It has been an interesting few days to be a Purdue basketball fan. Last week we let a game at Florida State get away. It was a costly loss not because the Seminoles are a bad team, but because it would have been a huge chip in our favor come March. We then got blown out at Michigan, who is probably playing the best basketball in the nation right now. Yes, we have three losses, but they are to teams currently in the top 15, all away from home, and two on the opponents’ home floor. This is all with a team replacing four long-time starters and with our All-American struggling with turnovers and his shot. Things are fixable and it won’t take much (in the case of FSU, a made free throw or two) to change things.
If you read some of our comments or Twitter mentions, however, you would think the world is ending.
“We’ll be lucky to be .500.”
“Typical Purdue, settling for mediocrity.”
“There won’t be many easy games in the Big Ten this year… except when teams play Purdue.”
Bear in mind, this is after losing to three top 15 teams, two in games that were more than close in the final minutes. We’re still projected by Joe Lunardi as a five seed in the NCAA Tournament. We still have plenty of chances (10 based on the current poll) to beat top 25 teams, including tomorrow against Maryland.
Of course, we do have to actually beat some of these teams. While I do have complaints against Painter when it comes to recruiting, I trust in him to develop the talent on hand and come up with adjustments. After all, he did come up with adjustments that turned a 12-point halftime deficit at FSU into an 8-point lead with 3 minutes left. It is just unfortunate he called the “Nojel Eastern dribbles off his shin” and “Carsen Edwards misses two key free throws” plays.
This game against Maryland is a great opportunity. It is also probably a must win. We knew this five-game stretch of Florida State-Michigan-Maryland-Texas-Notre Dame was going to be brutal. The Maryland game right in the middle was “probably” going to be the easiest because it was at home in Mackey Arena. After missing on two chances it becomes critical now. We have always defended our home well, and losing in Mackey would definitely be an alarm bell.
From: College Park, MD
Date: Thursday, December 6, 2018
Tip Time: 7PM ET
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
Arena: Mackey Arena (14,804)
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
Odds: No Line Yet
2017-18 Record: 18-13, 8-10 Big Ten
2018-19 Record: 7-1, 1-0 Big Ten
Opponent Blog: Testudo Times
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 4-2
Last Maryland Win: 72-61 at Maryland on 2/6/2016
Last Purdue Win: 75-67 at Purdue on 1/31/2018
NCAA Tournament History: 2002 National Champions, 27 appearances
Coach: Mark Turgeon (164-81 in 8th season at Maryland, 413-239 overall)
Maryland enters as a top 25 team at No. 23 in both polls. Their lone loss was a week ago at home to Virginia in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. They beat Penn State by 7 to open conference play over the weekend, but many of their other wins are over a bunch of buy opponents. They struggled in their season opener against Delaware, but then won at Navy. They did push Virginia before losing 76-71.
Sophomore big man Bruno Fernando is going to be a challenge to stop up front. He is averaging 15.4 points and 10 rebounds per game along with 2.3 blocked shots. He is also shooting an impressive 73.1% from the floor as he gets a lot of quality looks near the basket. He is one of five Maryland players averaging in double figures, and Eric Ayala is close at 9.1 points per game. After this core six, however, the scoring drops significantly.
Anthony Cowan Jr. is a formidable guard at 16.4 points and 4.5 assists per game. He makes everything go. Jalen Smith (12.6 ppg), Aaron Wiggins (10.4 ppg), and Darryl Morsell (10.1) benefit greatly from Cowan’s distribution. The Terps are a very balanced team among their starting five. Everyone gets involved, but Fernando is a more traditional big that doesn’t do much away from the basket.
One benefit to Purdue is that the Terps do not shoot the three well. Ayala and Wiggins are over 40% from long range, but as a team they are barely above 31%. Cowan leads the team in attempts with 42, but is shooting only 28.6% from long range.
These teams are almost identical statistically. They average 80.8 points per game on offense and Purdue averages 80.1. They give up 66.4 per game and Purdue gives up 68. Because of Fernando at the basket they shoot the ball better than we do, and he is probably the key player. He is better than Matt Haarms, who has been disappointing on offense so far. Can Haarms score on him? Can he defend him?
There is little question that we need our role players to step up. As I said in the intro, things can be fixable. Carsen needs to limit his turnovers. Haarms needs to be better. Our defensive rotations need to improve. Young guys like Eric Hunter, Aaron Wheeler, and Sasha Stefanovic need to step as well.
This is definitely a turning point game. Purdue has to hold its home court against a team that is statistically pretty similar to it. If we lose at home, then it is time to panic.