Monday, March 19, 2012

The Morning After

It doesn't feel any less lousy this morning. The Boilermakers still lost a game that they led nearly wire-to-wire. They lost a game where they shot a better percentage -- albeit with a serious dropoff in the second half -- than a presumably much better team. They lost a game where, perhaps most frustratingly for me, they didn't force Kansas to make a play, to win it. Kansas simply took Purdue's turnovers and long rebounds and won the game with breakaways. Sure, they count just as much and the Jayhawks won and move on, but it doesn't feel like it was supposed to end like this.

We all knew there was a good chance that this would be the seniors' final game. But after 38 minutes of basketball, it just felt like it couldn't end now. When you lead a game the entire time and -- to their credit -- find ways to edge the lead back up each time the powerhouse Jayhawks cut into it. In fact, the lead did get to double digits in the second half. And in most years, with a Matt Painter coached team, if I said you had a double digit lead anytime in the second half against pretty much anybody, I think you'd take it.

So many odd things happen in the tournament. Rob goes for 22 in the first half but just 4 in the second. However, that can be credited to Kansas, who while they were outcoached by the Purdue staff, clearly is good enough to go into the locker room and say, "Let's guard Hummel and not let him beat us... let's make someone else beat us." It was a smart approach and it worked.

In other games recently, it might have been Terone Johnson who beat them, and Zero showed with 10 points in the second half, but his teardrop was just not splashing like it has of late. In other games, it might have been the little man, Lewis Jackson, who has gone for 18 (vs St. Mary's), 17 (vs IU), 20 (vs Minn) this season, for example. But Lew's patented high-speed, running layup was just refusing to fall, slowly rolling off the rim at least three separate times. Lew shot 2/11 for the game. How often does that happen? (Not often.)

It could have been Ryne, another favorite of BS. But Ryno was only 1/2 from the floor last night, hitting his only real shot and just missing the last-second prayer that, quite frankly, as about as good a look as Purdue could expect in the situation they were in. Who could have expected that Ryne would have just three points in two tourney games? It's unusual and not something you could have predicted.

Purdue had trouble on the glass all year. Yet here, against two of the better big men in the nation, the Boilers were only outrebounded 35-32 -- damn near a wash. And when you look at the starting five's rebounds for the Boilermakers you see this column of numbers: 9-6-3-8-4. Guys were gutting it out and doing everything they could.

Sandi Marcius, for all the abuse he's taken from Purdue fans, played hard and did what he was asked. Sandi had 11 DNPs in the Boilers' final 21 games. Yet when he was asked to be a body, use his fouls and grab rebounds, Sandi didn't sulk, pout or give a lackadaisical effort. He gave an effort to be proud of, because that's what Boilermakers do.

The effort was recognized on the other side, too, as Bill Self clearly had loads of respect for the Boilers. Interestingly to me also was the way Self's players quite obviously respected Purdue's effort and Rob Hummel in particular. Those guys didn't seem like a great group of dudes but in the handshake line, Jayhawk after Jayhawk stopped Rob to do more than give the typical "good game." He scared them and almost beat them single-handedly and those guys wanted to let him know they respected it. 

I saw some raw emotions after the game last night on the instantaneous medium that is Twitter. I stopped looking after a few trolling IU losers did their usual sad-life, antagonism routine, but before I did -- immediately after the game -- I saw some harsh criticisms directed at a couple guys in particular that I'd like to address here.

Lewis Jackson -- For anyone who wants to batter Lew for those final two possesstions, especially the second to last one where he ended it with a turnover, I guess you're entitled. But the isolation play was called for Lew, a senior who has been as much a part of Purdue's successes over the past four years as anyone. Lew, a senior who has repeatedly shown an ability to use his quickness to get a layup even when, as Steve Kerr put it during the broadcast, the other team knows it's coming.

Purdue had been shooting cold in the second half and the Jayhawks defense had, as mentioned, bottled up Rob. So why not keep it in the hands of your senior leader? No, Lewis didn't come through in that particular moment. But do not let that cloud your memories of all the times Lew has come through and all the games Purdue won in large part due to his contribution.

He's one of ours and he sold out and risked his future back health for the old gold and black. Do not forget that.

Matt Painter -- I don't quite understand this, but there are those out there who seem to think Painter isn't a good coach. Maybe it's the drama we saw last year and the resulting bigger contract dollars. Regardless, if you think Matt Painter "cost" Purdue that game, then I don't think you know a whole lot about basketball. Throughout this game, I kept thinking that if Purdue was indeed able to pull this win off, that I'd be writing about this game as Matt Painter's best performance as Purdue head coach. And you know what? I still kind of think it is.

Matt even got the Jayhawks to change their game. Withey, the 7-foot center, played well below his averages in minutes, points and rebounds, largely because Coach Self and company decided to go with a smaller, guard-heavy lineup at times -- something that we as Purdue fans were fine with.

