Boilers Fail To Make Sweet Music In Nashville
Consider the following combo of events: You’re a fairly young team, playing on the road, you come out and play a bit flat in the first half and don’t shoot tremendously well, while the home team goes into NBA Jam “ on fire” mode. Oh, and the officials for the game include Jim Burr and Ted Valentine.
The end result tonight in Purdue’s first true road test was an 81-71 defeat at the hands of a decidedly mediocre Vanderbilt team. However, we’ve seen this sort of thing happen before. Purdue has lost games to middling teams before (Butler, Nova, etc.) and they’ve also been the somewhat average squad that took down another team that didn’t seem that much worse (WVU, anyone?).
When I say that Vandy isn’t all that good, consider how lousy their schedule is: they have two Ivys on it and they lost to Rutgers. However, tonight was Riley LaChance Night, it just didn’t say it on your ticket. The Commodore frosh went off for 26 points, including 3/4 from long range – one of which had to be in the 24-25 foot range.
There’s not too much you can do when a team is unconscious from the floor for a while, as Vandy was for much of the first half (63%) and then the first 8-10 minutes of the second. You just have to hope you can weather the storm and that it doesn’t last too long. Or you can, you know, make whatever defensive adjustments are possible. The other thing you can do is try to go shot for shot with them. The Boilers were very much unable to do that this evening, shooting 47% from the field and a paltry 27% (3/11) from long range. Kendall Stephens was 1/5 from downtown and only managed to get into double figures (11 pts) by going 6/6 from the line. (Speaking of the line, both teams went an identical 16/23 [70%] on free throws.) Purdue did have four players in double figures, with Isaac Haas putting in 13 on 5/8 from the field (but only 3/8 from the line), RayDay leading the way with 15 on 78% shooting from the field (7/9) and Bryson Scott chipping in 10 (to go with Stephens’ 11). Vandy only had three guys in double figures, for what that’s worth (nothing) and cooled down late to both fall under 60% shooting for the game and allow Purdue to close the gap. The final score was a ten point margin, but the Boilers flirted with an embarrassment for the middle half of this game. Late in the first, the ‘Dores were trying to pull away and had the lead up to 15, I believe (41-26), but Purdue closed with a mini-run to make it “only” 11 at the half, 43-32. Quickly after the second half started, the Boilers showed some life and brought it down to just an eight-point deficit:
But within a minute or two it was back to 13.
That lead wound up ballooning to 20, at 60-40, and it began to look really awful for Purdue. Ray, Haas and Octeus kept hustling (seemingly more than the rest of the guys) and chipped away, continually getting it down to where you might begin to have hope that if Vandy finally cooled off and the Boilers continued to warm up, it could get interesting.
It never got closer than nine points, however, and the Boilers more or less fail their first road test.
AJ Hammons was again supplanted in the starting lineup by Isaac Haas and then wound up playing more like the guy we hoped not to see much of anymore: Sleepy AJ. He was 1/5 from the field but did hit 3/4 from the line for a quiet five points. Let’s be honest here: while the emergence of Ike Haas has been wonderful and we’re all thrilled about it, he’s still a freshman. Most of us felt AJ Hammons was going to be the engine that decided how far Purdue went this season. Early on in the year, it’s not as critical that he’s the real AJ Hammons, but Purdue is absolutely going to need him to be very soon. Conference play is coming and the opposition and road environments are going to be a lot tougher than that weirdo gym in Nashville.
Not a whole lot else to say about this game tonight. The Boilers were beaten by a team that probably isn’t better and that’s never a good sign. The road does not get easier but we know these guys are capable of better. Next up, the Boilermakers get the week off to take finals and then meet the hated Golden Domers in Indy next Saturday night at 5:15. If you’ve ever wanted to see a collection of the worst, most obnoxious basketball “fans” in the Midwest in one place, make your way to Indy next Saturday. Let’s hope Purdue shuts them up.