Promise. Lots and lots of promise. That's what I see when I watch this team. Players are progressing every game and showing glimpses of a bright future. However, that doesn't make it any less frustrating when we lose.
Last nights game was a winnable one. Ohio State is a good team, but they aren't great. We couldn't stop Deshaun Thomas all game, and Aaron Craft decided to go off in the second half, where he scored 13 of his 15 points while shooting 6-7 from the floor. Thomas went off from the beginning and never really stopped. He ripped us apart with his shooting, rebounding, and athleticism. He was guarded by D.J. Byrd, Jacob Lawson, and Raphael Davis, which I thought Davis did the best job on him toward the end.
Our offense was up and down throughout the game; there were periods where we looked good, and others where you wanted to pull your hair out. Shooting was a big problem in this game as well. We couldn't hit a lot of our open shots and there were some piss-poor forced shots and layups; two especially painful ones came when Ronnie Johnson and Terone Johnson forced layups in Purdue's final possessions that basically could count as turnovers.
The Johnson brothers played well last night. Not necessarily efficient, as they were a combined 13-36 for 29 points, but they played some solid defense, rebounded hard, and shared the ball well. RJ continues to keep turnovers to a minimum during B1G play; he only had two in the game. The team as a whole had six, while OSU state thirteen. RJ was streaky throughout the night, though. I agree with the comment that Dan Dakich made during the game when he said that RJ will be one of the most entertaining players to watch in the full-court game going forward. When RJ gets the ball in his hands and is able to run the break good things can happen. The Johnson brothers are scorers, that's for darn sure, but they need to be more disciplined with their shot selection and decision making. But their defense in B1G play has been awesome and they are continuing to play as hard as they can.
A.J. Hammons continues to be an offensive beast down low. He finished with 13 points and 8 rebounds, but also had 4 fouls. Fouling has been an issue for the big guy during conference play and he'll need to be more conscious of his decision making down the stretch because we are going to need his size and free-throw shooting late in games.
Speaking of free-throws, Purdue out-shot a team at the charity stripe! The Boilers hit 64% of their shots while OSU made 53%. Neither of these numbers are great, but hey, it's a start. Hammons had the best night from the line where he hit all five of his shots. Although he's done a fair amount of fouling during B1G play, Hammons also gets fouled a lot just because of his size. We absolutely NEED him to be this consistent from the line for the rest of the season.
#FreeDavis. This has been something I've been doing on Twitter since the Notre Dame game because I think Raphael Davis should be getting more minutes. Last night's game was another strong case for why he should be. He played well matched up against one of the best scorers in the nation and he hit all three of his shots and his free throw. The thing about Davis is his season has been extremely inconsistent. There will be nights where he'll score and rebound well, or nights where he doesn't really do much of anything. A lot of this is due to playing time. I love watching Davis play and I believe that with more playing time he's going to keep developing nicely as the season progresses.
After an absence over the past few games, the Chooch Train came back and played hard. Sandi Marcius was a spark off the bench and had a couple of big offensive rebounds. Chooch finished the night with 2 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals in 11 minutes. That's a solid stat line for a guy only playing 11 minutes. Plus he didn't foul once, believe it or not. Outside of Lawson and Hammons we really don't have a consistent big man. Donnie Hale has been a colossal let down after showing a lot of promise in the exhibition games and Italy trip. Travis Carroll has played well, but he can't be relied on to be a big time scorer or to pull down big rebounds. He'll do the dirty work that goes unnoticed: setting quality screens, defending the pick and roll, boxing out his man, etc. If Chooch can come off the bench to give Hammons or Lawson a breather and perform like he did, he'll be a key asset to this team.
This was a winnable game. It was a disappointing loss, but Purdue is showing that we can hang with the top teams in the Big Ten when we are at home. The fan-base at Mackey looks recharged and extremely excited for this team even though the start to our season wasn't ideal, least to say. I believe that we have another upset left in us at home, but it won't be easy. Purdue is fighting as hard as ever and has completely changed its identity as a team. Painter has these guys going in the right direction.
Purdue faces the lower end teams of the Big Ten and West Virginia before taking on another ranked opponent, and that opponent just so happens to be the 2nd best team in the land; Michigan. We need to learn from our mistakes over the past two games and go into Sunday's game against Penn State hungry for a win and play some tough, smart basketball. Going into Big Ten play I was terrified to watch this team because I thought almost every game was going to be an extremely ugly loss for us. Things still get pretty ugly during stretches of the game, but this team is showing that they can win and are growing after every game. It's going to be fun and stressful to watch them going forward, but they are showing lots of promise and positives in each game.