Youthful Purdue Still Seeking Some Level of ConsistencyPosted by Walker Carey on December 5th, 2013
Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Wednesday night’s game in West Lafayette between Boston College and Purdue.
The 2012-13 season marked the first time in five years that Purdue did not suit up any of the fantastic Robbie Hummel, E’Twaun Moore, and JaJuan Johnson class – a group that brought great success to the program and concluded its time in West Lafayette with all three players’ jerseys in the rafters. Consequently, that campaign was widely expected to be a rebuilding year. Those expectations turned out to be accurate, as Matt Painter’s squad struggled to a 16-18 record that resulted in the school missing out on the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006. Not all was lost for Purdue during the losing season, though, as its lack of veteran depth allowed freshmen Ronnie Johnson, Rapheal Davis, and A.J. Hammons to gain significant experience they likely would not have garnered on a veteran team.
Purdue’s youth movement from last season has carried over into this one. While the now-experienced Johnson, Davis, Hammons, and senior guard Terone Johnson are key pieces to the puzzle, Painter’s squad once again has several freshmen who are providing the team with a significant boost. Guard Kendall Stephens – known for his shooting prowess – stepped into the starting lineup in his first game on campus and has since started eight of nine. Fellow freshman guard Bryson Scott entered Wednesday’s game as the team’s third-leading scorer despite only playing 17.3 minutes a night. Freshmen forward Basil Smotherman has not played as many minutes as Stephens or Scott, but he entered Wednesday evening shooting a very impressive 64.3 percent (16-of-28) from the field and has also shown he is capable of some high-flying theatrics.
Like many young teams, Purdue’s early season results have been a bit of a mixed bag. While the Boilermakers won their first five games of the season, they had to survive close calls against Northern Kentucky and Rider to get to that mark. At 5-0, they traveled to Orlando last week for the Old Spice Classic for a trip that was marred by bouts of inconsistency. In its first game of the holiday tournament – a 97-87 loss to Oklahoma State – Purdue was outscored 52-29 in the first half before returning the favor on the Cowboys, 58-45, in the second half. In their second game – a 69-54 loss to Washington State – the Boilermakers gave up just 17 points before halftime, only to allow the Cougars a total of 52 in the second half. Even in its lone win of the weekend – a 68-63 besting of Siena – Purdue had to dominate the second half to secure the victory after trailing by 13 at the intermission. After a puzzlingly inconsistent weekend, Purdue operated as a high-functioning unit throughout Wednesday night’s dominant 88-67 win over Boston College in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Unlike their last three games, the Boilermakers were able to follow up a superb first half – they led 49-34 at the break – with a strong second half that guaranteed the victory. Its offensive consistency in the victory was illustrated by the fact that it shot an impressive 52.5 percent in the first half and a nearly-as-impressive 51.7 percent in the second half, while its defensive consistency was shown by allowing 34 points in the first half and 33 points in the second half. Purdue’s efficiency was just as effective, logging a strong 1.29 points per possession while holding BC to a season-low 0.99 PPP.
With such a youthful team, it is assumed that Purdue will experience additional battles with consistency over the remainder of the season. However, if the Boilermakers can build on Wednesday night’s strong performance against an ACC team that many pundits had high hopes for coming into the year, those battles will be fewer and further between. With the gauntlet of a difficult Big Ten schedule still ahead, the Boilermaker faithful should hope that Wednesday night will serve as a preview of things to come.