Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
Purdue defeats Penn State 58-49
After getting the pants smacked off them by IU and an embarrassing loss to Northwestern on the road, Purdue finally pulled it together to get a much needed win. The win was nice, but this team still has a long way to go. I was unable to watch the full game due to an interview, but from what I can tell from the past few games is what TMill touched on earlier: we've definitely taken a few steps back since the Illinois-WVU stretch.
You know it's going to be an interesting night when Stephen Toyra is the first man off the bench, but if Painter feels like this is what's needed to jolt this team and open some eyes, then so be it. Hopefully this statement will be what we need to return to the Boiler way of playing basketball: hard. You see it all over practice gear, Mackey, and in Painter's past teams; Purdue basketball is never really pretty,but we play our asses off for 40 minutes. This didn't show in the NU game and stretches of the IU game.
There were times where it didn't even look like we were playing too hard against PSU. The first half consisted of ill-advised shots, silly turnovers, lackluster defense, and little to no sense of urgency. However, things started to turn around in the second half when A.J. Hammons started to impose his will on the defense, get the ball down low, rebound hard, and dominate at the foul line. When Hammons is invested in the game on both sides of the court, there are not a lot of people in the Big Ten who can hang with him and she showed this after his dominant performance against the Hoosiers. With that being said, we saw how can give up and quit like he did at NU on the defensive end.
Hammons added another double-double on the season with 15 points and 12 rebounds while also chipping in 3 blocks. Donnie Hale and Ronnie Johnson also had good games as well; Hale with 10 points and 10 rebounds while RJ had 16 points, 5 boards, 3 assists. Outside of these three there wasn't a lot to get excited about. Everyone else finished in single digit scoring with a good amount of shots to get there. The embarrassing stat of the night is the 0-10 from behind the arc.
Purdue has been notorious for playing to their opponents level, and that clearly was the case tonight. This has been a frustrating season so far, but I wouldn't blow everything up yet. Sure, we're not going to the NCAA tourney, but after our non-conference play that was pretty obvious. However, we see some promise coming from a lot of young guys. Experience is the number one thing this team needs, and we are getting it. It's ugly, it's not we are used to, but greatness doesn't happen overnight. Hopefully this game will get us hungry and back on track to play hard and win. The lack of leadership is obvious, and Painter can only do so much coaching; the players have to put into play what they are being coached and we haven't seen that consistently.
Frustrating as it is, good things come to those who wait. It's going to be a bumpy rest of the way, but we can keep getting better and preparing for the future while still showing this team that we'll stick with them through thick and thin.