Painter set a few goals for this team, at least to the public- contend for a BT title while earning a high seed for the tournament. The last two games put Matty's squad in a horrible position and have made it little-more than a long-shot for our Boilers to win the regular season title.
Let's look at what's happening. In my opinion, it's a question of will and effort.
Purdue's offense was kept in games, at least prior to the last five days, by defensive effort that was unmatched in the nation. I remarked a few days ago about how tremendous the switches on the traps were. That comes from guys hustling from one spot to another. Tonight, I saw Ohio State find the open man time and time again as Johnson and others slowly slid out of the trap.
The second glaring problem, especially this evening was another hustle issue, in my opinion. Purdue accepted the three too easily. Sure, it worked out well as the Ostrich rained fire on the heads of the Bucknuts at a scary pace in the first half. But acceptance of 18+ footers time and time again leads to a lower shooting percentage and fewer chances at the free throw line.
Finally, and maybe most-glaringly, JJ has simply vanished. He's played some large dudes the last few games...but that's nothing new. I noticed a few times tonight he'd call for the ball and would be missed by the guards...after a few failed attempts, he really stopped demanding the ball...and didn't crash the glass at all as Purdue missed time and time again.
The poor vision by Kramer, Grant and Barlow has nothing to do with effort and more to with the fact that two guys that aren't true point guards are playing a lot of point and the third is still a Frosh who's trying to learn his game while adjusting to a speed and intensity, game-in, game-out, that he's never seen.
Many of you have weighed in on the LewJack situation saying he shouldn't be brought back- Tonight you saw the many reasons why he should be brought back into the fold. His vision is/was better than the the guys running the point right now. His quickness is unparalleled by anyone on the team...and while aOSU might have looked like the best full-court press team in America for four minutes tonight, they're far from it. Good point guard play would have made a world of difference in the closing minutes tonight.
A lot of analysts point to Purdue's bench play as a problem...and there's no doubt they're right, the guys coming off the bench aren't doing enough. But, what's a bigger problem is that nearly 70% of the scoring is coming from just two guys the last two games. That's 30% of the points coming from 7 players, for those of you playing at home. It might have been OK for Glenn Robinson and Cuonzon Martin...but this system needs a much more balanced effort to succeed.
Think about this- A former All-BT center, a former All-BT Honorable Mention guard and the team's former MVP are each averaging a combined 15 points/game in the last two contests. We know offense has been a problem at times for this team, but I think this is a new low.
Before the game, Painter wondered how his team would handle the wake of their first loss. They clearly showed they were shell-shocked. The score, 70-66, shows a team that barely-lost. But, this close loss was really a blow-out in close-loss clothing as a 29-point, single-half effort couldn't propel more momentum and a victory. Keep in mind, Purdue was facing a team in which talent has never been, nor never will be an issue...but coaching and effort might often be questioned. In my opinion, aOSU's effort beat Purdue's...and so did their coaching.
This game demonstrates the current state of our Boiler's will. It's not where it needs to be...not where it should be with a starting five of three Juniors and two Seniors with more awards than any starting five in the history of the school. Make no mistake, all isn't lost, but these guys better re-examine who they are in a hurry, because it gets no easier.
The BT is a meat grinder. For all intents and purposes, Matty and the boys have shoved their hands in and might get pulled all the way in if they're not careful. A tougher-than-last-season Northwestern team hosts Purdue on Saturday in what is now, nearly a must-win. Will the real Purdue please stand up?
So, last year our Boiler's season had a predictable rhythm- 2-straight losses would follow a string of 5 or more wins on a multiple occasions. This season, that sort ebb and flow is unacceptable if they want to reach any of the goals they set as a team. A new streak must start Saturday...and their success depends on them making the decision, as a team, to be great.