Much will be made about Purdue's home loss to Michigan State today. The mainstream media will quickly point out that Purdue is a different team without Hummel, and this loss is evidence we are done because it would have been a win with Robbie.
The mainstream media will also be wrong.
What we saw today was a Purdue team that failed to step up and embrace the moment. It is one of the first times that this has happened all season long. Only those named Chris Kramer and, surprisingly, Patrick Bade consistently attacked Michigan State on both ends of the floor. Kramer did his usual "creating offense from defense" act, while Bade attacked the glass and ran the pick and roll perfectly on a pair of occasions. His second attempt just before halftime somehow did not yield a foul when a Michigan State player landed on top of him, and the shot itself amazingly spun out after being most of the way down. He played much more aggressively today, and we need that to continue.
The rest of the team, however, played like they were afraid, and we would have lost even if Robbie played.
You regular readers know I call them as I see them. I am not going to sugarcoat what I saw today in Mackey Arena. JaJuan Johnson played like a scared little boy, settling for jump shots and fade-aways instead of attacking the basket. The team simply refused to rebound on the defensive end, leading to numerous second chance opportunities because the Spartans completely outworked us. Mostly, we were afraid because everyone was terrified to shoot the ball for the entire second half. We hurt ourselves by lengthening possessions, wasting clock, and settling for awful shots on almost every possession. It felt like we only scored by accident in the second half.
Of course, it did not help that the officials made the decision to no longer call any contact whatsoever near the basket on both ends. This made us even more timid. We were afraid to drive because there would be contact that wouldn't be called, yet we were afraid to shoot because we only hit for 30% for the game. LewJack was afraid to finish drives. Kelsey Barlow got freaking raped on a no-call with about 8 minutes left that was a huge turning point. We eventually just gave up on going inside, even though we were having success early on by getting to the line.
There is no excuse to ever shoot 30% at home. There is no excuse to ever get out-rebounded 44-16 at home. There is no excuse to ever lose at home when you force 22 turnovers. Our only consistent offense was in transition. I would say at least half of our 15 made field goals came this way. It was a pathetic effort and quite frankly, Michigan State deserved to win because they came and wanted to put in the necessary work needed in order to win. We did not.
I do not normally say much about officiating, but today it was bad on both sides. I have talked about them refusing to call any contact underneath. They also missed travels left and right, they missed push offs, and they generally had no idea what was going on. It was bad both ways, but it was particularly bad in the second half.
I cannot believe that this team was so callow at home. There was no excuse for it. The crowd was in it. Even at halftime, up 2, I felt we were fine because we were winning a very sloppy game to that point. We just played an absolutely atrocious second half offensively. I credit Michigan State for playing solid defense, but we did very little to take them out of their defensive sets.
I have never been as frustrated with a team as I was when I walked out of Mackey today. I couldn't even speak. All I could think about was punching some smarmy IU fan that is lapping up the fact our season has been derailed. After seeing some of the internet comments from IU fans it disgusts me. I felt sorry for them when they lost Maurice Creek because that cost them probably even more than losing Robbie costs us.
This team now has a choice. We have two games left we absolutely can and should win in order to get at least a share of the Big Ten title, but from there we need to decide if we are satisfied with that consolation prize. We are more than capable of playing light years better even without Robbie, but we need to freaking act like it. The chance at a #1 seed is now gone unless we win the Big Ten Tournament. The outright Big Ten title is likely gone too. It is up to the players in that locker room to decide they are not done. We can still meet all of our goals this season, but we must be willing to put in the work necessary to do so. Today showed we were not ready to do just that.
Then again, it could be something simpler. Maybe we just didn't have it today. There is plenty of time to fix things and we know what needs to be fixed. If we don't shoot 30% today, we win. If we actually work at rebounding, we win. What was off today could easily be working on Wednesday, making this frustration unwarranted. I'll gladly accept being wrong then.
So how do we fix things? One thing I would like to see is moving Barlow to the four spot on the floor and let his athleticism be used near the basket on backdoor cuts and rebounds. Everyone else needs to move without the ball and not immediately pass if they don't have a shot. I would also use JJ for more screen and rolls to get him open down low for easy points. It worked against West Virginia, so it can still work here. The defense is fine, but the offense has a lot of work to do. Finally, I am definitely going to the all caps on this last point:
DON'T BE AFRAID TO SHOOT THE DAMN BALL!!!!!!!!!!!!