Purdue probably didn't schedule the ninth-best team in the CAA, at Mackey, just before the conference schedule began, in an effort to get a challenge...but they got a pretty good test anyway on Saturday afternoon.
William and Mary entered the game at 7-3...not a bad record. But, none of their wins came against the top-275 in the RPI. But the fact that the Tribe isn't a great team didn't stop them from really wanting a victory on Keady Court.
The game started out well for our Boilers- Purdue had a 7 point lead in the first 4.5 minutes. But after a timeout by W&M, the game quickly became a back-and-fourth contest. At one point in the final 15minutes of the first half, Purdue had a six-point lead...but quickly, they relinquished it by allowing open three pointers.
What typically defines Painter-coached teams- hustle, gritty effort and stubborn defense hasn't been easy to find this season...and that was the case again versus W&M. After the game, Painter noted that giving up a six unanswered points in a few minutes isn't a good thing...but giving up a six point lead in 30 seconds has become the norm for his squad.
Purdue's opponent seemed to out-Purdue our Boilers- they were enthusiastic, opportunistic, energetic and just seemed to want the game more...especially in the first 30 minutes. That's pretty tough for me as a fan to swallow; I'm sure it's unbearable for Matty to see. But, these guys are his guys...and the state of this team rests on his shoulders.
On message boards and Twitter alike, Purdue fans seem to be arguing amongst themselves about how patient we need to be. It's true that rebuilding seasons happen, even in the best programs, every 5-7 seasons. And I also think that while this teams woes are based largely on recruiting misses a few years ago, Painter has obviously earned some leniency. But it's pretty clear to see that there are simply some missing pieces to this team that cannot be found on the current roster.
A consistent threat from the outside, A solid second option at point guard, an experienced first option at point guard, a defensive stopper or even a guy that simply plays like his hair is ablaze would all be welcomed additions at this point.
Lawson's shot-blocking ability and overall energy seem nearly-contagious, RonJohn's on-ball defense shows signs of being difference-making and Davis' ability to attack the basket and follow shots is much needed in an offense that seems to be based primarily on standing around and watching guys miss bunnies.
But, this defense, regardless of who is playing rotates extremely-slowly as if they don't fully grasp what to do when the ball reverses. The end result over and over again is a late-arriving double or triple team...and a subsequent kick out that becomes an inevitable open three pointer. This is why six and seven point leads are no where near enough cushion for this team.
At one time not-too-long-ago, a seven to ten point lead for a Painter-coached team was like a 15-20 point lead for the average team. But those teams didn't rely on four Freshman to play 15, 20 or more minutes/game.
Poor defense followed by bad shot selection on the other side of the court is a putrid mix. The recipe leads to not being able to hold a lead...or worse, being down for most of a contest.
Today though, that wasn't the case. Purdue finished the overmatched Tribe off and won 73-66. After being outfought for much of the game, shooting horribly from outside and being down at the half in both points and rebounds, Purdue finished the contest strong.
AJ Hammons, who fought through double teams for much of the game, finished with 14 points, 6 rebounds and a block. TJohn led Purdue with 16 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists. His brother might have played his most complete game to date with 11 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals and just two turnovers. Byrd had 8, 5 and 2 and looked like he might get hot from distance early on...but wasn't able to get on a tear from behind the arc.
Byrd had a couple of effort plays that got the crowd into the game...and Lawson's blocks stoked the defense-starved Mackey crowd to a bit of a roar. I think Purdue faithful can deal with losses more-easily than watching a team that seems apathetic at times. Tonight, although the effort was inconsistent, Purdue showed some fight in the closing minutes and earned a victory. Regardless of whom they come against, during this season, wins should be savored.
Not that it changes anything about Purdue's team this season, but the BTN once again neglected to air today's home game on TV...and the game was webcasted on EsPN3.
A few years ago, when the fledgling network was fighting for subscribers and carriers, they promised that each home B1G basketball game would be on TV. Now that they have more sponsors than Rotel and Barbasol, an additional member of the conference and nearly every major cable company in the nation has picked them up, they've decided to relegate Purdue (and others) on the interwebnets.
Screw the BTN. I'd take Raycom, at this point.
Purdue fans that complained to Comcast, ATT, Time Warner, and others were rooked into believing that they'd get to see their Boilers play their games on TV on the BTN. Hopefully BTN doesn't expand onto the airwaves and take Cliz from the Purdue faithful that still have the gall to want to follow the games live without another fee atop of their already-exorbitent cable bill.
If I sound like an angry old man, that's because I am one.