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November 29, 2013

Utter collapse

Purdue-Washington State box score

KISSIMMEE, Fla. - Matt Painter considered Friday's Old Spice Classic meeting with a struggling Washington State team to be a bit of a tell about what his Boilermaker team might be right now in the wake of its second-half comeback against No. 5 Oklahoma State.

What the Purdue coach saw in a 69-54 loss might just have nauseated him.

Purdue played one of its better halves of the season in the first, but saw a 10-point halftime lead obliterated in the final 20 minutes as the Cougars scored 52 points after halftime, after putting up just 17 prior.

Painter undoubtedly had sharp words for the Boilermakers afterwards, as the team's post-game press conference didn't take place 'til nearly an hour after the game had ended, uncharacteristic of normally punctual Purdue.

The question was then posed to Painter: Does his team listen?

Posed with that question, Painter talked about some debuting players having never been in these situations and older players "wanting to play a certain way." There was no yes or no.

Purdue's two games thus far in Florida have been distinctly similar in that the Boilermakers looked like an entirely different team from one half to another. But they've been very different in results.

Against Oklahoma State, Purdue rallied to make an elite team sweat; against Washington State, it simply stopped doing whatever was working in the first half, letting slip away a needed win in what'll almost certainly go down as a bad loss months from now. The Cougars, projected to finish near the bottom of the Pac-12, snapped a three-game losing streak.

The message at halftime was clear.

"We talked about playing like we were 10 down instead of 10 up," Painter said, "and playing with that chip on your shoulder, like we did in that second half against Oklahoma State. We didn't do that, and (Washington State) grabbed the momentum quick."

Again, does Purdue listen?

"We didn't do the same things we succeeded with in the first half," said senior Terone Johnson, whose 16 points led the Boilermakers. "In the first half, we played together, rebounded the ball well and also were getting stops on defense. I kind of felt like we did the total opposite in the second half. Defensively, we let guys get by on drives, we weren't staying tight on screens.

"We just let up on defense. We weren't as cut in as we were the first half. We let guys get way too many drives to the basket, putbacks and stuff like that. Their guys inside were getting layups."

For the second day in a row, the imbalance between Purdue's play from one half to the next was startling.

Its defense in the first half was suffocating, holding Washington State to just 17 first-half points, seven of which came during a 46-second span in which two Purdue indiscretions on offense led to transition buckets. The Cougars shot 22 percent in the first half and got clobbered 21-13 on the boards.

In the second, Washington State literally did whatever it wanted, carving up Purdue for open shots - which it made more so than it did earlier - and open dunks. The Cougars shot 66 percent and bludgeoned Purdue on the glass, 23-16. The Boilermakers made just a quarter of their shots in the second half.

"It felt they got momentum at the start of the second half and they just kept it going," said Purdue freshman Bryson Scott, who scored 13, but shot just 4-of-13 and turned the ball over five times. "We didn't do a good job defensively as a team and we forced a lot of things on the offensive end that allowed them to keep that momentum."

Seven-footer Jordan Railey, a two-point-per-game scorer coming in, scored 13 in the second half alone, abusing A.J. Hammons one-on-one on the interior.

Otherwise, Hammons impacted the game on defense, where he blocked four shots and forced a few turnovers, and on the glass, where he grabbed 11 rebounds.

But he took one shot on offense and turned the ball over three times in a scoreless outing. Jay Simpson took just two shots, one of them a tip-in.

"It starts with the guards," Terone Johnson said. "We have to be more in tune to getting those guys the ball so it opens things up for us. Not only that, but the bigs have to post a lot harder and come out ready to play from the beginning."

That can be said for the entire Purdue team, but more importantly for the Boilermakers to be able to put complete games together after they've played two good halves out of four at the Old Spice Classic thus far.

"It's not a good mood at all, because we know we could have beat this team," Scott said after the Washington State loss. "… As a team we just have to focus on changing ourselves and changing the way we play as a team and focusing on playing Purdue basketball and trying to be more of a winning team."

Purdue's last chance to salvage anything from this trip to Florida comes Sunday at 5 p.m., either against Saint Joseph's or in its second meeting with Siena in the span of a week, this time on a neutral floor.

Dating back to last season, Purdue's now lost its last seven neutral-site games.

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