Bad Decisions, Refs Doom Boilers In Loss To Texas

Bad Decisions, Refs Doom Boilers In Loss To Texas

It should have been a glorious homecoming for Carsen Edwards.

The Boilers were facing a Texas team that wasn’t shooting well (.500/.289/.648), wasn’t defending the arc well, and wasn’t drawing fouls well. All they needed was to get Boogie wound up and running, and it would be an easy Purdue victory. (Well, probably a close one: kenpom had Purdue by 1.)

Except that the Good Guys give up even more three-point looks than Texas does, and draw fewer fouls, and allow DI-average shooting. The first part bit Purdue almost immediately, as the Longhorns rattled home a couple of threes to start the game; the second part was in evidence as the Boilers shot exactly one first-half free throw, and the third part came into play in the second half.

The first half looked like a worst-case scenario: threes falling for Texas (6 for 15), threes not falling for Purdue (2 for 16), and the usual brutal decision-making that we’ve seen every few games from the Boilers over the years. Ryan Cline needs to hit a couple of threes to get in rhythm, but they really shouldn’t be NBA threes; his first or second miss from the arc was an off-balance three from that range, and his final miss was a 35-footer on a short possession after he’d made his only three of the game.

In the past, Cline wouldn’t have much of a chance beyond the first couple of shots, as he’d quickly be replaced by Dakota Mathias or Vincent Edwards; this year, no one else has shown themselves to be a consistent outside threat to take some of the heat off Carsen, so Cline has no choice but to try and find his shot, and he doesn’t have the luxury of having fresh legs to come off screens while a starting defender chases him. Eastern still doesn’t have an outside shot, Eifert isn’t an offensive contributor, and Haarms is just adequate from three (so far). So it’s Cline or nothing … and unfortunately, today it was nothing.

The second-half game plan was basically “Boogie got this.” Carsen did everything he could to push the Boilers to a win, dropping 28 of his career-high-tying 40 … but on Purdue’s penultimate possession, with the Good Guys down two, Shaka Smart finally got two guys on Edwards, and he had to struggle to find Cline, who was also closely guarded. The ball ended up with the open guy, Aaron Wheeler, who looked from three, drew his man, drove the baseline, and got fouled.

Except the refs, who’d called a pretty decent game aside from a completely inexplicable foul on Sasha Stefanovic after a Texas three, declared that a cut block on the baseline is OK in the last 30 seconds if it’s inadvertent - Jaxson Hayes slipped trying to check Wheeler’s three look and fell directly in Wheeler’s path, forcing him out of bounds and committing what would have been his fifth foul. Matt Painter earned at least one technical foul arguing the call, since it was directly in front of him, but since the refs presumably knew they’d completely blown it, they let Painter get it out of his system and didn’t even warn him (that I saw). Turnover, Texas ball up two. The Longhorns hit two free throws after a foul, a long Purdue pass ended up with a Wheeler miss, and Carsen’s 40 was for naught.

While the timing of the last blown call was awful, it wouldn’t have been a factor if Purdue had a better inside-out game. Matt Haarms actually had a few really nice post moves, but he’s on the perimeter much more than in the post, and with Evan Boudreaux the only other Boiler who even kind of seems to have a post game, all too often the Good Guys end up cycling the ball outside the arc until Boogie has to put up a prayer, and the fact that many of his are answered just reinforces the lack of cohesion when he’s in the game. It’s worse on the rare occasions when he’s rested; someone usually has to force a three, which works fine when they fall and not so well when they don’t.

The losses to Virginia Tech and Florida State were understandable because those are both solid teams; the loss to Michigan would have been equally so given the difference between last year’s Purdue team and this year’s, but was even more understandable since the Wolverines have been elite this year. Texas, however, is more like a bubble team than a solid contender, and yet for most of the game, the Boilers found themselves chasing, not leading. Not counting Purdue, half the Big Tenteen have higher kenpom ratings than Texas does; struggling in this game is a bad sign for conference play and puts Saturday’s game against Notre Dame in question. The Irish nearly lost at home to Illinois, but they had reasonable games against Oklahoma and UCLA, and their offense is more potent than the one Purdue saw tonight - the Boilers need to get their offensive woes sorted out in a hurry to avoid another letdown.

