The absolutely dismal and forgettable 2013-14 Purdue basketball season is mercifully over. Who knew, when Purdue absolutely throttled Indiana on February 15, that it would be the last time we would taste victory this season? Instead, Purdue closed the season with seven straight losses, some more agonizing than others.
Today's game was a microcosm of the season. Purdue looked disinterested for much of the game, but showed moments of brilliant play. It hit a few timely shots, but turnovers, missed box outs, and missed defensive assignments were its undoing. Even through all that Purdue had not one, not two, but THREE chances to win the game with less than a minute left.
It even ended in Purdue fashion.
First, A.J. Hammons grabbed a critical rebound, only to have the ball stolen from behind by Aaron Craft with 59 seconds left and Purdue trailing 59-58. It was a great play by Craft, but a bone-headed play by Hammons to not secure the ball before clearing out. Also, it was bone-headed on his teammates for not calling out Craft coming from behind. The lack of teamwork showed its head as no one had Hammons' back.
That turnover allowed the Buckeyes to run the clock, which resulted in two free throws for Lenzelle Smith when Errick peck made a dumb foul on the rebound. Hammons would score and Purdue would foul, leading to one of two made free throws from Craft.
Second, Terone and Ronnie Johnson combined on a turnover with eight seconds left, failing to even get a shot off down 62-60. It was another maddening play in a season full of them.
Third, Smith only hit one of two free throws with five seconds left. Ohio State fouled RJ, who hit the first and missed the second on purpose. The ball went out of bounds, and was awarded to Purdue after a lengthy review. With one last shot Purdue got off a three, but it was not from Kendall Stephens, the new sniper from long range. It was from the mercurial senior Terone Johnson, who was short as time expired.
I agree with the decision to go for the three. Either win or lose the game right there and don't go to overtime when we were down to eight scholarship players because of the knee injury to Basil Smotherman. Four of those players had four fouls as well, so overtime meant walk-on time. If you can win it with one play, do it. Unfortunately it went to a much-maligned senior who went out on a very sour note this year.
That final minute was the entire Purdue season: Every chance to be successful, but we could not get out of our own way and execute. Thankfully, it is the end of the season, as there will be no CBI this year:
Purdue will not play in any postseason tournament, per Matt Painter.— Jeff Washburn (@JeffWashburnJC) March 13, 2014
That's good, because it would unnecessarily prolong a season where it is very clear this team is not getting it:
You got to take the guys that you already have and get them to make better decisions, keeping working with them. It's a game of repetition. We got to do a better job of playing fast and under control. Then you got to recruit guys, you know, that can make a better decision.
Two years ago we were the number one team in the country with the fewest turnovers. So this is a big changing of the guard for us from a personnel standpoint. I don't care who you are, but if you don't give yourself a chance, you're going to end up losing basketball games. We simply didn't give ourselves a chance this year because we turned the ball over too much. -- Matt Painter
As I have mentioned before, this will be a very interesting offseason. We knew there could be struggles, but a 15-17 year with no hint of a postseason is about as bad as it can get with a team this talented. Now Purdue has to find away to integrate five freshmen, which will take up almost half of the roster. A total of eight guys will be sophomores or younger, and the lone senior, Neal Beshears, is a walk-on who played less than 10 minutes this year.
Purdue did at least have a small spark today. When Rapheal Davis went spiraling out of bounds after a loose ball it finally seemed to ignite something. Purdue has had a leadership void for two years now, as its senior classes have done very little to pull everyone behind him. Davis wants to be that guy:
Rapheal Davis wants to lead #Purdue into the future. "I can't have another season like that. I just can't."— Chris Emma (@CEmmaScout) March 13, 2014
That's all good and well to say, but it is time for someone to do. There will be changes this summer. A.J. Hammons, who had a solid game, could be gone to the NBA, making Purdue even thinner and younger. That could lead to struggled next season, but in those struggles there at least needs to be leadership and effort. This Purdue team was rarely fun to watch because plays like Davis', which have long been the staple of the program, were few and far between his year. Sitting up close today the whole team's body language was disinterested and aloof. No one helped other guys like Davis and Smotherman up. No one responded when there was a big dunk by Hammons.
This all has to change. The pieces are in place, but Purdue needs a major shock to its system and a return to the culture and toughness it has had for decades. I am tired of seeing a disinterested Purdue team get outworked and make stupid mistakes. Coach Painter is tired as well:
We weren't able to consistently this year play hard and play smart at the same time and those are two constants in the game you have to do if you're going to have a good team. -- Matt Painter
That is on Painter. He has accepted responsibility and the mantle of changing exactly this. I can accept losing as long as Purdue is not outworked and doesn't beat itself. That was the case far too many times this season. If it doesn't change next year it is time to seriously question everything about the program.