Purdue needed a 16-point second-half comeback to rally past Siena for seventh place in the Old Spice Classic. Its appearance in the tournament brought six wildly inconsistent halves of basketball—one good and one bad in each game. Losses to No. 5 Oklahoma State and Washington State overshadow the Boilermakers' one win.
In the tournament opener with Oklahoma State, the Boilermakers brought a 23-point halftime deficit down to just four points, before falling. They scored 29 points in the first half and 58 in the second stanza. The consolation contest with weary Washington State saw Purdue allow 17 first-half points and 52 in the next half, eventually falling by 15 in a devastating loss.
Following the game, Purdue players sat in a dead silent locker room for nearly an hour, waiting for their head coach to address the team. The feeling of disappointment filled the air as the players knew this was a loss they couldn't afford—not with a weak nonconference schedule. Eventually, Painter offered pointed words at the beleaguered team, which led to more quietness.
"No words, just quiet," sophomore guard Rapheal Davis said, describing the scene. "Everybody knew that it shouldn't have happened, what happened. Nobody said a word the rest of the day."
Still, the Boilermakers failed to respond. On Sunday against Siena, they were again forced to overcome a double-digit halftime deficit after a sluggish start. Purdue earned one desperately-needed win before flying back from Orlando. The struggles are still fresh on the Boilermakers' minds.
Painter said such inconsistencies from one half to the next are "a first" in his coaching career.
"We have a young team," Painter said. "Yet, after you play games, you have to show some improvement."
Much of Purdue's problem on offense stems from poor shot selection, where a team of talented shooters is struggling to get into a rhythm.
Far too often, the Boilermakers rush through their offensive sets without getting a safe, smart shot. A fast-paced offense is largely ineffective without efficiency.
"We all have to slow down," said freshman forward Basil Smotherman, who was inserted for his first start against Siena. "We're all cutting fast like we're wild turkeys with our heads cut off. We have to slow down and embrace the game."
While Purdue can hope its issues were left behind in Orlando, it can't shake the reality—a brutal loss to Washington State is a bad blemish on the NCAA Tournament résumé. Senior guard Terone Johnson pins Purdue's problems on an overall lack of focus.
Purdue needs to reel off three wins in a row, starting on Wednesday with the ACC/Big Ten Challenge contest with Boston College. After that, the Boilermakers face matchups with Eastern Michigan and Butler. It's a stretch of games that can fix the flaws from a bad week in Disney World.
"We want to get these three wins in a package all together," Johnson said. "That's something that's huge for us going into the first game. We've got to see it as one game at a time and get focused on Boston College."