© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
BOX SCORE:  Michigan State 62,  Purdue 51
In some respects, watching today’s game against MSU was a bit like watching the classic Clint Eastwood film “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”. I thought Purdue got off to a shaky start and looked very passive on offense, but seemed to shake that off and play pretty well for most of the first half. Once the second half started, Purdue once again looked very passive offensively and simply could not buy a basket for almost 15 minutes. A good part of the reason for those struggles was some excellent defensive pressure from MSU, but Purdue surely helped them out by settling for contested jump shots and by not making open shots when they did get them. In the end, it was a very disappointing result and the second straight game where Purdue simply fell apart in the second half after playing pretty well in the first half.
As for the good, the bad and the ugly, consider these stats:
The Good – Purdue seemed to re-discover their hard-nosed defensive play and they held MSU to 35.3% shooting from the field and forced 18 turnovers. In addition, Purdue did a reasonable job of handling the basketball with only 12 turnovers against some excellent defensive pressure from MSU. Purdue also shot 13 of 17 from the free throw line.
The Bad – Purdue was out-rebounded by 42-26 although the offensive rebounds were fairly even (MSU had 14, Purdue had 10). Purdue also had only 6 assists on 17 made baskets, which is a good indicator of how 1 on 1 the offense was in this game.
The Ugly – Purdue shot a season low 28.3% (17-of-60 including only 4-of-23 from beyond the arc). Hummel was 3-of-12, Moore was 5-of-15, Jackson was 2-of-9, Kramer was 1-of-5 and Grant was 1-of-5. That’s a collective 12-of-46 from five of Purdue’s top six offensive threats and that’s simply not good enough to beat anyone, let alone a really good team like MSU. The whole second half was extremely ugly for Purdue. Purdue missed 16 of their first 18 shots from the field (at that point they had exactly four points in over 15 minutes of play) and JaJuan Johnson had exactly ZERO rebounds (after snaring six in a very good first half performance).
Now it’s on to the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis where Purdue will face the winner of Thursday’s 6-11 game on Friday night. At this point, it seems pretty clear to me that no matter who that opponent turns out to be, Purdue will have their hands full in trying to stop the malaise that has produced only two wins in the last five games (IU and OSU) and only five wins in the last 10. I think the conventional wisdom is that a team needs to be playing it’s best basketball at the end of the season if they are going to have a chance to do well in the NCAA Tournament and Purdue clearly needs to get on a roll in the BTT and regain some lost momentum if they are going to be a factor in the NCAA Tournament. I remain convinced that this team has what it takes to do well in March, but I have to admit that watching the second halves of these last two games has given me some reasons to doubt that conclusion. I’m trying hard not to over-react to the loss today because I felt going in that Purdue would have to play exceptionally well in all phases of the game to pull out a win, but after Purdue managed only 4 points in the first 15 minutes of the 2nd half, I began to wonder whether or not this team still has what it takes to beat good teams. I guess we’ll find out this coming week.