Boilers Die In Minnesota; Then Reanimate and Attempt Comeback
For those of you missing The Walking Dead in your Sunday routine, the Boilermakers attempted to do their best zombie impression today. They looked completely dead midway through the second half, trailing by as much as 16 before staging a furious comeback that only left Boiler fans… furious. 82-79, Gophers win.
Purdue came out and looked competitive in the first half and I don’t mean that in the pejorative way. Being competitive in a road game in the Big Ten is what you’re looking for early on. Home teams often are juiced up and ready to roll so sticking with them early is key – you hope to wear them down and take advantage later. Or maybe that’s just what I expect from watching Purdue teams over the years. Grinding down opponents and slowly taking away their will has always been part of the plan.
Minny kept trying to stretch the lead in the first half but Purdue kept bringing it back despite – stop me if you’ve heard this before – early foul trouble. The Boilers even had the ball down seven in the final minute but weren’t able to convert and went to the break down 42-35.
In the second half, I began looking for something else to do, as the Boilermakers began to piss me off as they’ve done a number of times this season. As Minnesota began to turn up the pressure, Purdue took on that look of a defeated team…again. Admittedly, I may be hypersensitive to it and looking for it now, but it feels to me like this team is so mentally soft they simply cannot handle adversity and allow themselves to throw in the towel as soon as things begin to look bleak. I’m not sure who to pin this on or if there’s an easy answer. Some say coaching, and it’s hard to argue that that sort of issue is something the coaching staff should be able to address. Others might point to senior leadership, which is also popular. Terone Johnson is the senior most easy to blame – and I’ve seen fans doing so – and evidently Matt Painter decided since he couldn’t bench the coaching staff, he’d sit TJohn down for a while. (The BTN broadcast team then told us “Terone Carter” hadn’t seen the court in a while.)
I began to get really irritated and was ready to write some pretty pissy things about Purdue basketball when it was 70-54 with seven minutes to go. But then the boys woke back up, including an energized Terone, and began quickly cutting into the lead. An 18-6 run made it 76-72 with just over two minutes to go. While that was fun to make Minnesotans sweat a little, I don’t know if any of us thought the Boilers would close it out. It’s hard enough to stage such a furious rally – sealing the deal takes even more resolve, effort and focus… and, frankly, I’m not sure this team has any of those traits right now.
Going back to coaching decisions, maybe someone can explain to me how AJ Hammons has 18 and 16 last game and yet in this tilt he only takes three shots from the field. Seriously, three shots in 22 minutes… and only one foul? No comprende.
One thing I’ve found myself thinking a few times is how much I like the pickups of the senior transfers Peck and Carter. They don’t always impact the scoresheet, but having older guys with experience and without an excessively large chip on their shoulders or a need for their egos to be fed is great. Today, Carter had 10 points off the bench (including 2/3 from long range) and he and Peck combined for 5/9 from the floor. A nice, steadying influence when it was needed.
Terone wound up with the best box score line of the day for Purdue, with 18 points – he shot 4/4 from the FT line but only 5/15 (33%) from the field. Yeesh. Ronnie had another double figure game with 12 points and the brothers combined for 5/9 from the three-point line.
Basil Smotherman continues to be perhaps the guy with the best energy on the court for Purdue. He shot 50% from the field and had eight points and six rebounds.
Matt Painter usually figures out his rotations by this point in the season and has settled in on 7-8 guys who see the majority of the minutes. Today he played 11 guys, with nobody playing fewer than eight minutes. That’s quite spread and while I understand this is a young team, it’s still reasonable of us to expect a clear group to emerge. Maybe it won’t happen and we’ll just see 9-11 guys playing every game. That’s fine if the depth is used to an advantage – it’s less fine if it simply leads to a lack of continuity and flow.
The Boilers are now in the depths of the Big Ten cellar with the likes of Indiana at 0-2. Sure, all is not lost yet as Purdue likes to drive us insane and might rip off a winning streak shortly. However, things are beginning to get very worrisome and if nothing changes, we’ll be lucky (if you can call it that) to be watching our Boilers in the NIT come March.
Nebraska is up next in a week.