After losing in the Big Ten Championship 66-62 to Michigan State, Purdue seemed like a team ready for a deep NCAA Tournament run. The Boilermakers had won 5 out of 6 and looked like a match-up nightmare in the tournament with their plethora of bigs.
With a 63-49 lead with just over 4 minutes left, it looked like Purdue was destined for a match-up with Iowa State in the round of 32. Purdue, however, might have been looking ahead to this match-up as well. What followed was a 21-7 onslaught by the Trojans, ultimately pulling even with the Boilermakers on a Josh Hagins three with 4 seconds left.
Arkansas Little Rock would go on to knock Purdue out of the NCAA Tournament in double overtime 85-83. Let's take a look at what we learned from this loss by Purdue.
1. Purdue couldn't stretch the floor
Facing a double digit deficit in the second half, Arkansas Little Rock began to step up their pressure defensively. The Trojans shaded AJ Hammons on every post up, forcing Rapheal Davis and PJ Thompson to beat them from deep. This led to Hammons not making a field goal in the last 16 minutes of regulation.
With the Trojans taking away the Boilermakers biggest paint threat, Davis and Thompson just could not provide the shooting from the outside to offset the attention being paid to the big man.
Matt Painter was forced to rotate his guards, playing Dakota Mathias a lot and Ryan Cline off the bench, trying desperately to get the Trojans’ defense to give respect to the outside shooters.
In the end, the Boilermaker offense was stagnant, and even with great post threats in Hammons, Haas, and Swanigan, there wasn’t a playmaker on the floor to create a shot for someone else. Vince Edwards tried to be that guy, scoring 24 points on 7-16 shooting, but the sophomore just couldn’t do enough to create for his teammates.
2. No one could stop Josh Hagins
The leading scorer on Arkansas Little Rock, averaging 12.8 points per game, Purdue certainly wasn’t going to overlook Joshn Hagins. The 6’1’’ senior also led the Trojans in assists and steals. No matter how much they prepared, however, the Boilermakers weren’t going to stop Josh Hagins today.
The senior guard posted 31 points on 10-20 shooting in the double overtime game. These stats don’t even begin to tell the story of how big Hagins was in this game. With his team down 3 in the final seconds, Hagins hit a step back three pointer to send the game in to overtime.
On the defensive end, Hagins swarmed Purdue’s guards and dug the ball from their bigs on double-teams. The senior had 5 steals and 7 rebounds. In many ways, Hagins was everything Purdue didn’t have Thursday. He hit clutch threes, created his own shot, and got others involved on the offensive end with 6 assists.
3. Purdue has a big offseason ahead
A lot of times it is easy to predict how a team will look the next season. For Purdue, one thing is for certain; they will be without their leading scorer AJ Hammons. The senior will most likely be drafted in June. The Boilermakers will also lose starting guard Rapheal Davis and role player Johnny Hill.
What will be interesting to see play out are the decisions that Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan have. While they are just a sophomore and freshman respectively, both players have heard their name thrown around on NBA Draft boards.
If both players return, Purdue will once again have a dominant frontcourt. Combine this with the return of much improved swingman Vince Edwards and the presense of already committed 4-star guard Carsen Edwards, Purdue could be looking at a team with more potential than this year.
Looking at the big picture, Purdue had a solid year considering their lack of players in the backcourt. This isn’t to say the loss isn’t disappointing for Purdue. The Boilermakers are now just 2-4 in the tournament since making the Sweet 16 in 2010. It will be back to the drawing board for Matt Painter and his staff, with the main focus keeping their frontcourt on campus.