The clock is ticking closer to zeros. It’s the final possession and Purdue is trailing by a point. Who gets the last shot?
Does the ball to go veteran guard Terone Johnson? Would Ronnie Johnson drive to the hoop with an option of an outlet pass? Could a pass go inside to A.J. Hammons, or even outside to the sharp-shooting Kendall Stephens?
This scenario has yet to play out for Purdue, but it will at some point this season. It’s a key question. The lack of an immediate answer is alarming.
Through 12 games, Purdue’s offense has averaged 78.8 points per game, 45.8 percent from the field and 35.1 percent from beyond the arc. Each of these ranks in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten—on paper, not overly impressive and not terribly alarming.
However, Purdue’s leading scorer, Terone Johnson, ranks 17th in the Big Ten. Each conference foe has at least one player ahead of him, and many have two. The Boilermakers have three players averaging double-figure points per game, yet nobody can be counted on for a consistent performance.
Yet, the truth isn’t in the numbers. Purdue has some problems on offense.
Inconsistency has been the story of Purdue’s young season. It was more glaring than ever in the trip to Orlando, where the Boilermakers had to claw their way to seventh place. In the tournament, they put together a good half and bad half in each game, settling for seventh place instead of competing for the championship. Issues on offense spoiled the trip to Disney World.
There are so many questions surrounding Purdue’s scoring. Is it going to be a running team, or will it carefully play out offensive sets seeking that perfect shot? Who’s the go-to guy, the one that’s dominating the stat sheet?
Purdue still lacks a true identity on offense.
The Boilermakers’ offensive issues can be best defined by a 10-minute stretch in the second half of their loss to Butler. Leading 49-48 against the Bulldogs, the game was about to turn. Butler hit a hot streak on offense and busted out on a 21-4 run, taking a 16-point lead. This is where the game turned on Purdue.
While Butler hit its stride on offense, Purdue couldn’t get out of its own way. The Boilermakers went 1-of-6 from the field and committed nine—that’s right, nine—turnovers in 10 minutes.
During this stretch, five different Boilermakers missed shots, looking to end the run. The one field goal came on an uncontested A.J. Hammons dunk.
It’s in adverse stretches like these where a team’s true offensive identity is revealed. There has to be somebody to knock down the big shot and stop the opponent’s run. Those other four players have to know which teammate is the go-to guy, the scorer who can be counted on to silence the skid.
Purdue doesn’t have that. During this particular run, the Boilermakers needed somebody to halt momentum. It wasn’t Terone Johnson, responsible for four turnovers in these 10 minutes. Nor was it A.J. Hammons, who had a pair of turnovers to go with a missed jumper. There were misses from Ronnie Johnson, Errick Peck and Sterling Carter, too.
A technical foul called on coach Matt Painter is what ended the run. It wasn’t a clutch three-pointer or powerful slam dunk. Those are the plays that are supposed to swing momentum; not a rant on Jim Burr’s bad officiating.
This is a microcosm of Purdue’s issues on offense. It’s a team filled with talented scorers, each with their own ways of putting the ball in the hoop, yet they can’t consistently click as one.
Inconsistency won’t be an issue if these Boilermakers can gain comfort with each other. A true identity will be formed.
For now, we ponder the key questions.