This was one of those games where you just felt things were off the whole time. Purdue just looked slow, or Vandy looked fast I'm not sure which. It reminded me a bit of the VCU game a couple years back in the NCAA tournament. In both games Purdue's defense looked just a step slow. Couple that with hot shooting by the opponent and it's a terrible combination for the our beloved Boilermakers. Despite being down by as many as 22 points Purdue fought and clawed their way back into the game in the second half. By that time though the game was well in hand and Purdue would fall to the Commodores.
John Wooden Memorial Player of the Game (JWMPOTG)- Rapheal Davis wins the honor tonight. In a game where the team looked a step slow Davis was the exception. Davis did his best to disrupt the Commodores and wound up with some easy buckets, and three steals, because of it. Davis finished the day 7-9 from the floor and led the team with 15 points. I try my best not to give this to players from the opposing team, but if I did give it to an opposing player it would easily be Riley LaChance who dominated the Boilermakers to the tune of 26 points.
So what exactly went wrong tonight? How did Purdue find themselves down by 20+ points to a team that's projected to finish in the middle of the SEC? Well, Riley LaChance happened. Purdue has always seemed to have a knack for allowing one random player to go off on them and almost single-handedly beat them. Perhaps Purdue was too focused on Luke Kornet, the 7'0 footer who averages 12 points per game, and simply weren't prepared for the young LaChance to go off. LaChance had a previous career, he's a freshman, high of 14 points and that was against La Salle. Tonight the young man went off on Purdue. He was 9-13 from the floor including 3-4 from deep. One of those shots from deep came from really deep. I'm talking four feet behind the line deep. With the shot clock winding the down the ball found it's way into LaChance's hands and he drilled a back breaking three. Purdue simply didn't have an answer for Vandy the entire game. Let's take a look at some notable stats from tonight's game.
- Both teams were 16-23 from the free throw line in a game that saw way too many touch fouls called.
- Purdue out-rebounded the Commodores 29-25.
- Despite being a strength of the team most of the season Purdue had just seven assists tonight. Compare that to the 17 for Vandy and you get a small idea of the issue from tonight. Vandy had fantastic ball movement and back cuts that confused the Purdue defense. Purdue struggled to convert around the rim and at times devolved into a barrel to the basket type of offense. AJ Hammons for example was just 1-5 from the floor. He continues to short arm around the basket. His offensive game has really struggled this season.
- Three point shooting was terrible for Purdue today. After starting 2-2 from deep Purdue wound up just 3-11. Quick math here that means Purdue was one for their next nine. Kendall Stephens followed up his fabulous performance with a 1-5 shooting performance tonight. The inconsistency is killing this team.
It seems pretty apparent that this young team failed their first road test. There are a number of factors that went into this loss. Of course a young team playing their first road game in the whacky environment that is Vandy's arena doesn't help. For those of you that didn't watch or have never seen a game at Vandy it's a real special place. The benches are under the baskets and their is extra room at every corner of the floor. I'm not sure there's a logical explanation for why it's that why. Another reason is that Purdue was coming off a span of three games in five days and for a young team that can really give them weak legs. Vandy meanwhile was coming off a long break which allowed them to game plan for the Boilermakers. Whatever the reason Purdue looked slow and tired. The effort just wasn't there. You have to remember this is a young team and there will be growing pains. I don't know how many times I've typed the sentence or some variation saying that this is going to take time. Purdue is by no means a finished product but you can clearly see signs of improvement.
WIth Purdue sitting at 8-3 and two games remaining before conference play starts you'd really like to have both of those victories to get to 10 before conference play starts. That's going to be extremely difficult as Purdue's next game is against a ranked Notre Dame team in Purdue's own personal house of horrors
Conseco Banker's Life Fieldhouse. Purdue has yet to win a game in the Crossroads Classic and has played some real clunkers in the BTT there as well. Before we throw out the words must win or do or die though let's remember that it's still December. Last I checked March Madness starts in March. If they've changed that I'd love to know. The conference schedule will be interesting this year as Michigan has struggled mightily of late and with the addition of Maryland and Rutgers to the conference. Other than Wisconsin probably cruising to a conference title I'm not sure there's much else you can reasonably predict with much certainty. Purdue has work to do of course but I'm encouraged by the play of this young team. There will be disappointments along the way but I think Purdue is heading upward this season.