WEST LAFAYETTE, IN—JaJuan Johnson and the Purdue Boilermakers had the victory in their grasp Tuesday night in Madison until the Badgers surged ahead, defeating Purdue 66-59.
Purdue coach Matt Painter said after the game, “We felt fortunate at halftime just to be in the game. And then our guys really came out and played with some life, played with some energy.”
Coming off their fourth straight road loss and also fourth loss in their last seven games, the Boilermakers will be looking to bounce back against their longstanding rivals, Indiana University, at home next Tuesday.
On pape,r these two teams seem very well matched with very similar points per game and field goal percentages. However, the Hoosiers have failed to produce when it matters, have played poor defense, and are currently 12-11 this season. They are second to last in the Big Ten with a 3-7 conference record after stunning Minnesota at home on Wednesday.
Indiana’s chief issue has been defense. They have averaged 73.3 points per game of offense this season, but in seven of their 11 losses, they have allowed more than 75 points, including more than 90 points in two of their seven Big Ten losses. No team, regardless of its offense, can win if they consistently allow more points than they average in scoring.
Purdue, however, has been solid defensively, only allowing more than 70 points twice all season. However, even with the stellar play of JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore, the Boilermakers have failed to make shots when they count. The combined point difference from each of their five losses is only 36—an average of around seven per game—while 13 of those points came from their loss to #1 Ohio State.
Despite their recent struggles, the Boilermakers can use Tuesday’s home game against their in-state rival as a springboard for momentum, as they continue through a tough conference schedule against Illinois and home game rematches against Wisconsin and Ohio State.
If Ohio State drops two of its next three, Purdue would be in a prime position to take over the top spot in the Big Ten with a win over the Buckeyes later this month. This is unlikely, but not impossible as Ohio State squares off against two Top 25 teams in the contests leading up to their February 20th matchup against Purdue in West Lafayette. That being said, if Purdue can win out, they will still be in contention for a 1 or 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament.
The Boilermakers have gotten continued production out of Moore and Johnson, but will need more from supporting characters like their three point sharpshooter Ryne Smith. Smith has shot .482 percent from behind the arc, but has yet to see the kind of production many Purdue fans were hoping for when he stepped in to fill Robbie Hummel’s shoes as the team’s premier three point sniper.
If Purdue can roll through IU and Illinois next week, they will put themselves in a good position to double up in their home rematches against Wisconsin and OSU the week after. For the most part they are still in control of their destiny, so long as they don’t let it slip away like their last four road games have.