We blew it.
It was pretty much your textbook come from ahead loss that we have seen far too many times as Purdue fans. The Boilers led by 12 at halftime and were still up nine at the under 12 timeout. Purdue gave up a critical 11-2 run where it missed the front end of two one-and-one situations and Dakota Mathias missed the first two of three free throws with 6:21 left. That is essentially six missed free throws, and that is where the game was lost. It changes the endgame from a situation where Purdue should have been leading to a close game.
D'Angelo Russell scored on a tough drive with less than a minute left and despite having two possessions to tie or take the lead we could not get the ball to A.J. Hammons to exploit a mismatch. Jon Octeus missed a wild layup and Rapheal Davis missed a contested shot with 15 seconds left. Things looked good when Ray hit a huge three with 2:55 left and Octeus hit two free throws with 2:24 left, but Purdue could not get it done.
It is a phrase we have heard all too often. We have seen this game all too often. It was a typical Purdue loss in that the Boilers were the better team for most of the night, but folded late. I give credit to the Buckeyes for playing solid defense and preventing Hammons from getting the ball. They also had a great defensive possession when Purdue lead 59-58 with the ball and 1:57 left. Their defense forced Purdue to use two timeouts and Basil Smotherman just missed a goof look at a three-pointer that would have been huge if it had gone down. I liked the shot because it looked on line and it is gigantic if he hits it, but in retrospect the ball needed to go to Hammons.
Still, we have seen this before. It was a lot like the Kansas loss in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Purdue scraps and claws and is in position to get a big win, but the other team is the one that makes plays at the end. Tonight, Russell made a play with that layup. It was the only field goal the Buckeyes had in the last five minutes, but it was enough because Purdue could not generate offense and the Buckeyes were hitting their free throws.
You see a loss like this and it comes from so many little things going wrong. It comes from Hammons getting blocked because he couldn't field a pass from Bryson Scott cleanly for what would have been a huge basket with 8:31 left. Instead, Hammons has to recover and Sam Thompson gets a big blocked shots. It is the missed free throws above. It is three steals that lead to layups or dunks during Ohio State's big run. Once again, Purdue was on the verge of something big, but it was like it realized, "Wait, we're Purdue! We have to blow this in agonizing fashion because the fans have hope again." When you combine that with the way Thad Matta has dominated Matt Painter over the years the final 12 minutes seemed almost preordained. I even said it at halftime:
I am still a Purdue fan though. I still have my guard up to get kicked in the balls.— Hammer & Rails (@HammerAndRails) March 2, 2015
So, the slim chance of winning the Big Ten is gone. Purdue finds itself in a dogfight for the double byes in the Big Ten Tournament with Maryland, Ohio State, Iowa, and Michigan State. It could have sealed up a double bye and probably an NCAA bid tonight, but now the pressure is on in East Lansing on their Senior night where they rarely lose. We will be in the same situation on Wednesday where a win likely locks everything up, so all we can do is go out and do it.
But this hollow feeling tonight is all too familiar.