The first half was not the half the Boilermakers expected. Though maybe it should have been. It was rough and tumble and points were hard to come by. Neither team looked good on offense and Purdue turned it over four times in the early going. What seemed to really get to Purdue though was the fact that Maryland wasn’t called for a foul until 4:51 left in the half. It certainly wasn’t the first foul committed by Maryland but it was the first one called. You could see the frustrating on Zach Edey’s face. You could see it in the eyes of Mason GIllis. You say Fletcher Loyer talking to the refs and you say Painter jawing with the refs each time down the court. The same couldn’t be said on Maryland’s side of the court as Purdue got called for fouls early and often. Maryland found themselves in the double bonus while Maryland had two fould to give at the end of the half. That allowed them to use those fouls to disrupt the Purdue offense and not allow them to get a final shot off. But somehow, someway, Purdue was still in the game and managed to head to the locker room up 28-25.
John Wooden Memorial Player of the Game (JWMPOTG): Braden Smith earns the honor tonight as he was the floor general keeping Purdue in this game. When points where hard to come by in the first half, Purdue managed just 28 of them, Smith went 5-5 from the floor for 10 points and added one assist and two steals. Quite the half for the freshman who was facing questions about the freshman wall.
At the 16:19 mark Purdue had built up a 37-29 lead and it looked like they could put something together and maybe pull away. Then things started to unravel. Mason Gillis fought for a rebound off a Zach Edey miss and collided with a Maryland player. He was called for a foul and then the frustration finally boiled over. Maybe it was the lack of fouls called by the officials, maybe it was the Maryland fans chanting D-U-I at him or maybe it was just the pressure this season has placed on everyone on the team. Whatever it was, it helped turn the tide in Maryland’s favor. In addition to the common foul Gillis was assessed a technical. Young would make both free throws and then the ensuing bucket. It was a four point swing. Part of a 12-0 run that put Purdue on the ropes.
A Brandon Newman three briefly gave Purdue a 40-39 lead with 13:23 to play. But that was it for the Boilermakers. In the next eight minutes of game play they could muster just five points. Maryland meanwhile seemed as if they couldn’t miss. In those same eight minutes they scored 22 points. The lead ballooned to 61-45. There was still five minutes left but you could see the frustrating and shock on Ethan Morton’s face as Maryland’s Jahmir Young hit a three as the shot clock ticked down.
Purdue just couldn’t put together offense and defense in the second half. Edey and Smith did their best to keep Purdue in the game but they couldn’t find much help from the rest of the team. Caleb Furst had 0 points. Fletcher Loyer could only muster 6. David Jenkins Jr. finished with 0. Not exactly a recipe for success on the road in the Big Ten.
Purdue has now lost three of their last four games with all three losses being on the road. That’s hard to swallow for a team that looked like they were running away with the conference just two weeks ago. And a team that was the unanimous number one just last month.
This was Purdue’s fourth loss of the season with the three road losses resulting in court stormings. It’s a sign of respect for the program I suppose but that doesn’t make it any harder to swallow. You can’t, and won’t win every game but to lose and be mobbed by the students each and every time has to get to you. Purdue has looked like a different team these last weeks. Timid on offense and struggling to slow runs on defense. The Big Ten title is still within their grasp but they’ve got to take care of home court, and that’s easier said than done. As I said earlier today, when you lose you’ve got to find the lesson. Right now there are more questions than answers for Purdue.