The losses keep coming as a young group of Boilers seem to be slipping away from Painter's style of play. We've seen it many times throughout this season, and I feel that I've reiterated this in about every single write-up, article, or whatever I've posted on here, but this is a young team with practically no leadership outside of Coach Painter that's still struggling to learn the system, and adjust to one another's style of play.
It took Brandon Paul and his senior class nine tries to record a win against Matt Painter, and that win finally come last night in a demoralizing beat down in Assembly Hall Champaign. Illinois is an interesting team that has some quality wins under their belt and could be a team that does some damage in March, but if you play them right defensively, as we did at Mackey and other teams have this season, they can easily be beaten; basically take away Paul and their outside shooting. Purdue held Paul in check last night, did a good job eliminating the outside shot, Illinois only hit 28% of their 3s, but got absolutely murdered on both sides of the glass and had trouble getting things going on offense.
Purdue has been one of the best rebounding teams in the nation this season. When it came to rebounding last night, Illinois made us look like a bunch of short middles schools playing YMCA ball with a bunch of college guys. Purdue did a horrendous job of boxing out on both sides of the floor and had practically no awareness of where the shot would end up. The Illini had 17 more rebounds when it was all said and done; many of these were crucial rebounds that Painter's crew needed to snag.
One of the few good things about last night was Terone Johnson's game; the junior guard seems to be picking things up again as he scored 18 points, 4 rebounds, 3 3-pointers, and went 5-6 from the charity stripe. TJ went through a stretch of games where he played poorly; turnovers, bad shots, trying to do too much, and just not playing good basketball. Now it looks like Johnson is getting back to the Terone we all know and love, and we need that type of player on this team.
Outside of Terone there really wasn't anything to get excited about. Everyone played OK to bad. A.J. Hammons and D.J. Byrd both scored 10 points, Ronnie Johnson filled the stat sheet with 9 points, 5 assists, and 7 rebounds, but also had 5 turnovers.
This basketball team has proven game after game that they are one of the more inconsistent teams in the nation. Some weeks they play hard and can compete with top talented teams, then we see nights like this. Purdue needs a spark, and maybe Coach Painter getting tossed will be the catalyst to this team not throwing in the towel because of a poor season. Regardless, it doesn't get any easier for the Boilermakers.
Purdue's final five games are at IU, at home against Northwester, at Iowa, at Wisconsin, home against Michigan, and home against Minnesota to cap off the season. At this rate Purdue could very well lose all five. But then again, Painter's crew has the ability to win against NU and maybe even Iowa and Minnesota if they play right. It's hard to tell, though; you never know what Purdue team will show up. With this tough loss Purdue will need to buckle down, prepare for the future, and finish the season out strong. It's difficult to watch a team that struggles like we have been this season, and frankly it takes a lot of the fun out of watching games. But with that being said, whether it's hard to or not, you support your team and your school through thick and thin. I gave up on postseason hopes a long, long time ago, but I won't quit on my school and I'll always trust in Painter and his ability to see what the program needs and where it will be heading. "Ever grateful, ever true, thus we raise our song anew; of the days we've spent with you, all hail our own Purdue!"
It's a bummer we aren't what we used to be, but the future is bright for this group of players and the program. And we can only get better as time goes on. Stay positive and stay patient, Boilernation.