Purdue facing harsh reality after loss

With its double-overtime loss at Northwestern, Purdue's promising postseason hopes took a great hit.

It was the kind of game that drives the Purdue fan base crazy, not to mention the players and coaching staff.

The harsh reality of Northwestern's 63-60 double-overtime victory against the Boilermakers on Tuesday night in Welsh-Ryan Arena is that barring a near miracle, Purdue is going to miss the NCAA tournament for a second consecutive season.

Now 13-6 overall and 3-3 in the Big Ten Conference, the Boilermakers now move into the teeth of their league schedule having squandered a perfect opportunity to win four consecutive Big Ten games.

Wisconsin and Michigan are up next for Purdue, and then the month of February is loaded with games against the Big Ten's upper crust.

If Purdue can not protect a seven-point lead late in the second half against an offensively challenged Northwestern team, it certainly can not expect to defeat the teams that have many national analysts claiming that the Big Ten is the nation's strongest conference.

Personally, top to bottom, I think the Big 12 is better, but a case could be built for either league.

But the frustrating thing for Purdue fans is that this team teases with stretches of solid play and then does things that leave countless grads shaking their heads.

The same ugly problems reared their collective heads Tuesday night. Poor free throw shooting. Frequent uninspired play from so talented center A.J. Hammons. Inconsistency among veteran players and youngsters alike.

Why Hammons did not touch the ball on every possession in the two overtime sessions is baffling. Why Purdue did not make a field goal for almost 12 minutes in the second half is baffling.

And why the Boilermakers rushed several possessions with a seven-point, second-half lead is baffling.

Having found ways to defeat Nebraska, Illinois and Penn State, Purdue found a way to give away a game that could have positioned it well for Wisconsin's visit on Saturday. Instead, Matt Painter and his staff must be concerned that the Boilermakers may be on their way to a three-game losing streak (Northwestern, Wisconsin and Michigan) on the heels of a three-game winning streak.

Several steps forward, and now probably several steps back. Maybe this team will prove me wrong, but it just has so many problem areas to position itself for the kind of Big Ten run Purdue fans have come to expect from their men's basketball team.

With the football season ending in an ugly mess of lopsided defeats, fans were counting on the basketball team to bounce back from an ugly 2012-2013 season and inspire them.

The way Purdue lost at Northwestern can have lingering effects, especially when the soft part of the Big Ten schedule is over.

The bus ride from Evanston back to West Lafayette early Wednesday morning could not have been much fun. Certainly, losing never is fun, but the manner in which the Northwestern game slipped away Tuesday night can be one that ruins a season.

It will be very interesting to see how the Boilermakers respond to a loss that simply should not have happened.


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