One of the keys to the success of the Baby Boilers was Purdue's style of disciplined basketball, limiting turnovers and making smart decisions with the ball. The team's ability to keep control of the ball paid off for Matt Painter and company, with the Boilermakers posting 104 wins over a four season stretch from 2008 to 2012.
During that four year period how did the Boilers fare when it came to turnovers? Well let's take a look below:
|Year||W-L||Turnovers Per Game||National Ranking|
As you can see Purdue's most successful recent stretch went hand in hand with the teams ability to limit costly mistakes and take care of the ball. That mixed with a solid defensive team made Purdue a very difficult opponent in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournament, even with the sporadic offensive output. Look no further than a team that was 139th in field goal percentage and 279th in free throw shooting in 2011-12. Even with the offensive woes, the teams ability to limit turnovers helped them get to the postseason where they almost knocked off Kansas before letting the game slip away...naturally because of a few costly turnovers.
You're probably aware that Purdue missed the postseason the last two seasons, it's a pretty common topic around the program. It should probably not surprise you that the team saw it's ranking when it came to turnovers slip from 1st in the nation to 114th in 2013, followed by another dip to 172nd last season. A team that once took care of the ball started slipping up and that combined with a lackluster offense and a fading defense led to a two year stretch where Purdue won a total of 31 games.
While only nine games into the season the Boilermakers recent additions have shown that the offense is capable of being competent enough to compete in the Big Ten, especially with the emergence of freshmen Vince Edwards and Isaac Haas. Not only has the offense showed the potential to make a giant leap forward in 2015, but the defense has also been considerably more impressive:
#BoilerNotes Purdue is one of seven teams nationally to hold three teams to 43 points or less so far this year.— Chris Forman (@ChrisForman12) December 9, 2014
#BoilerNotes The teams are Virginia (4), Louisville, North Carolina Central, Wyoming, Kentucky, Purdue and Wisconsin.— Chris Forman (@ChrisForman12) December 9, 2014
So what do we have here? Well we have a young and emerging team that brings a potent offense, combined with a defense that appears to finally be getting it and a 1-2 punch down low from A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas that can create nightmares for opposing teams. As if having two seven footers down low wasn't great enough for the offense, they have also both shown that they can be defensive forces inside and blocking machines down in the post.
While the team has made strides on both sides of the ball, there is one issue that has been rearing it's ugly head...turnovers. The Boilermakers have once again continued the slide through the first nine games of the season, committing 14.1 turnovers per game (good enough for 226th in the nation). The teams sloppy play has, at times, kept the offense out of sync while also keeping opposing teams in the game. Look no further than the two Boilermakers losses this season against Kansas State and North Florida. In the Wildcats game Purdue couldn't keep a handle on the ball, recording 11 first half turnovers on their way to a 24-39 deficit that blossomed into an early 20 point deficit in the second half. The Boilers cut the turnovers down to a mere two in the second half (and finally cleaned up on the offensive glass) and stormed back into the game, narrowing the margin to five points before Kansas State followed up a jumper with a turnover and another three to ice the game.
In the most recent setback, an inexplicable loss to North Florida only made better by Michigan's embarrassing loss against N.J.I.T., the Boilermakers repeatedly came within arms distance of a knockout punch against the Ospreys, but couldn't quite put them away. A good reason why the Boilermakers could never fully seal the deal was because the team's 11 turnovers negated an opening half that saw Purdue shoot 50% compared to North Florida's 33%.
The reality is this, if Purdue keeps turning the ball over they will drop considerably more games in conference play then they ultimately should. There's enough talent here and even if there's a lot of inexperience and fresh faces, the team is better than that 14.1 turnovers per game number that hopefully Painter is drilling in their heads. The teams consistency with committing unforced mistakes has been detrimental (and familiar to anyone who watches the football program), but it's entirely correctable. Watching guys like Hammons shuffle his feet and get nailed for traveling is a struggle, but it's easy to see how he could correct his sillier mistakes. Four of the top seven guys committing turnovers here also happen to be in their first year as well, so the thought process is the team will clean up their act as they gain experience.
So far throughout the first month of the season Purdue looks ready to turn the corner on offense and defense, they just need to cut back on unnecessary turnovers and work on controlling the ball better. If they can get their turnover rate lowered they should be ready to make some noise in the oncoming months, if not then we may have another long winter in West Lafayette.