By any measure, Purdue's 2012 -13 season goes down as a disappointment, its 86-83 loss to Santa Clara Monday night ending a campaign in which the Boilermakers wound up 16-18 and settled for a short-lived appearance in the College Basketball Invitational.
But it can't be accused of not going down fighting in the game's final minutes.
With less than two minutes remaining, Purdue trailed by 10, bludgeoned by Santa Clara senior star Kevin Foster's second-half brilliance. The 2,300-point scorer - "the best scorer we faced all season, no doubt about it," as Coach Matt Painter called him - dropped 28 of his 34 points after halftime, burying jumpers that would have beaten just about anybody in a game of H-O-R-S-E.
At that point, few of the few thousand people occupying Mackey Arena's lower bowl would have guessed the game would come down to the final buzzer.
It did, but Terone Johnson missed a potential game-tying jumper with eight seconds left, then a potential game-tying off-balance three at the final horn and Purdue's season came to an end.
But not after freshman Ronnie Johnson, a pillar of a future Purdue expects to be promising, carried the Boilermakers into such a position.
Finishing with 27 points, the point guard scored nine in the span of a little more than 40 seconds to bring Purdue within two with a little more than a minute remaining. But Foster made a difficult, closely guarded three at the other end to propel Santa Clara into the third round of the CBI.
Purdue did not play its best game, obviously, getting outworked, for instance, on the glass in a pivotal second half in which the Rams shot 49 percent and turned a four-point halftime hole into a three-point win, thanks largely to a 35-20 run to open the second half.
"They stole our joy, stole our spirit, however you want to say it," Painter said. "We've struggled all year to start second halves. I don't know what it is.
"We can't get in that position. You're at home. You can't let that happen."
It's one of many topics that'll come up during what's sure to be an offseason of introspection and examination after the Boilermakers finished with a losing record for the first time since 2005-06 with a talented, but inexperienced and limited, roster.
Monday night, another such topic surfaced.
Purdue was 1-of-11 from three-point range. It was fitting in that sense for the Boilermakers' season to conclude on a missed jumper.
"We have to have more skill," Painter reiterated, laying down his springtime recruiting mandate.
Couple the perimeter struggles with a three-point, 1-of-5 game from center A.J. Hammons - he was the Boilermakers' third-highest scoring center against Santa Clara, and it made scoring a challenge against the zoning Broncos.
In the game's final five minutes, Ronnie Johnson and Terone Johnson (22 points) scored all but four of Purdue's final 23.
But the well went dry when Purdue needed baskets the worst.
First, with 15 seconds remaining, Santa Clara turned the ball over on an in-bound, up two.
"We got a couple calls, too," Painter said, breaking down his team's late comeback.
Terone Johnson drove into the lane looking to get to the basket, similar to Purdue's failed game-tying possession against Nebraska in the Big Ten Tournament.
"We tried to get a drive into the lane," the junior said, "but they switched off, then they sunk into the lane, so I tried to hit a step-back jump shot and missed it."
A second chance improbably arose after Foster split a pair of foul shots with four seconds left. D.J. Byrd advanced the ball up the floor to Johnson once again, but his hurried three from right in front of the Boilermaker bench caught the back of the rim.
In his last game at Purdue, Byrd scored nine points. In what might have been his last game at Purdue, big man Sandi Marcius - the junior is on pace to graduate this summer, though Purdue will hope he'll opt to use his fourth season of eligibility next year - scored nine as well.
Foster - "Marshall Henderson without the crazy," per Bronco coach Kerry Keating - finished 11-of-24 for 34 points, with eight assists.
In a first half shortened for him by foul problems, he was just 2-of-10.
"They were playing good defense," Foster said, "but I was getting good looks and just not making them. I kept taking the shots that presented themselves and thankfully, they started going in."
And because of it, Purdue's offseason starts now.
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