Who knew that Purdue's entire basketball season would spiral completely out of control with the double-overtime loss at Northwestern on January 21. At the time, Purdue was 13-5 and had plenty of time to make the NCAA Tournament with a solid schedule ahead of it. Instead, Purdue made only two field goals in the last 23 minutes and let a very winnable game get away. It was the first of two games that Purdue would lose despite not trailing for a single second of regulation.
Purdue has not lost 10 of its last 12. The NCAA Tournament, which seemed like a very reasonable goal at the beginning of the season, is a myth barring a miraculous run in Indianapolis. In fact, Purdue now needs a win on Senior Day at Mackey Arena to avoid finishing dead last in the conference. Purdue has also lost five games in a row for the first time in eight years.
Tonight was more of the same. Just like the first nine losses in this skid, Purdue had moments where it looked very good, but could not keep it together. Here are all 10 losses:
L 63-60 2OT at Northwestern - double OT loss.
L 72-58 vs. Wisconsin - trailed only 32-29 at half.
L 75-66 at Michigan - led 21-20 under 8 in 1st half.
L 79-68 at Penn State - led 14-7, down 61-57 with 5 minutes left.
L 67-49 at Ohio State - trailed 48-45 with 9 minutes left.
L 94-79 vs. Michigan State - tied 14-14 before MSU went insane on threes.
L 76-57 at Nebraska - tied 14-14 with 7 minutes left 1st half, lost two players permanently to injury.
L 77-76 OT vs. Michigan - lost on last-second shot
L 83-76 at Iowa - led 64-60 with 10 minutes left
L 76-70 at Wisconsin - trailed 58-51 with 4:58 left when Kendall Stephens has a three rim-out, leading to a 3-point play by Sam Dekker.
Yes, Purdue was very lucky to be as close as seven with the basketball tonight, but they were at least in position. That is what all 10 losses have been. Purdue hasn't truly been blown out end-to-end, but it has been completely unable to sustain any momentum. Even in one of the wins, the triple-OT win over Minnesota, Purdue didn't so much win as have the game handed to it by the Gophers.
What else can you say about tonight? Purdue held the leading scorer on the No. 9 team in the nation scoreless for most of the night, but still was rarely in position to make a game of things. Frank Kaminsky did most of the damage in Dekker's stead and Purdue had multiple stretches of absolutely frigid shooting.
What we have now is the brink of one of the most important offseasons in Purdue basketball history. The Boilers go into the final two games (Northwestern and the Big Ten Tournament) needing at least one win to be considered for the NIT, but even that is not a lock at this point. It would be embarrassing to go to the CBI again even if you win it. Regardless of what happens between now and the end of the season in a week or so, this offseason needs major change in the culture of the program. There is no leadership and effort have been lacking all season and, as I have said all year, Purdue is not playing Purdue-style basketball.
At least this season is almost finally over.