It's pretty easy to use the refs as a scapegoat in a bad loss, and I'm not a huge fan of when people do it. However, in this situation it's hard to not put some blame on a flagrant foul that changed the momentum of the game and led to D.J. Byrd fouling out; one of three Boilers who fouled out; Ronnie Johnson and Anthony Johnson were the others. For all those who didn't watch the game, there where a lot of questionable calls for both teams. But this recap isn't going to focus on fouls, how bad the officiating was, or anything of that nature. This column is going to focus on a lot of the things that we did right, and the players that gave it their all.
This was easily a winnable game for Purdue, and we looked good for the most part. Terone Johnson was able to play enough minutes to contribute in the game, defensively we looked better than the first two games, at times, and the hustle, tenacity, and will to win was definitely there even though we fell short. It was a heartbreaking loss, that's for darn sure.
A few things that I took from this game:
- A.J. Hammons should not be on the floor in the last few minutes of the game if we are close. Hammons came in around the 2 minute mark, give or take, and played poor defense and took a stupid, early shot that led to a wasted possession and points for Villanova.
- We are going to turn the ball over a lot this season, and it won't be just the young guys either. Without respected veteran leaders like Robbie Hummel, Lewis Jackson, and Ryne Smith a lot of the guys look lost on both offense and defense. We are lacking the discipline, and smart play-makers. I see glimpses of what we need in Terone, Byrd, Donnie Hale, and sometimes Anthony Johnson. But none of these guys have been truly consistent.
- Passing and rebounding is getting better as the season progresses. We out-rebounded Nova 45-38 (not a large margin but still) and had 19 assists to their 11. We did, however, have 33 personal fouls to their 22.
- Defense looked good in this game in stretches. We are an aggressive and athletic team that is capable of getting steals, blocks, and forcing turnovers. I was pleased that we forced Nova into 18 turnovers, but disappointed in our 16.
- We won't survive in the Big Ten if we are not more disciplined with our shot selection. I think that will come with time and a few more games. Our young guys need to accept their roles, and our returners need to find their shots, and lead by example with the way they play. Again, I think this will come with time and we looked like we had it a few points in this game.
- Purdue doesn't have a legit 3-point threat this year (I still am holding out hope for D.J. to find his shot and Anthony Johnson to find his), so we need to not live and die by the three. Nor should we have Ronnie Johnson jacking up 6 threes, granted a couple were when the shot clock was running out. We'll need to play to our advantages, utilize our bigs, and hit our free throws when we are driving to the basket and get fouled.
- Free throws: We ain't very good at em' and we gotta get better or we're boned. Nuff said.
I feel like I could go on with these bullet points, but for now I'll leave it at that. All in all it was an incredibly frustrating game that led to fans being jerked around on an emotional roller-coaster just to leave us with a loss that still has a hangover feeling lingering around today. But we need to move on, and look forward to the next game tonight.
Now that we've gotten through the ugly, lets move on to the good.
I've got to give a huge shout out to Travis Carroll, who played great basketball in his 17 minutes on the floor. TC his all three of his shots and his free throw on and and-1 play. He boxed out, played solid defense, and is really accepting his role off the bench.
Each game I'm loving Donnie Hale more and more. He is everything you could ask for in a basketball player; smart, a good defender, a good scorer in the post and with his jump shot. He has a knack for getting the ball on the offensive glass. Hale finished with 11 points, 6 boards (4 offensive) and a steal.
I think I officially have a man crush on Jacob Lawson. This guy in the man. He plays hard from start to finish and is looking like our best defender so far. Lawson's speed, athleticism, and energy gave Nova a headache all night. I was totally fine with Lawson on the court for the last part of the game because of how well he played. If you told me last season that I would be saying that I would've laughed in your face, but Lawson's defense and high motor is keeping him on the court, and I love it.
Tonight Purdue plays Oregon State, who isn't anything special. We'll be coming out with a chip on our shoulder, and hopefully just mean-mug from the start. Last night's loss sucked, but the season is just beginning and we have plenty of room to grow. I'm confident this team will start to figure things out and start to click as we move forward.