In some respects, Indiana's 72-61 home loss to Purdue was somewhat similar to the game in West Lafayette. While this game was a bit more volatile, it was a game that never quite got out of hand but also a game where IU never really broke through. There were several times in the game--when it was 7-0, when it was 14-7, when it was 24-14, when it was 46-33--where it appeared that IU was in danger of getting blown out, but IU withstood all of those deficits and managed to pull to within 3 points, 54-51, midway through the second half. What immediately followed was Bobby Capobianco's ridiculous foul on JaJuan Johnson on a play that was already lost, and IU never got that close again.
While I was happy with the team's resiliency in the second half, unfortunately, as has been the case many times this season, poor defensive effort in the first half decided the game. IU was able to get JaJuan Johnson in foul trouble, something that hasn't happened to him much or at all this year, but could not exploit his absence offensively or defensively. Johnson simply can't be guarded by anyone on IU's roster one on one, so having him on the bench should have given IU a much more manageable defensive job, but instead, IU allowed three wide open three pointers and what was a one point Purdue lead when Johnson left the game was a ten point lead by halftime. The second half was fairly even, but the damage was done by then.
IU had a rough night offensively, certainly in large part because of Purdue's defense. Christian Watford continues to struggle against teams with a significant post presence, although that is somewhat offset by his excellent free throw shooting. Watford, Jordan Hulls, and Verdell Jones III were 4-13, 5-12, and 4-12 from the field, respectively. Watford did have 9 rebounds, including 7 on the defensive end.
As for the Purdue reaction, in the game thread, I predicted that Travis would gloat about Terone Johnson's strong first half shooting performance. As expected, he repeats the mischaracterization that I have made Johnson my "whipping boy." That's nonsense, and it's been nonsense every time he has said it. In the comments to a post about IU's roster, here's what I said about Johnson:
I think Painter is a really good coach, but I think the counter-example to the Baby Boilers is Terone Johnson. Johnson is the #51 recruit in the current freshman class. He would be the second-ranked recruit on IU’s team if he were on our roster. Currently, Johnson is playing 20 minutes a game, averaging about 6 points per game, and is shooting 33 percent from the field, 24 from behind the arc. That doesn’t mean he sucks, it doesn’t mean that Painter has failed him, and it doesn’t mean he won’t be a formidable player in a year or three. It means he’s a freshman. Yet, if he were on IU’s roster, he would be playing 30-plus minutes a game and would be a focal point for opposing defenses, and God knows what his shooting percentages would look like. Part of building a program is being able to bring in younger players to mesh with older guys who know the ropes. I think we are getting there, but slowly.
That's the basis for the "whipping boy" allegation. My point wasn't really about Johnson at all. I was using him as an example of a freshman who will be a good player down the road but can be eased in, and whose struggles don't necessarily hurt the team. Contrary to what Travis thinks, last night's game actually bolsters my point. Yes, he hit three three-pointers. Good for him. But in 26 minutes of play, he shot 3-6 from the field (all three pointers), taking barely 10 percent of Purdue's field goal attempts, and did not score a point in the final 23 minutes of the game. He's the #51 recruit in his class, but Purdue can use him in a Matt Roth-type role because of Purdue's depth and experience. That was my point. What the hell do I care if Terone Johnson is shooting 35 percent from the field? It's a point with a slight amount of nuance, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that it is flying over the heads of Boilermakers.
Well, as was the case before today's game, IU will have to pull a significant upset to win another game this season. This weekend, IU travels to Ohio State. Next week, IU hosts Wisconsin on Senior Night and then finishes the regular season at Illinois. Unfortunately, IU's failure to take care of business against other teams means that the most likely outcome for IU is the 11 seed and a first round matchup with either Michigan, Minnesota, or Penn State (or, perhaps it's good that we won't have to play Iowa or Northwestern again). We'll see.