Purdue's slump steadies on

Purdue's slump steadies on

Purdue continues to struggle in the heart of its Big Ten slate.

On paper, a 75-66 loss at 10th-ranked Michigan would appear to be a respectable effort.

In reality, Purdue never really had a legitimate chance to upset the Big Ten Conference leader, which was shooting more than 60 percent from the field through the game's first 37 minutes.

This was not the Wolverines' best, but it didn't have to be. The Boilermakers simply continue to struggle with perimeter defense and now have fallen to 13-8, 3-5 in the Big Ten with what has become a three-game losing streak. And if Penn State plays Sunday with the passion and effort it displayed Wednesday night in upsetting Ohio State in Columbus, the streak easily could reach four.

In Nik Stauskas and Claris Levert, Michigan has an element the Boilermakers lack - consistent offensive threats. Likely Big Ten MVP Stauskas made big shots when he had to, and Levert contributed a double-double as the Wolverines remained undefeated in conference action and exposed what has become a troubling fact - Purdue has no idea how to deny perimeter scorers

There were second-half moments when A.J. Hammons was engaged and showed flashes of becoming the force Boilermaker fans want to see. But it doesn't happen often enough, and when Purdue couldn't match Michigan's proficiency from the perimeter, the Wolverines coasted across the finish line.

It was evident Matt Painter is frustrated by what is happening, using walk on Stephen Toyra in the first half along with Travis Carroll. And Toyra was on the floor in the game's closing seconds along with Basil Smotherman and Bryson Scott, two freshmen who acted as if this loss bothered them. Some of their teammates didn't look as if they we fazed.

Honestly, it's really difficult to predict much of an improvement in the final 10 regular season games, which include tests against Minnesota, Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, Iowa and Wisconsin. And there also are tests left at suddenly improving Penn State, Nebraska, and Northwestern, not to mention Indiana in Mackey Arena in February.

It could get worse before it gets better for a team that struggles to shoot the ball on one end and struggles to guard shooters on the other end. Purdue has taken steps in the wrong direction and doesn't seem to have anyone who can play 25 to 30 minutes with consistency at each end of the floor.

In a season when Purdue could have taken advantage of slumps by Wisconsin, Ohio State and Indiana, the Boilermakers have done nothing more than join the pack of those who, as Painter says, have lots of flaws.

Not many among us anticipated that the Boilermakers would go into Ann Arbor late Thursday night and pull an upset, but it was evident from the final five seconds of the first half and the first few possessions of the second half that despite the fact Michigan was not playing with maximum effort, Purdue had no chance, even if it did keep the final margin respectable.

The bitter cold January certainly has not been pleasant, nor has the way Purdue is playing basketball in the heart of the Big Ten season.

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