Purdue fell behind late and had to rally in the last minute to pull out the victory versus Northern Kentucky.
In a game that was close for all 40 minutes (neither team had a lead larger than five points), Northern Kentucky opened up a four point lead with less than a minute left. Purdue responded, though, with a three pointer made by senior transfer Errick Peck. Then the Boilers ended up fouling Jordan Jackson, sending him to the line for two. Up to that point the Norse had not missed any free throws and Jackson was 8 of 8. Jackson ended up missing both free throws. In the closing seconds Ronnie Johnson found his way to the line and sank two clutch free throws. The Norse had two shots down low before the end of the game but they each rimmed out.
The Boilermakers showed some signs of progress but still suffered from far too many mistakes. Sophomore Ronnie Johnson looked considerably better from the field but still made far too many errant decisions with the ball, committing four turnovers. Also, for a team with a significant height advantage, Purdue only out rebounding the much smaller Norse by one is simply inexcusable. Purdue will definitely look to A.J. Hammons when he returns for their next game against Central Connecticut State. As ugly as the game was for the Boilers, they lost these kind of games last season and it's a better start than their season opening loss last season versus Bucknell.
That being said, Purdue did show a bit of life from outside. Newcomers Kendall Stephens, Sterling Carter and Errick Peck anchored the outside attack, shooting 5 of 9 from beyond the arc. Also, Purdue finally had a good night from the free throw line, making 16 of 20 attempts from the charity stripe. The team could have benefited from better shooting nights by Terone Johnson and Rapheal Davis (combined 4 of 18 from the field), but the Boilermakers looked considerably more balanced on offense in the opener.
Of course the biggest disappointment was their defensive effort. The team will most likely look a lot better with Hammons back in the lineup, but even without Hammons the team should have played better. Purdue had a tendency to play off of the Norse and showed little urgency. Northern Kentucky was shooting the ball effectively, routinely answering anything Purdue put up, but the Boilermakers showed little urgency or alarm. It basically felt like Purdue assumed they'd win and the Norse would struggle from the field, as the team ended up playing relaxed and loose. The end result was Northern Kentucky made 50% of their 26 three pointers, keeping the team alive against Purdue.
So while Purdue showed signs of improvement, it's still a work in progress. The offense looks more balanced and capable of shooting, but the defense still was going through the motions. Rebounds were an issue and Purdue still didn't seem to care all that much about what happened, which was a problem throughout a lot of last year. Turnovers cropped up from time to time and once again Purdue settled for a few poor shots that set up easy buckets for the Norse.
If Purdue wants to get to the NCAA Tournament they will need to play considerably better going down the road. Tonight's performance was ugly and Painter will likely be all over the team for how they played. While the night was a bit of a disappointment of sorts, a win is a win and Purdue has to be happy to be starting 1-0 instead of 0-1.