Poor perimeter shooting. Marginal effort. Suspect defense.
The question marks that lingered over the Purdue basketball team most of the season were again on display in Monday's C.B.I. tournament loss to Santa Clara at Mackey Arena, assuring that any optimism about the future will remain tinged with the gray of uncertainty.
"I'd have to say working harder every day, consistency throughout the whole season," Terone Johnson said afterward. "Playing Division I basketball at a Big Ten university, people were taking it for granted at first. Nobody was consistent the whole way through, including myself."
Johnson scored 22 points, but missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer at the final horn to tie the game. It was emblematic of a team that struggled mightily to make jump shots for four months. Purdue was 1-of-11 from the arc Monday. While Johnson and freshman brother Ronnie, who scored a career-high 27, got to the rim at ease, their inability to find the bucket from distance, among others on the roster, remains an alarming concern in a game largely predicated on the penetrate-and-pitch principle.
"We have to have more skill," coach Matt Painter said. "We've got to be able to simply make an open shot, especially when you have post players. It's a normal process with a younger team. You just hope they can continue to grow and make more winning plays "
How much can improvement can realistically be expected? It's hard to say. It may be too much to think that anyone on the current roster may ever be even a decent 3-point shooter. It's a heavy burden to ask touted recruits Bryson Scott and Kendall Stephens to shoulder as freshmen, but Purdue may have no choice unless 500 shots a day is the prescription to its ills.
"Next year starts right now," Terone Johnson said. "The offseason is all about getting back to Purdue basketball."
The wall above the tunnel still reads "It's time to play hard" near the clock, a remnant of the Gene Keady era, but defense doesn't live here like it used to. In lieu of an efficient offense, there isn't ability to make enough stops to compensate.
Purdue's best defensive player was former walk-on Dru Anthrop. Center A.J. Hammons possesses the physical ability to dominate on both ends, but it has to want to. Monday's game was also a thumbnail of the 7-foot freshman's enigmatic season -- 16 lifeless minutes with four rebounds and three points. He was again outplayed by Sandi Marcius, whose effort can't be questioned, despite a clearly limited skill set.
His indifferent demeanor strikes at the core of Painter's familiar refrain about the team's debatable desire.
"A lot of times, we didn't fight in our league. A couple times against our rival, we didn't necessarily fight," Painter said. "They may still feel that way, but I'm not going to give into it. Sometimes, it's a byproduct of youth. It takes a lot of sacrifice to be good. Hopefully, they learn from going through the process and we're in a better position next year at this time."
Johnson said next season started Tuesday. Purdue fans will have to wait eight months to find out if that was more than just lip service.
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