Through one half of basketball our Boilermakers were doing exactly what they needed to do. We had Michigan State backed into a bit of a corner and had been the better team through 20 minutes. With a team like Michigan State, one half is not enough. The second half was the difference, as two things made the major difference:
1. Draymond Green absolutely took over and we had no way of stopping him after he did that.
2. The typical Purdue cold spell happened.
Purdue's 1 of 21 start to the second half was nothing short of disastrous. Michigan State even cooperated by not quite running away, as the one basket we did hit was a Ryne Smith three-pointer that got us within two points, but that is when Green took over. It was with 13:05 left in the half, so we were still very much in the game there of we snap out of the streak that was then at seven minutes long, but Green would score the next eight points and, essentially the game was over.
Once again, this cold stretch was as inexplicable as the stretches that cost us the Xavier and Butler games. Robbie Hummel's solid start had the crowd swaying. We were doing what we needed to do by attacking the basket and moving without the basketball. The Spartans had thrown a few punches, but we responded and things were looking good.
So what happened? Did we run out of gas? Did we not have the same intensity? Did we just start sucking for no reason? It is probably a little bit of all three. Sandi Marcius and Travis Carroll were doing exactly what I said they needed to do in coming in off the screen and roll, but we either did not find them or they missed the shots that could have made a huge difference. The intensity also wasn't there because we stopped attacking the rim. Much of that is a credit to Michigan State's size and defense, but we still settled for threes that were not falling.
This is probably where the loss of D.J. Byrd really hurt. He has been the player there to make the big shot to either break a cold streak or keep the other team at bay, but he wasn't there. One shot during that awful stretch of basketball could have changed the entire timbre of the game. Say Byrd comes in and hits a shot with 16:30 left in the second half. We're still up 39-38 at that point after an awful stretch of play by both teams that even necessitated an angry timeout from coach Painter. If Byrd hits a shot there it can change a ton of things momentum-wise.
But it wasn't to be. Really, there isn't a whole lot you can say at this point that we don't already know. First half Purdue, even without Byrd and Barlow, can play with and beat almost anyone in the country. Second half Purdue is the type that struggles to beat the likes of High Point and Western Carolina. It is that simple.
We clearly have a blueprint for what needs to be done. Marcius and Carroll need to finish at the rim in their limited opportunities and we appear to have a new three-point threat in Anthony Johnson. Wednesday night is just another chance to put it together in one of the two games we have to win in order to reach the NCAA Tournament.
Inconsistency is our calling card and in order to pull the upset that we will pull either at Michigan or Indiana (and it will happen, because we're taking one of those games) we cannot have second half Purdue show up. As long as we have first half Purdue with D.J. Byrd we will be more than fine. It is a matter of good Purdue and bad Purdue showing up. If we attack the rim, play as a team, and bring the intensity of the first half we're fine. If the second half team shows up, we lose. It really is that cut and dry.