The gauntlet continues.
We knew this stretch was going to be rough. Six games in seven against either ranked or high major opponents with only two games at Mackey Arena. Going 6-0 against Virginia Tech, Florida State, Michigan, Maryland, Texas, and Notre Dame would be ambitious for any team in college basketball. I felt 4-2 would be excellent, especially with as well as Michigan has been playing. A 3-3 mark would still be pretty good.
As it turns out, we faded late against Virginia Tech, but could have won. Against Florida State we probably should have won, but turnovers and a couple of missed free throws were critical. Michigan is playing like the best team in America right now, so that was always going to be tough. Last night against Maryland, Purdue was pretty much in the same position it was in against Florida State. We held a lead with 3:30 left and needed to close it out.
What happened was growth. Offensively, we still struggled. Within the flow of the offense we still got tight and couldn’t knock down a key basket despite some good looks like a great shot from Ryan Cline. The defense got infinitely better, however. We hit some key free throws, but did not give up a basket at the other end. It was the best defense we have played all season. The offense still has some work to do, but the defense picked up in a big way. Presented with a chance to close a team out where it had failed in the exact same spot nearly a week earlier, Purdue got better.
Now it is time to take this growth out on the road for another tough test.
From: Austin, Texas
Date: Sunday, December 9, 2018
Tip Time: 6PM ET
Location: Austin, Texas
Arena: Frank Erwin Center (16,450)
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
Odds: Purdue by 1.5
2017-18 Record: 19-15, 8-10 Big 12 (Lost to Nevada 87-83 in NCAA First Round)
2018-19 Record: 5-3, 0-0 Big 12
Opponent Blog: Burnt Orange Nation
Series with Purdue: Texas leads 1-2
Last Texas Win: 77-67 in NCAA Tournament (Birmingham, AL) on 3/23/2003
Last Purdue Win: 58-54 in NCAA Tournament (Boston, MA) on 3/12/1999
NCAA Tournament History: 34 appearances, Final Four in 1943, 1947, 2003
Coach: Shaka Smart (55-52 in 4th season at Texas, 218-108 overall)
All three games against Texas in Purdue’s history have come in the NCAA Tournament. The first was in 1990, where a very young T-Mill was in attendance as the Longhorns upset No. 2 seed Purdue in the NCAA Tournament at the old RCA Dome. That loss probably denied Gene Keady a Final Four, as we had the infamous broken bracket in our favor with the No. 3 and No. 1 seeds being taken out. In 1999 we beat the Longhorns in a 7/10 first round game before upsetting 2 seed Miami to reach a surprise Sweet 16 as a 10 seed. The final meeting came in 2003, when Purdue led the No. 1 seed Longhorns at halftime of a second round game before fading late.
We also have a history with Shaka Smart. Shaka’s VCU team in 2011 completely blitzed us on their way to one of the most surprising Final Four runs ever. Their point guard played out of his mind, either scoring at the rim, dumping off to a big, or kicking out for open threes. Not only did he play well, he played smart. He knew exactly when the lane was closed off and he could kick out. It was a virtuoso performance and Purdue had no answer at all.
Since coming to Texas I would qualify Smart as a disappointment. He is barely over .500 despite having excellent recruiting results. Here are the Rivals rankings for his recruits individually in all four years he has been at Texas:
2015: 34, 59, 61
2016: 15, 22, 83, 106
2017: 4, 46, 59, 69, 120
2018: 42, 47, 63, 112
Every recruit Smart has brought in, save one, has been at least a 4-star talent. Last year he even had the No. 4 overall pick in the NBA Draft, but he still barely got over .500 and had a team that probably should not have been in the NCAA Tournament because it was under .500 in conference play. They come into this Purdue game a bit desperate. After getting a nice win over North Carolina in the Continental Tire Invitational they have lost three in a row. The first was somewhat understandable, as it came against Villanova. They have since suffered a two-point home loss to Radford (who has also won at Notre Dame), and a one-point home loss to VCU.
This is still a good team, however. The Longhorns beat a solid Arkansas team a month ago and that win over North Carolina is always good. They are a team that struggles a bit, offensively. That is very good news if Purdue’s defense has returned to form as we saw last night.
Kerwin Roach II is their top scorer at 14.9 points per game. He is a 6’4” senior guard that also hands out more than 4 assists per game, but he can be quite mercurial. He exploded for 32 points and was 12 of 15 from the floor in the win over the Tar Heels. Against VCU he sucked though. He was 1 of 11 and had only 4 points. He also had only 7 points. In looking at their numbers one thing is pretty clear: stop Roach and you stop Texas.
Dylan Osetkowski, a 6’9” senior forward, is their only other player averaging in double figures. He averages 11.3 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Over the course of his career he has been a consistent scorer for the Longhorns. He has been at least an 11 and 7 guy for three straight seasons now, and he can step outside and hit the three every now and then.
The three ball is an area where Texas struggles big time. They are only hitting 28.9% as a team from long range. Jase Fabres is the only player shooting at 40% or better, and he is 14 of 35 from three. Roach is 15 of 49 from long range, and the only other player with more than 10 made threes is Matt Coleman III, who is 10 of 36.
This is not a team that relies on the three that much, however. Jaxson Hayes, a 6’11” center, is shooting 66% from the floor and will test Matt Haarms. We just did farely well (at least on offense) against Bruno Fernando and Hayes is not the rebounder Fernando is. He only averages 5.3 rebounds per game and is still a freshman.
As a team, Texas is shooting only 40.5% from the floor and they are 64.8% from the free throw line. They are struggling greatly to score at all, and Purdue’s defense (if on) should cause them plenty of problems. I would stick Nojel Eastern on Roach and try to erase him as much as possible.
Still, we’re going to need to limit turnovers and get our own offense going. Playing stout defense against a struggling offense gives us some leeway, but not if we’re turning the ball over with reckless abandon and missing shots. We’re also due for a good Carsen game. Carsen Edwards has been volume chucking for a while now, but we know he is capable of a 12 of 18, 6 of 9 for 32 points game. It’s coming. It is just a matter of who he lays the smack down on.
Much like last night, this is a critical game for Purdue. We could still use a quality road win out of conference (though we only get two chances this year). We burned the FSU one and this one would not be as good, but it would be a quality chip in our favor come March. Winning would also return us to the top 25 and give us momentum to close this tough stretch strong against Notre Dame.