Coach Matty took the parts that he had at his disposal -- parts that did not match up in any way to the bigger, skilled Jayhawks -- and found a way to make it work. He found a way to get this team to rebound with Kansas. He found a way to get contributions from guys who -- as mentioned -- were no-shows or one-minute players for the past couple of months. If that's not good coaching, I don't know what is.


chevys10 said...

Also, let's not forget that the coaching staff did not have much time to prepare for Kansas,an opponent that they're not used to seeing. I know everyone is under the same circumstances in the tourney, but that was one hell of a game plan given the amount of time to prepare.

Hats off to all the assistant coaches and Painter.

madboiler03 said...

I agree that this is one of Painter's best performances as a coach. However, I also think it was a poor decision at the end of the game that led to the loss.

If we look back over the course of the season, we can find many examples when the transition from Boilermaker basketball to clock killing has not gone well. Leads have been lost, or at least diminished several times. Had we continued to run the offense, I think better things may have happened than lots of dribbling and poor shots or turnovers.

The ironic thing is that Coach Painter brilliantly proved that many disadvantages can be mitigated simply by taking another team out of its game. Unfortunately, though, he didn't make the connection that when we take ourselves out of our own game, bad things happen to us too.

I'm still thrilled by Coach Painter's performance in the game, and I hope we can use this as a learning experience in the years to come.

Unknown said...

So let me be the first to say mea culpa about Matt Painter. I was one of the voices calling for his head during the season. It's been essentially one of those years for him. You start with the contract situation that led to some huge raised expectations (hand raised), coupled with several years of 'Meh' recruiting, on top of losing Willis, then Harris, and all after bowing out early to VCU in the dance last year. Oh yes, and the fact that the team at points during the year just looked like it could care less (Barlow). I had this growing feeling that we were overpaying for past performance, and that Matty was getting by on essentially one good recruiting class. My fear that we were seeing the Keady situation play out all over again.

Then the Barlow situation happened. And this team pulled it's collective heads out of their asses and played some great basketball. They sold out on defense. Hustled. Beat a ranked Michigan team on the road. This was the Purdue team I had grown accustomed to seeing. We'll never really know what went on behind closed doors. The only word on it - "Addition by subtraction". I have to imagine that truly one player was doing a lot of damage to team chemistry. After that, both Johnsons blossomed. People seemed to find their roles. The future looked more promising.

And then this game happened. Make no mistake, even though Purdue didn't win, Painter spun some magic here. Purdue had no size, and yet we somehow managed to get good play out of Chooch and Carroll. Painter's game plan forced Kansas out of their game into a smaller lineup. Purdue fought. They came out and knocked the Jayhawks on their ass. This was the Matt Painter and Purdue I had become accustomed to seeing.

Purdue has two back to back recruiting classes back to back that are stacked. Matt seems to have his coaching mojo back. The future looks good, certainly far less bleak than I had thought during the season.

This was a great effort yesterday, and it has implications for this program that go far beyond that one game.

Sorry Coach Painter for doubting you. If there's still room on the bandwagon, I'd love to jump back on again.

Scruffy_P said...

Agree, agree, agree. Prolly won't call into the impromtu Handsome Hour tonight, but I'll be listening.

I think my thoughts are summed up easily tho:
1. Damn proud of the seniors and the whole team
2. Man, Painter can coach
3. Thought from TMill's post on H&R: these guys got us to national prominence, the next guys get to take us further, or however he put it
4. I also noticed the class from the KU squad post-game. They all took time to say a few words, and not just to Rob.

Tweek said...

This was Painter's finest single game. He took a squad that had struggled to find an identity and put together a full game all year, was way physically outmatched, and was facing an opponent with match-ups they had struggled with all year, and he flat out-coached them. By a lot. It was enough to win, if just one or two more shots fall our way.

If DJ hits that shot when up 3? If Rob hits his three when down 1 with 7 seconds left? Either of those finds home, we're talking about the greatest game Painter's ever had. I say it still is.

JustaBeatWriter said...

I agree that Painter deserves a lot of credit and all of them do. The only thing I can disagree with that whole night was winding the clock down.
Now I am no basketball coach, but I am a firm believer that you play to win, not play to not lose.
That's what I think Purdue did. They had the lead and played to not lose by holding on the ball and winding the clock down. Personally, I think you should of played to win and attacked the basket.
Who knows if it would of worked since it's easier to argue it the next day.
Regardless it was still a great game and one of the best played/coached games we have had.
Ever Grateful ever true, Hail Purdue!

Daniel Kirkdorffer said...

Let's not forget that it was Lewis Jackson who helped win the first game by scoring 7 of the team's final 9 points.

As for slowing the game down against Kansas, keep in mind that the effort they were putting forth must have been tiring them out as well. Slowing the pace down served multiple purposes: shortening the game, giving the team a breather, and keeping the team focused on getting the best shot in a possession instead of giving up quick turnovers.

If someone had told me that Purdue would be leading with 30 seconds to play I'd have thought it wishful thinking. But they were there, and needed a final shot to fall, it just didn't. That's basketball. Someone has to lose, unfortunately, in this game it was the least deserving IMO.