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December 14, 2013

Dogged again

INDIANAPOLIS - Whether it was just a throwaway term used on a whim or not, we don't know, but Matt Painter specifically used the word "worried" this week when previewing his team's game with notoriously solid Butler, a program that's kept winning year after year simply by playing the right way.

Turns out, Painter was right to be worried, as the Bulldogs' 76-70 Crossroads Classic win Saturday night - a game Butler led by 16 with a minute-and-a-half left - illustrated.

Actually, Butler wasn't so solid after all. It committed 15 turnovers, missed 12 free throws and allowed a dozen points to be chopped off an overwhelming late lead in the span of about a minute.

But by that point, it didn't matter. Butler had so thoroughly beaten the Boilermakers - the Boilermakers so thoroughly beating themselves just as much - during the game's decisive run that it didn't matter.

Purdue's woes in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, where the Boilermakers are now winless in three tries in this in-state showcase event, came down to one thing above all else: Composure.

Or specifically, a lack thereof.

Purdue turned the ball over 18 times, leading to 25 Butler points, or nearly a third of its scoring.

In a game of runs that Purdue led by as many as seven in the first half and six in the second, the Boilermakers were KO'd by Butler's best punch.

Purdue led 49-48 after an A.J. Hammons bucket at 12:26.

The next possession, though, Terone Johnson was stood up in transition, then turned and fired a quick three-pointer that missed, leading to a Butler basket in transition by Elijah Brown, who followed the next possession with a three-pointer. A Purdue turnover then led to a layup and a 7-0 Bulldog run that put it up six.

A 14-1 Butler run followed, blowing the game open.

"We don't handle runs," Painter said after his team dropped to 8-3. "Instead of it being a 6-0 run, we allow it to be a 12-2 run. We have to be able to cut runs off and be more consistent as a team."

Purdue couldn't do that.

"We didn't do well with it, down the stretch, having composure," said Terone Johnson, who offset his team-high 20 points with six turnovers. "We turned the ball over and made some bad fouls there at the end. It's something we have to work on."

Purdue's guard play, which had been an upswing, took a turn for the worse against Butler, with Ronnie Johnson shooting 1-of-7 with just one assist in 24 minutes. Rapheal Davis turned the ball over four times in 16 minutes.

(Bryson Scott scored 13 points, eight of them coming in the frantic final two minutes.)

Purdue had twice as many turnovers as assists.

"We compared going against Butler to going against Wisconsin: You have to beat them at their own game," Painter said. "I've always felt that it's been consistent with Butler's program, just like Wisconsin's program, that they don't beat themselves. ... With that, the No. 1 thing we harped on was taking care of the basketball, not turning the basketball over and giving ourselves a chance.

"Even if we don't have an unbelievably quality possession, at least we give ourselves a chance to rebound the basketball. When you take bad shots early in the shot clock, your rebounding balance isn't good and your transition balance isn't good. We just had way too many turnovers, too many guys forcing things. ... It's just too many turnovers. We have to do a better job taking care of the ball."

In addition to Kellen Dunham going off for 25 points, the matchups blew up on Purdue.

Painter was concerned with Butler forward Khyle Marshall's ability to face the basket and drive, which he did Saturday night against Basil Smotherman and to a lesser extent Errick Peck to the tune of 18 points on 8-of-14 shooting.

Painter was also aware of Butler's shooting at the 4 and 5 spots and its potential to expose the Boilermakers' size that way. Erik Fromm, a center in name only, made three threes and finished with 14 points.

"We had to flip the matchup with Fromm," Painter said, "and we weren't able to do that."

That meant Purdue needed to use Hammons' massive size advantage to its fullest benefit. It could not.

Hammons finished with 10 points and got rolling for a while in the second half, but double-teams also took three turnovers from him and continued foul trouble kept him on the bench for 23 of the game's 40 minutes.

"(Teammates) did great getting me the ball," Hammons said. "I just have to do a better job finishing and there were some plays down the stretch I should have tried to score instead of passing it out."

Jay Simpson was just 1-of-5 in his place, missing a number of short looks at the rim.

The Boilermakers made a game of it at the end as Butler battled to just to inbound the ball, and left the door open with some shoddy foul shooting.

Smotherman's tip-in, and-one got Purdue within four with less than 20 seconds left after Butler had led 71-55 with just 1:31 to play. But at that point, Purdue was just flat out of time and bound for its third straight loss in this event and fourth consecutive loss to the Bulldogs.

"Butler was tougher than us today," Painter said. "I don't want to say they're a tougher basketball team, but they played that way today. Obviously if it continues, then they are. They had more grit than us, more determination, and they were more consistent."

Copyright, Boilers, Inc. 2013. 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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