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2017 Battle 4 Atlantis: Western Kentucky 77, Purdue 73

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For the second straight day Purdue was awful on the glass and it is now in crisis mode.

NCAA Basketball: Battle 4 Atlantis-Western Kentucky vs Purdue Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Getting to play in the Battle 4 Atlantis was supposed to be a promising event for a senior-laden team. Purdue entered looking great in all aspects of the game and had a golden opportunity to make some noise. Villanova and Arizona, a pair of top 5 teams, were in the tournament with us and it was a chance to build a strong postseason resume.

Now, after 85 minutes of basketball and a pair of losses, Purdue basketball is in crisis mode. Purdue had several opportunities today as Western Kentucky made some turnovers, but they also made plays when they needed to. A critical play occurred with less than 8 minutes left and Purdue down four. Carsen Edwards had an open path to the basket and a bucket would cut the lead to two. Instead of a sure layup, he went for the dunk and bricked it.

The ball went the other way on a runout and Jake Ohmer scored. It was a four point shift and it killed all the momentum. Yes, Purdue had several chances to get the lead under 3 after trailing by 11 at halftime, but failed at all of them. This was the worst. Instead of being down 2 Purdue was down 6 and it went back to 8 by the under 4 timeout.

The Hilltoppers played with poise and in control. Purdue played like it was lazing on the beach drinking bloody marys all day. Western Kentucky deserved to win and Purdue deserved to lose, plain and simple.

Yes, yesterday was disaappointing, but Tennessee played hard and deserved to win. It was a hard fought game and effort was there. Purdue looked like it had it with a 7-0 run to go up 5 in the middle of overtime, but it fell apart, That carried over to today. Tennessee was aggressive on the glass and showed they were better than a lot of people expected. Games like that can happen against a major conference team that played with confidence.

Today though? Today was just a dismal effort. Western Kentucky came with only 7 scholarship players. Purdue had a huge size advantage. This should have been an easy one, but instead, the same lackluster rebounding, poor decision making on offense, and defensive lapses kept WKU in front.

And it was a total team defeat. Dakota Mathias struggled to shoot after coming in hot. Vince Edwards was largely absent for most of the game. Isaac Haas was dominant offensively, but Justin Johnson put him in a blender on multiple offensive possessions for 17 points and 9 rebounds.

A promising season is now in serious jeopardy after just two games. It is one thing to get beat, but Purdue has gotten outworked and has looked lost for both games now. Western Kentucky was one of the two worst teams coming in too. They lost at home to Missouri State, but now they own a 4-point win over Purdue. There has been very little leadership and no urgency, either.

Yesterday I thought it was a fluke. I didn’t think Tennessee was a bad loss, and we were gifted with another shot at a potential NCAA team in the loser’s bracket in SMU. This is a bad loss because Western Kentucky is a team adrift that pushed Villanova, but was not expected to do much this year.

Now it is still November. There is a lot of basketball to be played, including tomorrow against SMU or Arizona. There is next Tuesday at home against Louisville. If you right the ship, take those two games, and get some momentum going into January some great things can still be accomplished. The Big Ten is still in play because we have yet to play a conference game and the rest of the league has not played well. If this is a wake-up call and changes things, we can build off of it.

The thing is, this team shouldn’t need a wake-up call. It had played all summer and much was made of how we were supposed to be in midseason form already as a result. With four seniors that had been through the Big Ten battles they were supposed to be ready to play, and after looking so great in the first four games Purdue has compeltely wilted in the Bahamas.

It is hard to pinpoint where it lies, too. Haas was admittedly great on offense, but the defensive boards have been a complete disaster. Carsen and Vince have been disjointed offensively. Dakota has struggled outside of the beginning of overtime yesterday (A stretch that, quite honestly, should have won the game). The bench has been non-existent too. Matt Haarms has played well defensively, but Ryan Cline has been mostly lost and Nojel Eastern has given virtually nothing. Grady Eifert has done a few things, but we know his limits by now. P.J. Thompson kept us in it as best he can with 19 points (and 30 now in the tournament), but Purdue is far better when he is a complimentary scorer and not a primary one.

And how much of this is at the feet of Painter. I know I catch a lot of criticism for defending him, but this has not been his finest hour. This tweet we received during the game is very on point:

Michael is absolutely correct. This was supposed to be THE year. Even without Caleb Swanigan, Purdue had experience and talent. It could be versatile offensively, shoots well, can score in the paint, and defend. It had some promising newcomers to fill in the gaps. It had a blossoming scorer in Carsen. It had an all-Big Ten player in Vince. It had the time to gel with the World University Games. EVERYTHING was in line to have a big year, and I admit, I was scared if it didn’t happen because this team loses an awful lot before next season.

There is still time too. Even after the last two days, we get one more chance in the Bahamas for a good win over SMU or Arizona. We have a golden opportunity for a great win coming up at Louisville. We still have Butler later on too. That’s three likely NCAA teams to play, and we likely need to win all three to have any hope of salvaging a good NCAA seed. There is also the Big Ten season.

There are 25 games left before the Big Ten Tournament and this team has more than enough talent and experience to turn it around and still do some great things. It has hte time to do so, too. Beat SMU/Arizona, Louisville and Butler, win the Big Ten, and Purdue probably has a better resume than last year. If those things happen we’ll ahve a good seed and look back at this as a minor blip. Last year Purdue played three NCAA teams out of conference (Villanova, Lousiville, and Notre Dame) and beat only 1. So far this year we already have one win over a possible NCAA team (Marquette) and can get three more. The opportunity is clearly still there and we have the talent to seize it.

But what will it take to fix things? That is up to coach Painter and it is why he is paid a lot of money to coach this team. I honestly don’t know what is wrong because we absolutely should be better. Painter does deserve to be questioned and if he can’t turn it around it is going to be a major disappointment laid at his feet.