There was no one shining moment for Purdue. No moment that we’ll replay over and over again in our minds as we look back fondly on this season. Instead, there was only frustration and disappointment. Purdue trailed for nearly the entire game. North Texas controlled all aspects of the game. They ran the shot clock down on nearly every one of their possessions and they didn’t make mistakes. They finished with just 8 turnovers. They shut down Purdue’s big men and they forced Purdue to beat them from deep. Purdue just couldn’t do it.
The first half was vintage 2020-2021 Purdue. A slow start with just enough to make you think that the team would turn it around in the second half and make us all forget the terrible play that we’d just witnessed. Purdue got down by as much as 11 points thanks to some very hot shooting from deep by North Texas. Purdue was able to claw their way back bit by bit thanks in large part to Jaden Ivey and Sasha Stefanovic who did their best to poke Purdue with a stick to see if they were still alive. For the most part they were not. Ivey and Stefanovic combined for 17 points in the first half. Purdue scored 24 overall. Trevion Williams managed just two shots and two points thanks to foul trouble and some great defense by North Texas. Zach Edey was held scoreless.
The second half was again vintage 2020-2021 Purdue. They took the full 20 minutes to get back in the game and even had a chance to take the lead thanks to some nifty defense turned offense including this gem from Williams:
OH. MY. GOD. pic.twitter.com/xKHEDCBiL2— Kobie (@kobie_al) March 20, 2021
That dunk brought Purdue to 57-55 and headed to the free throw line after the under four timeout. Williams would subsequently miss the free throw. That’s okay though, plenty of time right? Well, not so much. On the next Purdue possession Jaden Ivey drove to the hoop, scored, and was fouled. 57-57 and Purdue heading to the line. This was it. Purdue was going to take the lead and pull away for a victory. Unfortunately, no. Ivey missed the free throw. The next Purdue possession Thompson was fouled, the game was still tied, and Thompson went to the free throw line for a one-and-one. He missed the first. That was 0-3 from the line on three straight trips down the floor. That was the chance Purdue had to take control of the game and put North Texas on their heels. They didn’t capitalize and just like that it was gone.
After that, Purdue went to overtime thanks to a final bucket by Trevion Williams which tied the game with :24 left. Thompson blew up the Mean Green’s final play in regulation to send the game in overtime.
The less said about the overtime the better. Purdue didn’t even score in overtime until there was just :28 left. Unreal. Purdue looked outclassed, out-hustled, and surprisingly out-coached. I know that you’ve gotta give the other team credit where it’s due but this is a game Purdue should win. This is a game Purdue is expected to win. Yes, Purdue is young. Yes, Purdue just lost an assistant coach. And yes, Purdue has been up and down at times this year. But, this is still a game Purdue was supposed to win. With the season on the line the shots just weren’t there. Purdue shot an abysmal 36% from the floor while allowing North Texas to shoot 47.5% and 42.9% from three. The defense looked disjointed and the bigs just didn’t play like Purdue needed them to.
Purdue has a long offseason ahead of it as they look at what this season meant. Was it good because so many young players got great minutes which will make them a better team next year? Was it a letdown because of the struggles (at times and in big moments) of guys like Trevion Williams and Sasha Stefanovic? The truth, as always, lies somewhere in between. Purdue should have everyone back next year assuming that nothing gets screwy in the offseason and they add some more young guns that should fill some gaps in the roster. Will that be enough? I don’t know. Ultimately, I guess I’m just glad this season was able to happen at all but like my parents used to say “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.” And ultimately, isn’t that what being a Purdue fan is all about?