Fortunately, they’ve got nearly a full week to do so, although after a game like this you’d almost rather have another opponent instead of a week of finals. It is what it is: the players will be studying most of the week while the rest of us are hoping that the next edition of the Carsen Edwards Highlight Show has a much better ending than this one did.

Good stuff

  • Boogie, obviously. 40 points on 27 shot equivalents, 40% of Purdue’s possessions. .667 inside the arc, .500 outside it, perfect at the line, 3 assists and just one turnover.

  • Turnovers in general. Even counting the no-call (Wheeler’s only turnover), Purdue had just 6 and forced 15 by Texas.

  • Most of the defensive effort. Many Texas possessions ended with a bad shot or no shot at all, and honestly, when you’re playing a team that’s shooting 28% from the arc, it makes sense to let them try to beat you from outside.

  • Haarms was the lone member of the supporting cast to help out offensively: 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting with a pair of FTs, 4 boards, a block and a steal.

  • Halftime adjustments by Painter. Until Texas managed to get some better inside looks, the Boilers came out with solid D and retook the lead for a spell.

Bad stuff

  • Perimeter defense. Texas isn’t going to shoot .440 from the arc every game, but some of that was from open looks; threes allowed are a better indicator of defensive problems than three-point percentage allowed because you generally see a lot of threes taken only when the defense is giving up good looks, and while some were not good shots, others were the result of rotation failure.

  • Absence of an inside game. No entry passes, no inside game, barely any free throws (Purdue shot just 7; Texas shot 16).

  • ESPN2. I actually wished the game had been on BTN. There’s no question that ESPN has let a lot of talented people go in the last few years; it’s easy to see just by watching college football or basketball on an ESPN channel. It seems like half the people on the air know less about the sport than you or I do. (Their volleyball coverage is adequate; some knowledgeable people, some cliche machines.) The director missed at least two baskets in favor of showing promos for some game none of us care about, and for some bizarre reason they forced a feature on Andrew Jones, the Texas player recovering from leukemia, into live action rather than during halftime. So instead of being able to focus on the story, we had announcers trying to read their cue cards while remembering to look up every 15 seconds or so in case there was a basket (there were a couple, if memory serves.)

  • Texas’ offensive scheme. Every now and then, they remembered to move the ball quickly, and when they did they almost always got a good shot out of it. Most of the time, they looked a lot like Purdue did at the other end, content to not get any good looks and just force something up late in the shot clock or not at all. (Of course a number of their bad looks went in, so that made the numbers look better.) This is Shaka Smart’s fourth year in Austin, and it looks like it’ll be his third straight year with a bad offense; it’s easy to forget that most of his VCU teams didn’t shoot the ball well either. When Texas lets him go, it’ll be interesting to see who wants to take a chance on him.

Next up

Crossroads Classic against Mike Brey’s 19th Irish team. Yes, there is now an entire generation of Notre Dame fans who’ve known nobody else as their basketball coach. Not bad for a guy who’s only made 3 Sweet 16s and has just one conference tournament title in that time. (Granted, that’s between the Big East and the ACC, and ND won the ACC tournament in 2015, which is quite an accomplishment.) It’s good to see a school be comfortable with a reasonable degree of success, and to be honest I wouldn’t have thought ND was that school. I guess they’re only wildly unrealistic about football. Also Brey isn’t even the longest-tenured active basketball coach at the school: Muffet McGraw is in her 32nd season in South Bend and has two national championships there. Yep, she’s been at ND since I was a Purdue student. (And I still dislike that her first title came at Purdue’s expense.)

Kenpom has Purdue as a five-point favorite in that game. Go get ‘em, Good Guys!

Road game means no Purdue photos or clips, I guess: feature photo by John Gutierrez of USA Today Sports, courtesy of Purdue Sports

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