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Boilermakers sink to 2nd straight losing season

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INDIANAPOLIS — Purdue’s second straight unsatisfactory season reached its end Thursday with a 63-61 loss to Ohio State in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.

The Boilermakers had a chance to win at the buzzer, but senior Terone Johnson’s 3-pointer was off the mark, and Purdue notched its seventh loss in a row to finish 2013-14 at 15-17, the program’s second straight campaign below .500 after posting a 16-18 mark in 2012-13.

At the post-game interview podium,  Johnson, coach Matt Painter and sophomore center A.J. Hammons sat solemnly and reflected on the game and their season. Painter said his team would not be playing in a postseason tournament.

“We weren’t able to consistently this year play hard and play smart at the same time and those are two constants in the game you have to do if you’re going to have a good team,” said Painter, whose team finished last in the Big Ten with a 5-13 league record during the regular season.

The Boilermakers’ season was summed up in three plays late in the game Thursday.

With three minutes, 52 seconds remaining in regulation and his team trailing 57-54, Purdue’s Errick Peck turned the ball over on a bad pass, causing Painter to put his hand on his head and stare off into the Bankers Life Fieldhouse stands.

With Ohio State leading 59-58 and just under a minute left, Buckeye point guard Aaron Craft missed a jump shot and Hammons corralled the rebound, only to have Craft pick his pocket seconds later.

Then, with 14 seconds left and Ohio State up 62-60, Craft missed a free throw. The wayward freebie was rebounded by Boilermaker point guard Ronnie Johnson, who promptly turned the ball over six seconds later.

Purdue finished with 17 turnovers, which gave way to 20 Ohio State points.

“Two years ago we were the number one team in the country with the fewest turnovers. So this is a big changing of the guard for us from a personnel standpoint,” said Painter, whose squad ranked 153rd nationally with 12.1 turnovers per game. “I don’t care who you are, but if you don’t give yourself a chance, you’re going to end up losing basketball games. We simply didn’t give ourselves a chance this year because we turned the ball over too much.”

Following a home loss in his team’s regular-season finale Sunday to Northwestern, Painter — who played under iconic Boilermaker coach Gene Keady — blamed himself for the program’s second consecutive lackluster season. Painter signed an eight-year contract extension in March 2011 that pays him over $2 million per year, so his tenure in West Lafayette hasn’t reached a boiling point quite yet.

During Painter’s first season in 2005-06, Purdue finished last in the Big Ten. Since, Purdue has finished in the top three of the conference standings four times — including a shared regular-season championship in 2009-10. The Boilermakers have won at least one game in all six of their trips to the NCAA tournament under Painter, with Sweet 16 appearances in 2009 and 2010.

This season, seven of the team’s top 10 players in terms of minutes played were freshmen, sophomores or fifth-year transfers. Six of the team’s top seven scorers could return and will be aided by a recruiting class ranked third in the Big Ten by 247sports.com. Brebeuf guard P.J. Thompson, a former AAU teammate of Mt. Vernon senior CJ Coleman, became the fifth member of Purdue’s 2014 class Tuesday after netting a scholarship offer from the Boilermakers Monday.

“Yeah, I definitely think we can. We’ve said that after each loss each time we talked to the media, that the talent was there in the room,” said Johnson, Purdue’s senior guard, when asked if the Boilermakers can get things turned around. “Those guys are going to have to be consistent with listening to Coach, listening to the leaders and just putting together runs and playing hard all of the time. I think that’s something that coach is going to get them to do, get them rounded up to do.”

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