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December 8, 2012

Zoned out

Listen: Coach Matt Painter | D.J. Byrd | Dru Anrthrop | Ronnie Johnson

PDF: Purdue-Eastern Michigan Box Score

YPSILANTI, Mich. - Despite 18 costly turnovers and despite the paralysis Eastern Michigan's zone inflicted on Purdue, there were the Boilermakers with a chance to win at the end Saturday against the Eagles.

After seeing a nine-point first-half lead morph into a double-digit second half hole, Purdue had the ball at the end with a chance to, at worst, tie.

But in a season where little has gone as planned, or hoped, thus, the Boilermakers walked off the floor with another maddening loss, this one by a 47-44 count.

That's right: Purdue managed just 44 points, the fewest the Boilermakers have scored in a game since a 69-42 loss to Minnesota in the 2010 Big Ten Tournament.

After all that went wrong in Ypsilanti, Purdue had the ball in its hands at the hand with the game still on the line.

After a timeout with 23 seconds left, Purdue came out down two, with a chance to tie or take a late lead.

But working from left to right, Terone Johnson dribbled into a contested three-pointer with 10 seconds left. It missed.

"We were trying to run the ball off a ball screen to get in the lane," Coach Matt Painter said afterward. "But I told them they'd jam up the top and put three guys up there, and if they did that, we'd just have to probe the defense and be patient. We wanted more of a penetrating dribbler and obviously jam the ball inside."

There was no penetration, and that crack failed.

But after Eastern Michigan split a pair of foul shots, Purdue did have another chance, this time down three. But Terone Johnson's pass off to Dru Anthrop was botched, resulting in a turnover.

It was a fitting way for Purdue's fate to be sealed, considering its ineptitude in making simple plays against Eastern Michigan, whether it be making bad passes or simply fumbling the good ones.

"We did some really good things against their zone," Painter said, "but just struggled to pass and catch. That seems elementary, but if we could just pass and catch the basketball around the rim in the last 10 minutes of the game, we'd have had four or five more baskets."

It wasn't just that Purdue struggled to score, but also that its issues helped Eastern Michigan score.

Purdue led by nine right out of the gate, up 11-2 around the 13-minute mark of the first half.

That's around the point the Boilermakers went numb offensively and started giving the ball away.

It was one thing to turn the ball over, another to turn the ball over in ways that gave the Eagles a chance to spread their wings.

In the first half, Eastern Michigan could generate little offense on its own against Purdue in the half court, but some transition opportunities off Boilermaker mistakes produced just enough offense to keep it afloat.

"Some of our turnovers led to transition buckets for them and that got them going," said Anthrop, who started for Purdue. "We have to do a better job of taking care of the ball."

Eighteen Purdue turnovers led to a dozen Eastern Michigan points, negating another overwhelming rebounding advantage (51-33) for the Boilermakers.

That, coupled with sub-30-percent shooting, doomed Purdue.

Eastern Michigan scored the final six points of the first half to cut a Purdue lead that had topped out at nine to just one.

Then, in the second half, the Eagles made the shots they were missing in the first. After missing all eight of their three-point shots in the first 20 minutes, they made their first two of the second half.

Derek Thompson's triple at 11:16 capped an 8-0 home team run and put Eastern Michigan up 37-28.

Eastern's lead peaked at 10 a few minutes later, before back-to-back Terone Johnson threes cut it to four and gave Purdue a chance.

A chance it couldn't capitalize on.

"We could have shown more poise," senior D.J. Byrd said, "and come out of here with a win."

It was another quiet game for Byrd, who missed all five of his shots and scored just two points. Since the first half at Clemson, he's shot 1-of-17.

It's part that Byrd just isn't making shots right now, but also that his 6-of-8 three-point outburst in the first half at Clemson has put his name atop opponents' scouting reports.

"They know where I am at points on defense," Byrd said. "That's why I try to do a lot of screening, because they won't help off me as much. Against a zone, it's hard to get screens when they extend so far. It can be hard to get into a flow against their zone.

"I got some good looks that I normally knock down. It's been a frustrating couple games for me."

And it's been a frustrating first nine games for Purdue, which sits at 4-5, having yet to lose a game in which it was truly soundly beaten. As Painter keeps saying, and said again Saturday, "It's frustrating because we feel we continue to beat ourselves."

Frustrating, indeed.

"It has affected us," point guard Ronnie Johnson said, "but we just have to keep our heads up and move to the next game, one game at a time.

"You see in the locker room, guys' heads are down. There's a negative vibe, really. ... We just have to get a couple wins."

Copyright, Boilers, Inc. 2012. All Rights Reserved. Reproducing or using editorial or graphical content, in whole or in part, without permission, is strictly prohibited. E-mail GoldandBlack.com/Boilers, Inc.

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