Five Thoughts: Boilers come up short again

Purdue played its best basketball late, but there were many problems before the comeback. Boiler Sports Report offers five thoughts from the Boilermakers' loss to Minnesota.

1.) Boilermakers must break the zone

When Purdue struggled against Eastern Michigan's 2-3 zone, the theory was that it was just an off day for the Boilermakers. But the continued struggles against zone defenses show it wasn't an anomaly. Purdue just can't find a way to break a zone defense, something that's quite alarming as Big Ten play begins. The Boilermakers' offense relies on pristine passing smart decisions, yet none of this happens against a zone. Another alarming element is how A.J. Hammons doesn't get touches against a zone defense (see below for more). The Boilers must go to work and find a way to have success against a zone defense.

2.) A.J. Hammons must be a factor

Following an 18-point, 16-rebound performance, A.J. Hammons hardly broke a sweat. The sophomore center had only seven points and one rebound. Purdue's greatest mismatch must be utilized in each game. Against the Golden Gophers, though, the Boilermakers just couldn't get the ball inside against a stout zone defense. It's the continuation of an alarming trend. Purdue must find a way to get Hammons involved in each game.

3.) Too little, too late

At this point, Purdue's late comeback against Minnesota wasn't a surprise. This has happened on several occasions, notably falling short against Oklahoma State and Butler. For Boilermaker fans, it's hard to take joy in the rallies when the reality is, this team just isn't playing its best basketball for 40 minutes. The triumphant comebacks are just a small sample of this team's high potential. If Purdue could play like this for an entire game, the rallies wouldn't be necessary.

4.) Terone finally taking over

While Purdue's offense saw too many struggles on Sunday, senior guard Terone Johnson paced the Boilermakers. Johnson tallied 18 points and was demanding the ball throughout much of the game. Frankly, for a young team, this is what's needed. Johnson has to be one of the Boilermakers' leading scorers each time they take the court. His recent play is encouraging, though Purdue needs a stronger showing from the supporting cast.

5.) Stick with this starting five

The positive of Purdue's depth is that there are several options for Matt Painter to use in the rotation. However, he's had some issues mixing and matching with five players. The head coach would be wise to keep Sunday's starting five—Ronnie Johnson, Terone Johnson, Rapheal Davis, Basil Smotherman and A.J. Hammons—as the main grouping of five. With these player on the court, Purdue has a little bit of everything—experience, energy, shooting, rebounding. It's a versatile group that the Boilermakers can have success with. When Purdue faces adversity in a game, the way it did on Sunday and so many other times, this must be the group to dig out of the hole.

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Northwestern Wildcats, and currently covers the Purdue Boilermakers. A Chicago native, he resides in West Lafayette.
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