Purdue deserved to lose in Evanston earlier this season...and they stole a victory. Tonight, on Senior Night, at Mackey, they deserved to lose again, and they lost. I guess fair is fair, NU got its retribution, but the Cats are not a good team. Purdue's entire team and the coaching staff choked, let their guard down, played dispassionately and was sleepwalking for the majority of the second half and earned the loss tonight.
Psssst- Wanna know a secret? Matt Painter has no clue how to counter zone defenses. Purdue lost badly to a mediocre Michigan team (who plays zone) and lost again tonight to a mediocre Northwestern team (who plays zone). God-forbid our Boilers run into Syracuse or another solid zone team in the tourney.
It's amazing to me how different the two halves were- As the first half started to roll along, I was thinking to myself, "With Grant playing his game again, on both sides of the floor, this Purdue team is dangerous...
"Hummel's healthy and playing like it, LewJack's pace and control are getting better every game, JJ is playing like an all-league player, Kramer makes it difficult on everyone he guards and Moore is always a threat to score 20...and quietly."
But the second half, Kramer was playing defense like he did v. UM, JJ wasn't rebounding or blocking shots, Hummel wasn't asserting himself and shots weren't falling, Grant wasn't shooting quite as well, Smooge disappeared (yet again) and LewJack really had no one to pass to as the offensive spigot was in the off position.
This basketball team suffers the same disease that the football team suffered from the last few seasons- no killer instict. And it seems to me, the roots of the problem are in the same place- the laissez-faire coaching philosophy of never-too-high, never-too low has crept in multiple times this season...And tonight, it turned a 10-point lead into a seven-point deficit in about 6 minutes. Against an offense like Northwestern's, a 12-15 point lead is all but a victory...but lazy passing and poor shot-selection will be, and was exploited by the smart Wildcats.
This Purdue team has struggled to find an identity all season. Earlier in the season we could blame the struggles on injuries and illness...now, health is not the problem, but the same problems seem to exist. Purdue seemingly has been running from its identity and trying to cover it up all season, but our Boilers are what they are- an OK team...and quite-frankly, that's unacceptable. There are too many weapons and too much experience on this squad for this team to have this many conference losses.
The magic number of 64 points was not magical tonight- this is the first loss for Purdue while holding an opponent to 64-or-less points. Our Boilers allowed NU to shoot just under 50%...and in doing so, they allowed a team on life-support to keep its tourney hopes alive for the second time in a week. Purdue is now in danger of losing 3 of its last 4 games and falling from as high as a 3 seed in the NCAA tournament to a six OR seven. And, their national ranking should be a memory come this time next week save an improbable win v. MSU. Granted, there's still a BT tourney to play, but Purdue's history in that event is dismal.
Atop of a 10-minute shooting drought and lack-luster defense, Purdue's rebounding woes once-again reared their ugly, anger-inducing head. Down the stretch in the game, Purdue simply allowed NU to out-will them as second-chance after second-chance simply opportunities nailed the coffin shut. I've always said this, rebounding is a decision...and Purdue decided tonight to not want the ball, especially in latter stages of the second half.
When a team that's defined by defense and hard work doesn't defend and plays lazily, there's a problem...we've now seen this twice in a 6-day period. Painter and Co. better help these young men figure out who they are in a hurry or ZERO of the pre-season team goals will be met.