My apologies for not being too coherent with this game wrap. I am pretty sure I was given a concussion after getting hit by yet another missed Purdue shot.
It is hard to believe, but Purdue actually started this game really well. The Boilers led 15-10 with 10 minutes to play in the first half, then proceeded to hit just a single field goal over hte next 12 minutes. The same problems that have plagued the Boilermakers on offense all season were even more pronounced today. Purdue missed a ton of shots within 5 feet of the basket, had some inopportune turnovers, and shot the ball poorly from three. At one point Jahaad Proctor and Trevion Williams were a combined 4 of 20 from the field, and much of the offense late in the first half consisted of “Everyone stand around while Tre chucks the ball wildly off the glass on a fadeaway.”
This looked like it was going to be Purdue’s worst offensive game of the season, at least until a late furry, but when you score 69 on Virginia, the best defensive team in the country, that means games like this lie fully at the feet of Purdue. No one seemed to be able to get anything going offensively. Early on it looked like it would be Eric Hunter Jr., but Butler quickly took him out of the game.
And Butler’s defense was definitely good. They were challenging every ball and every pass. They helped Purdue by missing free throws, but Purdue continued its striggles inside the point with multiple point-black misses all game long. Every time Purdue seemed ready to gain a little momentum the Bulldogs would hit a three or score off of an offensive rebound. Purdue was lucky to be down 5 at the half and with an 8-0 Bulldog run to start the second half Butler got the lead over 10 and just held Purdue tehre until a final flurry. Bryce Golden and Bryce Nze were great at both ends of the floor and kept coming up with clutch bucket after clutch bucket.
And then, out of nowhere, everything clicked. Aaron Wheeler hit some big threes, Butler kept missing free throws, Purdue attacked the basket and started scoring. That only made the middle stretch of the game even more frustrating. Purdue was excellent in the first five minutes and the last five minutes, but awful in the middle 30. That ended up almost being enough. Purdue got it down to four, but when you’re down as much as 17 and wait until there are five minutes left to start playing offense it won’t end well.
At this point in the season we know what Purdue is. It is a very strong defensive team. The defense was good enough to win today. Offensively, however, it cannot get out of its own way for long stretches of play. It can’t shoot threes with any consistency, cannot score at the basket, and lacks a go to guy. When you hover around 25% from the field anyone in America can beat you, as proven against Nebraska last week (which was a horrific loss and far worse than this).
The Boilers now have a week off before a final tune-up agaisnt Central Michigan, and we had better hope that is a tune-up. This can still be an NCAA Tournament team as we have some very good wins in the bank with Virginia and VCU, but 12-13 wins in conference play will likely be needed to accomplish that.
Winning the Big Ten is a pipe dream barring a dramatic turnaround like after last year’s Crossroads game.