Wednesday night, the Purdue Boilermakers played their first true road game and it looked like exactly that. From the opening tip, the Boilermakers offense struggled and their star studded frontcourt looked pedestrian, at best. Now, of course, it isn’t all doom and gloom for the Boilers as they still have plenty of talent and will have another chance against Notre Dame in a few weeks to get a quality win, but the non-conference doesn’t offer many chances like that for the Boilers.
In the only two real tests that this Purdue team has had this season, they have come up short. That doesn’t necessarily bode well for them come tournament time, but the season is still young and Big Ten play will always offer plenty of chances for quality wins.
With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the things we can take away from that game Wednesday night.
What We Learned
1. Purdue is completely reliant on their front court
This isn’t so much something that is a complete revelation. Obviously, with the talent they have in Caleb Swanigan, Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards, those are three guys you want to be able to count on. However, when things aren’t going their way like they were against Louisville, where does Purdue turn? In the first half, the frontcourt of Purdue combined for one point. When that’s the focal point of your offense, that quite simply won’t get it done.
Carsen Edwards appears to be a player who could very quickly turn into a perimeter option to go get his own shot when the offense breaks down for Purdue, but as a freshman in his first road game, he had efficiency issues. P.J. Thompson had a nice scoring night, but that was essentially it for the backcourt of Purdue.
2. Turnovers continue to plague the Boilermakers
It’s been an issue for years in West Lafayette now, and this season appears to be no different. For the first few years of the Matt Painter era, the Boilers were one of the best at forcing turnovers and protecting the ball. Now, it seems that the opposite is true. The Boilers hardly force any turnovers, and they can’t protect the basketball. Having 17 turnovers on the road against a team that struggles at times offensively in Louisville is certainly going to do serious damage to your chances to win.
The biggest problem with many of these turnovers is that many of them are unforced errors. Whether it just be bad passes, traveling violations or otherwise, the Boilers are hurting themselves without necessarily being put in positions to turn the ball over.
3. The Boilermakers are still good enough to win the conference
Last night, a lot of things went very, very wrong for Purdue. The 17 turnovers, starting the game shooting 3-18 from the floor and the noted frontcourt issues. All that being said, they only lost a true road game against a Louisville team that is nearly unbeatable at home, especially in November, by seven points. Say what you want about moral victories, and I know Purdue and their fans are tired of them, but that speaks to a talent level and perseverance that can certainly compete in the Big Ten.
Of course, plenty is going to have be cleaned up offensively and someone is going to have to find Vince Edwards, but this team is plenty talented. Jay Bilas said on the ESPN broadcast last night that the Boilers are a top 15 talent team, probably not top 5. And that’s fair. The biggest issue for the Boilermakers offensively is being more efficient and protecting the basketball and being stronger with it. The key is that their issues are things that can be fixed. Questions about the quality of their guards certainly do still exist, but it seems this might be one of Purdue’s most complete teams in the past few years.
Again, moral victory is just another word for a loss, I know, but Purdue has a lot of good to take away from this game, as well as a lot of bad. For much of the game, they looked very bad. However, Caleb Swanigan got it going in the second half, finishing with a double-double, and making this game very interesting late.
You certainly wouldn’t expect the frontcourt of Purdue to struggle the way they did Wednesday night on a consistent basis, and if they are even a shell of themselves in the first half, the Boilermakers might win that game. The talent is there, it’s simply a matter of execution and consistency.