difficult -- and could have come away with a win. In fact, they likely should have, but they did not, losing 66-59.

The Boilers -- especially these seniors -- are not afraid of the Kohl Center. Closing out a win tonight would have made JJ and Smooge 3-1 at Wisconsin in their careers, a fun stat that would have been awesome to lord over obnoxious Badger fans. However, it was not to be...and while officiating was again atrocious, that was once again not why the Boilers lost.

Much like a middle-aged Indianapolis man married 12 years with two kids, the team has developed a nasty habit of being unable to finish. Things started slowly, there was some anger, some deep talks...and a resolve to penetrate. However, in the end, things went limp and they were unable to get it done. (I'm talking about Purdue now.)

Seriously, though, this was a frustrating game in that the Boilers played well for the first ten minutes of the second half. In those ten minutes, they Boilers scored 27 points, after scoring 19 in all of the first 20 minutes of the game. JJ and E'Twaun looked remarkably focused, "shot out of a cannon" as Boilerdowd would put it. Painter clearly challenged them at the half and reminded them that this was their last shot in Wisconsin...they're sort of on the going-away tour. Venues they have owned before, such as Kohl, will not appear on the schedule again. Of course, I'm sure I'm far off of what Coach Matty said to them, but he must have said something. The guys looked ready and they looked like the better team that I think we all felt they were.

However, outside of that first ten minutes of the second (the "third quarter," as it were), Purdue's senior leaders did not overly impress. The first half was a sloppy mess...but let's clear something up (again).

As the half was closing, play by play man Dave O'Brien announced that only two shots had not been taken by JJ or E'Twaun and that it "is a big problem." It is? Why is it always a "problem" that Purdue relies on its two All-American candidates? I don't understand. When other teams rely on senior leaders, it's a good thing. When Purdue does it, it's a liability. Asinine. That, too, was not why they lost.

Speaking of ESPN's crack staff, the positively horrible Jill Montgomery was working the sidelines and actually asked Matt Painter about his two horses taking all the shots at the halftime interview. Matty -- awesomely -- ignored the stupid question and answered a completely different one. Which should show you how idiotic your concerns about the two best players taking all the shots is, ESPN!

But by all means, keep beating that dead horse. Actually, they're not beating a dead horse, because this "issue" never made sense... they're like beating a mechanical horse outside a supermarket. Doesn't make any sense? Exactly.

Jill Montgomery actually admitted to asking Painter in the second half: "How do you get these shots to fall that aren't going in?" I'm guessing Painter gave her a look of disdain but answered as politely as he could. I would have demanded she be removed from the premises for being stupid. (And if you're reading this, Jill, because you Google yourself or something, well, I apologize for being harsh but you're on national television and you're making the already dumb job of sideline reporter look even worse, which is hard to do. Do a little homework next time and think of some actually insightful questions.)

As for Purdue, despite all of their sluggish play, they actually had the lead with 70 seconds remaining. I bet you didn't know that. I know I didn't until I looked at things again. DJ Byrd put Purdue up 59-58 with 1:10 showing on the clock.... and then Purdue melted into a pool of goo, letting Wisconsin go on an 8-0 run to end the game. Did the Boilers think DJ's basket was at the buzzer or something? I don't know, but I do know that both JJ and Smooge got the ball into their hands in critical times, which is something we all want (no matter what ESPN tells us), and neither finished. Smooge especially has been a concern late in some of these games. His stat line isn't horrible, with shooting over 50% from the field, but he turned the ball over a team-high four times, had no threes and only got to the line one time. 15 points is nice, but not enough.

Other letdowns tonight included the inexplicably quiet game out of Lewis Jackson. Lew was still playing hard, as evidenced by his scuffle with Wquinton Smith (I think), who took a little jab at Lew's head as they were being separated. Of course, Ted Hillary, Tom O'Neill and Jim Burr didn't do a damn thing. Why do I think Lew would have been ejected if he tried to punch someone? Because I'm paranoid? Or because that's what would have happened?

One thing I did like about that scuffle was the way DJ Byrd inserted himself into the middle of it, aggressively taking steps forward into the Wisconsin players while raising his arms above his head like, "Hey, I'm not doing anything."

Anyway, Lew had an off-night, to say the least. One point on only one FG attempt and three turnovers. He did, however, tie JJ for the team lead in rebounds with.....four. Which isn't good. 

Ryne Smith shot the ball four times, all from three, with two connecting for six points... but that was all. Again, the 15-20 point Ryne must emerge again for this team to look as good as they did earlier in the season. However, DJ Byrd stepped up nicely tonight, showing that he can indeed be a scorer when called up, as he scored 11 on 67% (4-6) shooting.

JJ was good again with 23 points, though he had some bad shots, including that one with about 40 seconds left and lots of time on the shot clock. The guys have to work for the right opportunity there, and as much as JJ has been the go-to guy, I'm not sure it was a quick, contested shot from 18 feet. I know I've said before that the ball has to be in his hands at the end (his or E'Twaun's) and so I don't want to sound hypocritical... I am fine with JJ having the last shot or one of the last shots to take the lead. But it has to be a good shot, especially when there is time for it to be a good shot. I know at times JJ has been unconscious, and had that one gone in, I wouldn't be saying this... but well, you know what I mean.

In the end, this is what it came down to, in my opinion: When you get outrebounded (again) by 8 and have almost twice as many turnovers as your opponent, it's going to be incredibly hard to win. I liken those stats to the one in football we have talked about where if you allow a defensive touchdown, your odds of winning go way down... allowing two defensive TDs and your odds are even steeper. Well, it's like that when you turn the ball over and don't rebound. If you control those two stats, you can overcome a poor shooting night, for example. If you don't control them, you can lose a game even when you outshoot your opponent from the floor, as Purdue did to Wisconsin tonight (48% to 42%).

But back to our melted pool of goo...this is a problem for Purdue this season, this inability to close games out. The Boilers are 3-4 in their last seven games, and aside from the bloodletting at Ohio State, Purdue could have easily won the other three. Were we the only ones who thought this ending felt similar to the 70-67 loss to Minny and the 68-64 loss to West Virginia?

The good thing is that even with a start like tonight's ugly 19-point first half, Purdue isn't out of most games. The bad thing is that as the clock rolls into crunch time, the team seems to be wilting. The JJ winner against PSU was huge, to be sure, but would that have happened on the road? I'm not questioning the heart of these guys. But something isn't clicking in these road situations. Sure, I can stomach a loss on the road to Wisconsin, because Wisky is stout at home. It happens. In fact, any of Purdue's road losses can be tolerated individually. What is bothering us here at BS is the fact that Purdue seems to have a shot at winning every one of them and yet hasn't been closing the deal. Purdue is now 4-4 on the road and the only true road win that the Boilers closed out when it was close was the 58-55 OT winner over Va Tech, two months ago tonight.

So what happens from here? The Boilers are off until next Tuesday, when they return to Mackey to hopefully destroy Indiana's spirit. I think tonight's game was their toughest road test remaining on the season, so I personally feel there is little excuse to not finish strong. Eight regular season games remaining for the seniors -- time to nut up or shut up.

Wednesday Gumbo (CMigrator copy 5)

I am so S-M-R-T (and notes)

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