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WEST LAFAYETTE – Purdue did just about everything that it could to win its men's basketball game against Xavier at Mackey Arena on Saturday.
The Boilermakers got more shots (60 to 53) than the Musketeers.
Purdue hit more free throws (15 to 13) than the visitors. And it absolutely crushed Xavier on the boards (44-29).
“We knew going into this game that Purdue was an incredibly tough, physical team,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said. “Especially on the glass.”
But despite all of those gaudy numbers, it was Mack's team that came away with a 63-57 victory in front of 14,290 fans.
So how did the Musketeers (6-1) achieve that feat?
“Obviously when you shoot 0 for 17 from (three-point range),” Boilermaker coach Matt Painter explained, “you have to swallow your pride. “We were 0 for 10 at the half and we talked about being more selective and being more patient, and then trying to get the ball inside and we didn't do that.”
The Boilermakers (3-4) were lethargic from the outset, as they fell behind 11-2. However, reserves Ronnie Johnson (12 points, four rebounds, two assists) and Donnie Hale (eight points, five rebounds) brought energy off of the bench and Purdue closed the first half on a 27-15 run and led by three (29-26) at the break.
“We got the ball in the paint,” Painter explained of the successful run. “We had some drives and that's what we have to do. When we get the ball inside and we get two feet in the paint on drives, our percentages sky-rocket.”
The Boilermaker shooting percentages sky-rocketed in a win at Clemson on Wednesday, but it was shocking watching the same team misfire repeatedly just a few days later – on their home court.
No Purdue player captured that frustration more so than senior wing D.J. Byrd.
Against the Tigers, Byrd sank six three-pointers in the first half alone. On Saturday, he missed every single one of his nine shot attempts.
“It's frustrating when you work on your offense,” Painter said. “You work on being patient and doing things of that nature. Then you get into a game like Clemson and you make shots. That can be fool's gold.”
The Boilermakers had struggled early in the season with their free throw shooting, but over the past two victories, had seemingly rectified that problem.
Painter's team wasn't awful on Saturday (15-23), but in a close game, a team can't afford to miss five free throws in the final 20 minutes.
“As a team, when you outrebound somebody by 15,” Painter explained, “on your home court, you should win the game.”
Purdue will host Lamar on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. (BTN).