Welcome to March. In what felt like a season-defining game, Purdue leaves Madison heartbroken on the wrong end of yet another game-winning shot and suffers a 70-67 defeat to the Wisconsin Badgers.
After the shots by Ron Harper Jr. in December, Rob Phinisee in January, and Tyson Walker just a few days ago, this team had endured enough gut-wrenching losses on the year. Now, this one might be the toughest of them all. What is even more painful for this team is that they have had clutch moments themselves in these games, but their opponents just had one more possession when it matters most.
As for tonight, when you play poor to average for much of the game, you leave yourself susceptible to these types of things happening late in games. Purdue played well below their potential tonight, and the ball just didn’t bounce their way in the final minute tonight.
Purdue looked like they were stuck in neutral during the first half and played similarly to their close games against Michigan State, Maryland and Michigan over the last month or so. The Boilermakers have been phenomenal at times, but find themselves turning in simply bad performances on too many occasions.
Although it won’t matter given the outcome, Purdue did respond in the second half after being down double digits and looking lifeless at points. Jaden Ivey and Zach Edey turned it up in the second half to will the Boilermakers back into the game, but the lack of support for Purdue’s star-studded duo was evident. Ivey and Edey combined for 31 of Purdue’s 39 points in the second half and no other player scored after Eric Hunter Jr.’s three-pointer with 13:01 left in the game.
If Purdue is to make a Final Four or win a National Championship, those others players are going to have to carry their load offensively. Even during the Elite 8 run of 2019, Purdue saw Ryan Cline, Grady Eifert, and even Matt Haarms come up big in key moments to assist Carsen Edwards.
One has to think another loss like that could suck whatever life this team had coming into tonight. It was a must-win in order to stay alive for a Big Ten Championship and most likely stay on the 2-line in the NCAA Tournament. Now, both of those things are completely out of reach.
This season is not over, far from it, but some adjustments need to happen immediately if Purdue wants to live up to their preseason hype and go on a run in the NCAA Tournament. This team is not “done for” either. Just a few weeks ago, they had won 6 straight and 9 of 10 prior to the Michigan State game. The recipe for success is there, now it’s all about executing when it matters most.
These back-to-back losses are not a death sentence for Purdue. One thing to consider, UCLA lost 4 straight last season, including their first game in the Pac-12 tournament, and ended up being a prayer by Jalen Suggs away from the National Championship Game. Purdue is one of the most talented rosters in college basketball and just a few adjustments could push this team into the Final Four.
The Indiana game is always a must-win regardless of standings, national rankings, or prior games, but Saturday’s matchup against the Hoosiers feels even more important given all the circumstances of the last month of the season. Purdue needs to come out playing inspired and regain some amount of confidence that has been lost over the last few weeks’ disappointing losses. It has been talked about for decades at this point and now is the time for Purdue to get things together and go on a run in March.