It’s been no secret over the course of February that Purdue has had an almost team wide shooting issue from behind the arc. A team that has shot just 33.1% from behind the arc for the season, Purdue has shot just 29% in February if you remove the season high shooting night against Penn State (45.2%). So the question becomes, is rest really needed for Purdue to get through these issues or is this team just a snake-bitten shooting team?
After the Ohio State game where Purdue shot 7/16 (43.8%) from three, Purdue got five days off prior to the Indiana game at Mackey Arena. It was hoped that this ability for Purdue to get rest in would rejuvenate their legs and provide them time to practice to get some things back on track. The Boilers, however, came out and shot just 21.7% from 3 and dropped an incredibly important game to not only clinch the B1G Title in front of a home crowd but to quickly get the season back on track after losing 3 of their previous 5 games. That game has left a sour taste in the mouth of Purdue fans as they backed into the league title with other contenders dropping their own games in the past four days.
So is the solution to the problem really just the ability to rest, have days off, and get practice time in or is the shooting problem just one that seems to be systemic this season for Purdue?
Purdue finally got their week off during the conference season following the game against Ohio State at Mackey Arena on February 19th and got 5 full days off before their game on February 25th against Indiana. After that Indiana game, Purdue will play just two more games, one home and one away, before the start of the B1G Conference Tourney. Since Purdue has already secured a double bye, that means Purdue will have finished the end of the season playing just four games over the course of roughly 20 days. In previous seasons, there doesn’t appear any bump in shooting that occurs simply because a team got more rest and got the chance to put up more shots. In fact, in the 2020-2021 season, Purdue seemed to struggle much more after their break throughout the rest of the season versus what they were shooting prior to that.
This season, Purdue has 5 players who have shot much below what could be expected of them based on previous experience in college basketball. Notably, Caleb Furst, Ethan Morton, Brandon Newman, and David Jenkins, Jr. are all seemingly underperforming based on what they have shown previously. For example:
- Jenkins’ previous four seasons that he had played saw his lowest percentage at just 38.2% but this year he is at just 31.3%.
- Ethan Morton shot 44.1% last season but on much more limited chances. He is taking 2.7 shots from behind the arc per game versus less than 1 in each of his first two seasons.
- Brandon Newman shot nearly 38% during his redshirt freshman year where he started 23 games and took 3.7 threes per game but the last two seasons has started just 1 game but has continued taking more than three 3 point shots per game. His average has been 32.1% and 33.3% the last two seasons.
- Caleb Furst shot 42.3% as a true freshman on roughly 1 shot per game but is just averaging 31.4% this season on 1.2 attempts per game.
The only player to have really stayed relatively even from their shooting last year is Mason Gillis who shot 41.4% on 2.6 attempts and is shooting 38.6% on 3.2 attempts per game. So what can be used to explain this dip in performance from a host of shooters who are known to have skill at shooting the ball from behind the arc?
There are a few factors that may be playing into this major hurdle to Purdue’s success. Firstly, not having Jaden Ivey’s ability to easily get into the lane with no help and collapse a defense is having a major impact on the kind of open looks people are getting. Ivey was incredibly skilled at not just getting into the lane but passing out of it to the open player to their shot pocket for a catch-and-shoot three point attempt. Braden Smith does a good job of this as well but often times needs a screen to make this happen and even then drives further down the lane than Ivey did.
Another factor that I believe may actually be an aspect that Matt Painter might be criticized on is the shoot around and pre-game routine may be one that doesn't work for this year’s team. I am not implying that Matt Painter doesn’t know that every team is different and I am certainly not implying he isn’t a fantastic coach but I some times wonder if he has gotten so set in his way on some things that trying to maintain consistency may hurt Purdue late in the season. A change in routine may help to improve focus and the mental aspects to the lead up to the games that may help improve Purdue’s shooting.
In the end, this team may just be what they are at this point and expecting anything more from them behind the arc is a futile endeavor. Hopefully the rest late in the season provides a necessary boost to the focus that Edey is providing the shooters from outside to start hitting shots. If Purdue can just get 2 of those guys to return to normalcy, they stand a good chance at making a run in March.