Time for Purdue to cure its ailments

Another disappointing season of Purdue basketball came to a close in Indianapolis, with Ohio State topping the Boilermakers, 63-61. Now, the program must cure its ailments and move into the future.

INDIANAPOLIS - Given the recurring theme that was the Purdue's 2013-2014 season, could it have ended any other way Friday afternoon in the Big Ten Conference opening round game against Ohio State?

Boilermaker senior guard Terone Johnson's potential game-winning 3-pointer clanked off the front of the rim at the final buzzer, and No. 5 seed Ohio State advanced with a 63-61 victory, officially closing the final chapter of Purdue's second consecutive sub-.500 season.

The Boilermakers, who were 13-5 after a Jan. 18 victory against Penn State in Mackey Arena, lost 12 of their final 14 games, including the last seven in a row.

Coach Matt Painter confirmed after Thursday's defeat that Purdue is done for the year, meaning any invitation to a second-tier postseason tournament will not be accepted.

To say the least, this was a frustrating season, one that was supposed to be Purdue's jump back into NCAA tournament consideration.

But Painter's team never gave itself a chance, capped by Thursday's 24th loss to Ohio State in the past 30 meetings with the Buckeyes.

"We have been able to play hard at times, and when we play hard, we don't play smart," Painter said. "You just are not going to beat a team like Ohio State with 17 turnovers. We were not able to consistently play hard and play smart at the same time, and those are two constants in the game you have to do it you are going to have a good team."

Terone Johnson was a part of two special Purdue teams as a freshman and sophomore, then experienced a 31-35 record as a junior and a senior. He does believe better times are ahead. Of the nine who played Thursday, six are scheduled to return, and the incoming recruiting class is one of Painter's best, led by Vince Edwards and Dakota Mathias, each an Ohio native.

"I definitely think they can turn it around," Terone Johnson said. "The talent is there in the room, it is just that those guys are going to have to be consistent. They have to play hard all the time. That is something the coaching staff definitely will get those guys to do."

A huge key, literally, will be if 7-foot center A.J. Hammons takes the next step in his development. He had 15 points, nine rebounds and five blocks in Thursday's finale.

"I have to play smarter and harder," Hammons said. Painter has a plan for next season. But will his players embrace it?

"You have to take the guys that you already have and get them to make better decisions," Painter said. "You have to keep working with them and get them to watch film. It is a game of repetition, and we have to do a better job of playing fast and under control.

"Then you have to recruit guys that can make a better decision. Two years ago, we had the No. 1 team in the country in fewest turnovers. So, this is a big changing of the guard for us from a personnel standpoint. I don't care who you are, you don't give yourself a chance, and you are going to end up losing basketball games. We simply did not give ourselves a chance this year, because we turned the ball over too much."

Ohio State guard Aaron Craft believes Purdue has an opportunity to turn its fortunes quickly.

"You know they are coming to come out and play hard, and if you have a guy like A.J. inside, it always makes it tough," Craft said. "We don't play against guys that want to play in the post as much as he does."

The 2014-2015 season is a huge one for Purdue and for Painter. From the 1966-67 season through the 2000-2001 season, the Boilermakers had one sub.-500 season. In the past 13 seasons, the Boilermakers have finished below .500 five times, including the past two.

It is time for Purdue to cure what ails it, and Painter knows that more than anyone.

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