INDIANAPOLIS — Defense wins championships is how the old saying goes, but that doesn’t mean a team can succeed while shooting poorly from the field, committing unforced turnovers and losing the battle on the boards.
The Boilers (7-5), lost to Butler (10-1), 70-61, Saturday moving it to 2-7 all-time in the Crossroads Classic.
Purdue came into the Classic with the No. 6 scoring defense in the nation and it showed, making the No. 17 Butler Bulldogs work for shots, especially early. Unfortunately for Purdue, the Bulldogs came in as the fourth-ranked scoring defense in the country and gave the Boilers a taste of their own medicine. The biggest difference between the teams was their execution on the offensive end.
"I think it's just concentration, simple as that. I mean, even the one I smoked in the first half," said sophomore guard Eric Hunter Jr. "I was too busy worrying about what was going on behind me instead of just going at the rim and finishing it myself."
Whenever the opposing defenses lapsed, which wasn’t very often, Butler took advantage. Whenever it got an easy look, it cashed in, which wasn’t the case for Purdue.
"Can't miss balls at the rim, especially when they don't have a shot blocker," said head coach Matt Painter. "We missed too many layups. It's discouraging."
When the Boilers got open looks around the rim, they couldn’t finish. They shot 33% from the field, which was a testament to Butler's defense but also indicative of Purdue’s offense. It’s easy to argue the shots just didn’t fall Saturday but for Purdue they haven’t been falling all year.
Saturday's performance wasn’t an anomaly for Purdue but a trend.
"Collectively we're not a mature group. We're just not," Painter said. "We're mature people, but we're not a mature basketball team yet. We've got to do a better job of being connected. We've got to do a better job of just being consistent."
Many times this season the Boilers have ended games with a less-than-impressive shooting performance. Meanwhile, the offense has shown flashes this season, besides the Virginia game. Purdue hasn't played a full game that showcased consistent offense.
"But when you play Virginia, is that who you are or was that an outlier? Or is this who we are, or is this an outlier?" Painter said. "You get into that with young groups and young players and even some guys' experience because now, trying to get them in their roles and trying to get them to do what they're doing, no matter what your role is, you've got to play hard. You've got to compete."
Purdue was in a similar situation last season, but then it had Carsen Edwards. When the Boilers struggled in the non-conference a season ago it knew it had an All-American who could carry the squad. No longer does Purdue have that luxury, and it shows.
In the past three games the Boilers have run their offense through sophomore forward Trevion Williams. But he struggled Saturday, and no one else was able to pick up the slack. Until Purdue finds a way to consistently generate not just open looks but baskets, the team may struggle against top-notch opponents like Butler.
Williams was 5-of-14 from the field, which included a last-minute 3-point shot. He scored 12 points and had 10 rebounds.
"Last year we walked out of this building 6-5, and I believe we can do the same thing we did last year," Williams said. "You know, things happen. It's a part of it. But we've just got to get better."
• Purdue is now 7-5 overall, following a 70-61 loss to No. 17-ranked Butler on Saturday in Indianapolis … the win snapped a two-game winning streak against Butler.
• Purdue is now 2-7 all-time in the Crossroads Classic … five of the losses have come by single digits.
• Purdue was 6-5 a year ago after the Crossroads Classic, winning 20 of its last 25 games to reach the Elite Eight … the Boilermakers are 7-5 this year.
• Purdue once again played without junior center Matt Haarms, who was averaging over 11 points, six rebounds and almost three blocks a game.
• Purdue has held every opponent it has played to 70 or fewer points … Purdue is 7-0 this year when holding foes to 59 or fewer points, but is 0-5 when teams score 60-plus.
• Purdue is now 11-2 over its last 13 games against in-state opponents, with both losses coming at the Crossroads Classic.
• Trevion Williams recorded his fourth career double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds … Purdue is 1-3 during his career when he has a double-double.
• Purdue was 10 of 37 (.270) from 2-point range, but was 9 of 20 (.450) from 3-point range.
• Purdue was outrebounded for the first time this season.
– Purdue Athletics contributed to this report.