YPSILANTI — Matt Painter knows how to beat a zone defense. Get the ball inside, drive the basketball and make shots. And for 40 minutes, Purdue tried to do just that against Eastern Michigan's 2-3 zone.
And for 40 minutes, Purdue couldn't accomplish those goals as it fell 47-44 to the Eagles at the Convocation Center.
The 44 points were the lowest for Purdue (4-5) since it scored 42 against Minnesota on March 13, 2010.
“I thought tonight we struggled when we got it inside there, just fumbling the basketball and not making a clean play,” head coach Matt Painter said. “We wanted to get some inside-outside action and wanted to get two feet in the paint … but when you struggle shooting it doesn't look good.”
The fumbling woes were apparent for Purdue. The Boilermakers had 18 turnovers in the game that lead to 12 Eagles points. The biggest issue against the zone leading to turnovers was due to not executing some of the fundamentals in basketball.
“We just struggled to pass and catch the basketball,” Painter said. “I know it seems elementary, but if we could simple pass and catch the basketball around the rim the last 10 minutes of the game we would have had four or five more baskets.”
It didn't help Purdue that it couldn't pull Eastern Michigan's zone away from the basket with its shooters. DJ Byrd went 0-5 from 3-point range and the team shot 29.8 percent for the game. This allowed Eastern Michigan's zone to clamp down on drives and balls that went inside.
“They made us kind of force some outside shots that we weren't hitting today,” Ronnie Johnson said. “We just got to make shots, I think that's the most important thing to knock down shot, and tonight we didn't do that.”
Still, despite the issues, Purdue had a chance to win the game late. It trailed most of the second half, but had the ball with 20 seconds left down by two points. But once again, Purdue couldn't penetrate against the zone and Terone Johnson was forced into a 3-pointer from the top of the key. It clanked off the rim with 10.5 seconds left.
“We were trying to get the ball off a ball screen into the lane, but I told (the team) they will jam us up top and put three guys up there sometimes, and if they do that we have to probe the defense and be a little more patient,” Painter said. “We wanted a more penetrating dribble or obviously, to jam the basketball inside.”
After Eastern Michigan made one of two free throws, Purdue had a chance again. On the breakaway, though, it wasn't Eastern Michigan's zone that stopped Purdue, but a turnover as Terone Johnson tried to find Dru Anthrop for the tying three.
The loss came despite Eastern Michigan not having a player score in double digits. The Eagles had 10 players score at least two points.
“I've never been in a game in 20 years where I lost a game and the other team doesn't have a double digit scorer,” Painter said.
Then he jokingly added something Purdue probably wishes it wasn't doing.
“But we will set records.”