When trying to figure out what happened today, one is temepted to point to Purdue's pathetic shooting percentage from both the field and the line and blame today's loss on offensive ineptitude. On the surface, it sure looks that way, but from where I sat I think the root cause of today's loss was Purdue's inability to stop SMU down the stretch when it counted. Other than the last possession when SMU missed two free throws, I'd guess that SMU scored on their last 6 possessions and every score was either a lay-up or dunk. Purdue's defense just wasn't up to the task when it counted and most of the breakdowns appeared to be made by Purdue's inside people.
As I was driving back from Lafayette, I got to thinking that in today's world of college basketball, the difference between good teams and average teams is that good teams can win even when they don't play well offensively because they are sound defensively. The difference between good teams and really good teams is that really good teams find a way to win close games like the one today and the one last week against Oklahoma. Frankly, Purdue just isn't there yet and unless they find a way to win these kinds of games they will have a hard time becoming a factor in the Big 10 race this year.
Having said all that and despite today's loss, I continue to like the way this team is playing, I just wish they would make some shots. Other than Kenneth Lowe, nobody else appears to be able to make a wide open 10 foot jump shot and never mind an open 3-pointer. I lost track of the number of easy open shots Purdue missed today, but it had to be at least 15 and quite possibly more than 20 and that doesn't even count at least 5 fairly easy inside looks the big guys got that they managed to screw up. I know that they aren't going to make them all and I know they aren't going to win every game, but there's really nothing wrong with this team that can't be cured by simply hitting open shots and learning how to finish inside.
I'll close by saying I hope people don't start pointing fingers at this player or that player and try to establish "blame". The simple truth is that there's not one player on this team that is totally blameless for today's loss. I don't think anybody played very well and the only guy that you might say had a decent game (Kenneth Lowe) was guilty of stepping into the lane too soon on a free throw and the resulting extra chance ended up being the 1 point differential.
Would I have felt better if the team had found a way to win today? Well, sure, but even if one of Kenneth's last two shots had fallen, it wouldn't change the prospects for this team and I wouldn't feel any better or worse about Purdue's Big 10 chances or their post-season hopes than I do now. I still think this team has a chance to be pretty good before it's over and hopefully today's game will serve as a lesson to these guys that they just can't afford to take anybody for granted.
If the loss does that, then come March nobody is going to worry too much about the outcome of today's game.
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