The Boiling Point: Purdue’s basketball season came to an end on Sunday night with a 94-76 loss to VCU in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
THE STORY: For the third time in four games to end the season, Purdue lacked the necessary effort to play at the high level fans grew accustomed to after going 7-1 in the month of February, which included a win against No. 1 Ohio State. The result, a 94-76 shellacking, was even more frustrating and shocking given that it ended the Boilers’ season and the careers of JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore. The game was all No. 11 VCU after it took over the lead with 7:10 left in the first half as the Boilers allowed the Rams to score at will in the paint. Purdue’s defensive prowess was shredded by 48 points in the paint which resembled that of a pregame lay-up line. The worst came in the second half when VCU scored six straight times on a lay-up or a dunk and the Rams eventually stretched a 10-point halftime lead into 20 with 5:17 left.
Many players failed to come up with a reason as to why the season crumbled at the end, but Lewis Jackson said he thought the group hit a wall. Why? He wasn’t sure. But everyone acknowledged the level of play changed down the stretch, especially defensively as the 94 points given up to VCU was the most all season.
TURNING POINT: Given the way Purdue rolled over as VCU took control of the game in first half, it could have come that early, but I will pick a second-half moment. It seemed like Purdue was mounting a comeback with about 8 minutes left as it quickly cut into a VCU lead and trailed by 13 when the Rams missed another shot and the Boilers came down with the rebound. But Terone Johnson was called for a foul and just 3 minutes later the Rams held their largest lead (20 points) of the game and the game was over.
GAME BALL: A bit cheesy here, but it goes to E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson. Yes, Moore shot just 5-of-15 and had only six points with his team down 20 and 3:13 left. Yes, Johnson looked like he must have bribed coaches for the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award as VCU got easy bucket after easy bucket. Yes, the two failed to carry the Boilers in their biggest game of the season. BUT, the two are also the program’s winningest players and they, along with Carl Landry, David Teague and Matt Painter, helped restore Purdue’s program. Just six years ago the Boilers won just NINE games. They won at least 25 games all FOUR years they were in West Lafayette. Give it up to those two. They deserve it even though Sunday’s loss is very tough to take.
SPORTSCENTER MOMENT: No single play from the game. But it has to be the fact that all of ESPN’s analysts were dead wrong about VCU. No one thought it should have been in tourney, but the Rams proved for the third straight game they more than deserved a postseason bid.
WHAT IT MEANS: Purdue and Painter have to find a way to get “over the hump” in the tourney. Arguably two of the program’s best players are moving on and the Boilers didn’t get past the Sweet 16. Now, it’s time to welcome Robbie Hummel back to the floor, figure out a way to lessen the blow by Johnson and Moore’s graduation and build a team around Hummel, Lewis Jackson and Ryne Smith. Even though Hummel didn’t take the floor on Sunday, he took the loss extremely hard. He was crying before he left the floor and stayed away from the media in the back of Purdue’s locker room after the game before passing out hugs to his teammates.
ODDS AND ENDS: Ryne Smith was really good. Hidden in the dreadful defense was Smith’s 20-point performance buoyed by 6-of-8 from 3. … VCU’s bench outscored Purdue’s 29-5. … The Rams had six players in double figures, including tiny point guard Joey Rodriguez, who finished with 12 points and 11 assists without a turnover.