Up double digits midway through the second half on Iowa, Matty's boys were in the driver's seat...but like we've seen so many times this season, they're not comfortable with success just yet. They allowed Iowa to scratch and claw back into the game...after being smart and savvy against Iowa's trap for much of the game, Purdue lost its focus, started taking ill-advised shots and nearly gave it away.
Ronnie Johnson has looked simply brilliant at times this season...but whenever I start to have thoughts of him becoming one of Purdue's best PGs, he'll quickly remind me of his youth. Last night was a prime example of that. When Purdue needed him to facilitate, he seemed to think it was the perfect time for him to shoot...and after a few missed shots, Purdue's lead turned into a deficit. Then, TJohn got in on the poor decision business and took a bad three. This was during one of his best, most complete games of the season. That's probably what this team's biggest problem really is- it's not just the young guys who need to learn how to complete a game, but the vets too.
Inconsistent effort is something that plagues this team...and of course, missing free throws is another disease that this group suffers from. Last night with about four minutes left, I said to my wife, as I always say, "Hit your free throws, win the game." Shortly after Purdue started missing FTs, as we've become accustomed to.
Conversely, there's a lot that was good about the game- Of course, the fact that it was a win is a very good thing. While an NCAA bid is surely still this team's goal, it's still a long shot. Beating the great teams will be important in order for them to make the dance...and beating the good to not-so-good teams is essential. Iowa falls into the latter category...When boiled down, it was a winnable game at home, that they won. The next thing that was good is that Hammons played well again after a few games in which he was quiet...TJohn continued to be one of, if not the leading scorer and Byrd's hustle set a fire under the sleepy Mackey crowd, and subsequently, his teammates. But, Donnie Hale and Travis Carroll both made some big plays...and that's what Painter's teams need most- guys to be ready to step up when called upon.
Lawson seems to be in the doghouse a bit right now, and last night he didn't even play. So in his stead, Carroll had a few big boards and a an important shot block in the first half. But in the second half, Hale made a ton of plays, specifically a drive to the left in the closing minutes that kept Purdue in the hunt.
Back to Lawson really quickly- I don't have any details on why his minutes have been limited of late, but whatever Painter's asking him to do, he needs to do- for himself and for the team. He'll be important for the Boilers down the stretch if they're going to get near the NCAA tourney.
Prior to the win over Iowa, Purdue's Composite Computer Ranking was 80. After beating a team in the 30s, it'll surely go up...but none of it matters unless they can pull some improbable wins in the coming games. I continue to believe the magic number for The Forces of Good is nineteen: But going 8-4 to close out the season is little more than a pipe dream, at this point. The next opportunity to get an improbable win versus one of the nation's elite, of course, comes against the highly-talented, poorly-coached, always-unlikable Hoosiers on Wednesday.
If the Paint Crew is motivated, which they clearly weren't on Sunday, they can make Mackey one of the hardest places in the nation to play for opponents. But due to poor attendance by the students and a general malaise among the entire crowd for much of the game, it really wasn't loud until the closing moments of the game. Granted, it was a snoozer, especially in the first half- Purdue couldn't and wouldn't score, and Iowa was worse...but as J said yesterday, the opponent shouldn't matter. If you've got four or five years to be a student at Purdue enjoy your time and take advantage of having a short walk to one of the best arenas in the nation each game. The Paint Crew has set the bar high...so when they do what they did last night, it's pretty obvious. 1000+ empties for a B1G conference game is pretty weak, regardless of who Purdue is playing.
The fact is Purdue's general fanbase that comes to Mackey is a largely passionless group, sadly. For the first time this season, but about the 20th time ever, I had a fellow Boiler take umbrage with my cheering; too loudly, not to their liking, whatever. Purdue needs the Paint Crew to be lathered up and ready to go each game...no question about it, in order for Mackey to be the proverbial hornet's nest that I've come to know and love...and visitors have come to fear.
Five ranked opponents left on the docket...beating the 7th-best team in the nation, especially one with that coach, from that place could go a long way into making this season a success. T-Minus just 57.5 hours until tip-off.
Choo Choo, Muthas.