I called Tuesday’s game with Illinois a must-win. It really was, because until Purdue proves it can win away from Mackey Arena it could not afford to pass up chances for excellent home wins.
Well, Purdue lost. The Boilermakers now sit at 10-9 on the season, 3-5 in the Big Ten, and there are no easy wins in sight to flip the script. At this point, we know what Purdue is. It is a flawed team that is far too inconsistent on offense and has severe defensive rebounding issues that can be exploited. Until last night, we could at least rely on a strong defense to carry the day and give us a chance. Then the Illini hit 10 of their first 11 second half shots. Their one miss became an offensive rebound that led to an open three for Trent Frazier.
Illinois this season is clearly a bad matchup for us with the rebounding of Kofi Cockburn, the playmaking of Ayo Dosunmu, and the shooting of Trent Frasier. That said, the other seven losses have not inspired confidence. Purdue’s defense was more than good enough to win at Maryland, but the offense did nothing. Purdue played Florida State and Michigan close, coming within one play of a win, but could not make that play. Offense was also an issue in losses to Nebraska, Butler, and Texas. Overall, the season has been a huge disappointment, especially after the highs of the last three seasons. We’re just not used to struggling like this. I tend to think it is a one year blip and the upturn will come back next season with improved guard play (There will definitely be a post on this later), but it is just hard to watch this year and wait for the future.
To win, Purdue needs to have stout defense, rebound to prevent second chances, and have someone able to knock down an open three or two in order to open up the interior. If that doesn’t happen, things like last night happen. At this point the NCAA Tournament is probably gone barring a surprise turnaround and winning streak. Purdue will win a few more games and likely finish with a winning record overall, but we have not seen enough consistency to hope for more. As things stand right now Purdue is probably still in the tournament and it has plenty of strength left on its schedule thanks to the Big Ten being how it is this year. Purdue likely needs to go 8-4 in the final 12 games to feel safe on Selection Sunday, but after losing four of the last five we just haven’t seen enough to believe that will happen.
I hope I am wrong and that said turnaround begins Friday against Wisconsin.
From: Madison, Wisconsin
Date: Friday, January 24, 2020
Tip Time: 7pm
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
Arena: Mackey Arena (14,804)
Radio: Boilermaker Sports Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Tickets: As low as $32 on Stubhub
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
Odds: No Line Yet
2018-19 Record: 23-11, 14-6 (Lost to Oregon 72-54 in NCAA Tournament First Round)
2019-20 Record: 12-7, 5-3 Big Ten
Record vs. Purdue: Purdue leads 109-71
Last Purdue win: 84-80 (OT) at Wisconsin on 1/11/2019
Last Wisconsin win: 57-53 at Wisconsin on 2/15/2018
Blog Representation: Bucky’s 5th Quarter
NCAA Tournament History: 24 appearances, last in 2019. 1941 NCAA Champion
Coach: Greg Gard (92-54 in 5th season at Wisconsin)
First, the good news: Wisconsin is 4-40 all-time in Mackey Arena. Since they are currently in the top 30 of the NET a victory would provide a huge boost to our NCAA hopes as a tier 1 victory. Greg Gard is just 1-5 against Purdue and Matt Painter has a bizarre hex over the Badgers in Madison with a 5-6 record there (which is very good compared to pretty much anyone else).
Now, the bad news: Wisconsin has not been too different from Purdue this year in that it has played a very difficult schedule. It has just managed to win a few more games. It is 5-4 in Quadrant 1 games with great wins over Marquette, Tennessee, Ohio State, Penn State, and Maryland. They, too, have had some strange losses. Losses to Richmond and New Mexico in the Legends Classic aren’t great. They have played the fourth toughest schedule in the country, however (Purdue’s is 34th) and have acquitted themselves well.
Wisconsin is very strong defensively, 24th according to KenPom, but can be prone to offensive struggles like Purdue (46th on KenPom to Purdue’s 71st). They are actually slightly behind Purdue at 67.3 points per game (Purdue is at 67.6) and only ahead of Northwestern. They are the league’s best free throw shooting team, however.
Purdue has a few advantages to play here. Wisconsin has the second worst three-point defense in the conference and they are the worst offensive rebounding team in the league. Since Purdue cannot win without hitting some threes and keeping teams off the offensive glass, that gives me hope.
Nate Reuvers (14 ppg) and Kobe King (10.6 ppg) are their lone players that average in double figures. Brad Davison is the long time stalwart that is only averaging about nine points per game, but he can get loose for open threes. D’Mitrik Trice is also having a solid season shooting from long range. They are not a great 3-point shooting team at 34%, but they are not terrible.
As I said above, we know what this Purdue team is by now. We have seen 19 games and the same script in wins and losses. Purdue needs to rebound and hit some shots early to gain confidence. At this point, a 25 point win or 15 point loss would not surprise me, nor would anything in between.
I will say this, however: Purdue’s year last season really took off with a hard-fought overtime win in Madison. So far we have had several moments that I thought were turning points (Virginia, Minnesota, and Michigan State) only to have them not be. A win here is yet another chance for one of those elusive real turning points.