Saturday, December 17, 2011
I was in Conseco...surrounded by ex-IU fans (read as Butler fans), current IU fans (read as Notre Dame football fans) and Purdue fans. The atmosphere had the feel of an NCAA regional in which your favorite team is the highest seed- No one beside your brethren is rooting for your squad. With Purdue holding a 10-12 point lead for much of the first half and early in the second half, I thought this one would be good for Purdue. As Butler rallied to shrink the lead to just four about eight minutes into the second half only to watch Purdue push it back to double digits, I thought this was going to be a nice afternoon.
But, just as in the Xavier game, Purdue seemingly wilted and disappeared as Butler started hitting perimeter shots...and the once-vaunted Purdue defense seemed to be a spectator as much as I was as they watched the game slip through their hands. I haven't watched the tape to know who was guarding Butler's shooters down the stretch...but it didn't seem to matter. Stigall, Woods and Fromm all seemed to hit a shot or two when Butler needed them most.
Purdue had chances...plenty of them. LewJack missed some very important free throws in the closing minutes that might have changed the outcome, Hummel looked tentative in the closing minutes, especially on offense, and Smith simply didn't get open to take shots. On top of the Seniors, Butler shut down Barlow's ability to drive as time and again, Butler's unimpressive bigs physically beat Purdue into the loss column.
Butler's youngins under the basket outshined Purdue's as once again Carroll and Marcius struggled. Specifically, Carroll finished with Zero points, Zero rebounds and Zero blocks in five minutes of play. Marcius played a pretty solid first half, but didn't do much of note in the second. One thing I liked is that Painter didn't pull Lawson out of the game with four fouls as he simply must learn to play in foul trouble as he is Purdue's most-consistent power forward at this point. His 7 rebounds and 2 blocks were critical...but I don't remember him pulling down any in the last few minutes as he played shackled by fouls.
I think Painter is at a critical juncture...and something must change for this squad. Hummel, TJohn and LewJack's lack of consistent practices are showing down the stretch of recent games. The team can't seem create space on the scoreboard and finish strong v. bad (or mediocre) teams like Western Carolina, Miami and Butler...and they've looked dead tired versus good teams like Alabama & Xavier. I'm not sure if that means AJ and Barlow should play while TJohn and LewJack are shelved in an effort to get them healthy over the next 11 days. Or maybe DJ Byrd must be thrust back into playing a PF role again like last year. I don't claim to have the knowledge of Painter and his assistants...but as an outsider, I have noticed some bad trends that aren't going away...and that's bothersome.
For the first time this season, I'm not sure if Purdue can make the NCAA tournament simply because the same issues are arising time and again. Purdue's glaring lack of physicality and athleticism under the basket will be exploited by not just the elite of the conference, but teams like Minnesota, Illinois, Northwestern and Indiana...let alone Wisconsin, aOSU and MSU. And at the same time, Purdue's weary legs in the backcourt might continue to have problems rotating and fighting through screens.
Have I mentioned Purdue shot 58.3% from the free throw line? Oh yeah, they did that too...again. That and going 6-for-29 while only scoring 19 points in the second half is a recipe for disaster...and it yielded just that: a loss to a sub-.500 team on a neutral court.
Next up, Purdue gets one more local team before heading into the B1G. IPFW comes to Mackey on Tuesday at 6:30. It'll be aired on BTN (if we're lucky).