It's only been two days, but man, that 11 game winning streak feels eons ago already.
There's no shame in losing to Butler, a very good, disciplined team of unorthodox wings and shooting bigs that will give any team trouble any night they step on the court. They make difficult, off-balance shots and constantly attack weak points. Butler's coaching staff did a wonderful job exploiting Purdue's liabilities on defense, trusting their players to hit enough tough shots and push in transition to make up for their lack of size. Butler ended up shooting under 40% from the floor, but seemed to come up with flurries of points whenever they really needed it.
While the Boilers got off to a hot start behind Edwards and Swanigan, they spent the rest of the game failing to put anything of substance together. They struggled to hit open shots, feed the post, and just keep a hold of the ball. They turned the rock over 18 times, assisted on only 14 made field goals, and continuously looked confused on how to attack a man to man defense that fronted the post and helped aggressively on the back side to take away the lob entry pass.
We'll go ahead and break off into segments and look at some of the issues that popped up against Butler and whether they've been there all year, and if they're likely here to stay for the rest of it going forward.
Rapheal Davis, defensively overrated.
Strange thing to say, especially considering that his man for most the game, Kellen Dunham, went 0 for 12 on the night. Davis is a laterally quick monster, who is extra springy and shows a great burst in tiny spaces. He is hyper active, a blur of leaps and stretched limbs, but he's prone to over playing angles and allowing his man to drive past him. This is part scheme, funneling his man towards his gigantic help defenders waiting at the basket, but when his man doesn't force up a shot - Davis might be the best player in the nation at staying right on a guy's hip after getting beat initially and challenging any pull-up shots - it creates all kinds of rotation problems when other guy's have to help contain Davis's man.
But it works because of Hammons' brilliance at turning away defenders at the rim. Also, Davis is still prone to leaving his feet on pumps and pass-fakes. Clever ball handlers will be able to take advantage of that throughout the year.
Purdue is lazy helping way too much.
When a Butler player even threatened to drive, Purdue's wings and guards are too quick to take a step or two towards said drive. They get caught watching the ball and leave a very easy passing lane to a wide open 3 point shooters. Purdue was lucky to even be in the game with all the open 3's Butler missed. Purdue does not have the perimeter defenders to contain most guards, they rely on the big men inside to turn them away, and the instinct to help on drives has hurt Purdue more than helped. It has to be the right help, at the right time, and at the right angle to not give up an even better shot than a contested lay-up at the basket.
Purdue just doesn't taste right without a little Basil.
It's pretty easy to go down this well after Purdue's first loss, but this is absolutely the kind of game where a long, athletic wing who plays solid defense and hustles all over the floor makes a huge difference. We struggled with Butler's transition attack, and being able to have Smotherman chase down loose balls and stay with Butler's wings would have been huge. His cutting on offense would have given Purdue a few easy baskets they just didn't have, and having Smotherman and Edwards on the wing would have given Purdue a little more flexibility at using Swanigan at the 5. A lot of the long rebounds Purdue gave up late might not have happened if there was another tall, quick guy on the floor hustling towards them.
When we look back on this year, it might just be that we were just one perimeter defender short.
Living on the Hedge.
At the beginning of the season, Purdue was switching every pick and roll. As competition has gotten stronger, we've employed less switching, and we've thrown in a trapping hedge on pick and rolls that include Isaac Haas. It's not working out great. Hedging involves the big man stepping out on the ball handler, trapping him as soon as he clears the pick, and leaves the defense behind them to guard 4 on 3. Haas is not quick enough to recover on his guy in time to limit the damage. Butler took advantage of this, and so will other teams.
It's probably best to employ a much calmer defensive approach, and just have Haas sag way back into the paint and hope teams don't beat them on pull-up jumpers.
Dumb, dumb, dumb fouls.
A. J. Hammons picked up his second foul early in the first half on what was just a really dumb decision. The Butler player clearly had possession of the ball and Hammons just jumped into him with almost no hope of getting to the ball cleanly. He's gotta realize he needs to stay on the court, and that is the absolute worst situation to pick up a foul in.
Along those lines, Dakota Mathias played just ten minutes, missed all his shots, and fouled 3 times. He has improved his quickness this year, but he just constantly swipes at the ball when his man is dribbling. It's going to get him whistled a lot, he needs to learn to pick his spots better in what was a really poor all-around performance on his part.
The Good and the Bad of Biggie.
When I was first learning about Biggie as a potential recruit, the comp was Zach Randolph which made me think of a bunch of clever back to the basket pump-fakes and soft touch around a big-ass and grown man strength down low. But Swanigan is much more Kevin Love than anyone else. He's a skilled big man with limited physical traits, but a good stroke and heady passing. He was outstanding shooting the ball, making 10 of 14, including 3 of 4 threes. Two of them in the waning minutes of the game that gave the Boilers a chance they didn't deserve to win the game.
But man, those turnovers are just horrendous. It's one thing when he's attempting to make plays for other people - ill-advised entry passes at worst. But to just careless hold the ball there and let it be taken twice, that's just unacceptable. He nearly pulled off a triple-double with points, rebounds, and turnovers.
Our transition D is not good.
Butler killed Purdue by pushing the ball. The Boilers have to understand, offensive rebounds aren't everything. They can't have half the team crashing the glass, and leave the other team with a numbers advantage. Also, stop turning the ball over. That fixes most transition problems.
And likewise, we need to look to push the ball more on offense. It's a great way to get our shooters open looks, and allows Davis and Hill to play to their strengths. If I'm Coach Painter, I'm preaching to push the ball, and if it's not there then you pull it back and try to find your bigs in the post. Purdue is struggling in the half court, and that's a great way to get a handful of open looks for your shooters.
Quick passes, stop holding the ball against a front.
The players want to get the ball to the bigs. It's understandable. They're both shooting over 60% and killing other teams. Most teams have gone zone against Purdue in attempts to limit entry passes, but Butler instead chose to front the big man and have help play the back side against a lob. And it worked, over and over again. They forced Purdue into turnover after turnover, and Purdue never found an answer for it.
Butler wasn't being subtle either. They were absolutely ignoring a perimeter player to play for the lob. Over and over again, Purdue forced passes and left their big man in no win situations with two or three men running at them from all directions. When we did stop forcing the pass, we did something almost as damning. With Butler selling out so hard to play the lob, any fake towards an entry pass lead to an open player on the other side of the ball. The Boilers were making the first pass, but instead of a series of quick passes, the ball would stick in the players hands and allow Butler to get back to their assignments.
Instead of pausing with the ball, Purdue needs to fire the ball around the perimeter, and instead of just standing open on the other side of the court, the player who's man is helping inside needs to relocate so when the defense does try to recover, they don't where to find their man initially. Butler's defense was aggressive, and Purdue should have been able to exploit it, but they got caught holding the ball and not moving into the open spaces. Purdue was too content to hold the ball, hope for an angle back in the post, or try and force a drive into the teeth of the defense.
Mostly, I think our team got caught up in playing cup cakes. For most the year, Purdue's been able to get what it wants whenever it wants, on offense and defense. They were used to teams wilting against them, and they hadn't played a good offensive team all year. It takes a while to get your sea legs back, and Purdue will be fine. This is still a very, very good team. We're not as good as we've looked the first 11 games, but we're gonna get a lot better than we were this game.
Painter will adjust, the players will adjust, and the ship will right itself. For now, let's just call it the curse of the crossroads.