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WEST LAFAYETTE – It doesn't take one of the engineering geniuses at Purdue to figure out what Boilermaker men's basketball coach Matt Painter wants from his players.
In fact, the message is as clear as a slogan on a tunnel wall or a motto across a players' shorts. If a Purdue player “plays hard,” then more than likely, they'll play, period.
Painter's message to his team was exhibited in the Boilermakers' (8-8, 2-2 Big Ten) latest win, an easy 60-42 over Penn State at Mackey Arena on Sunday, as he chose to give freshman forward Rapheal Davis his second career start.
“I thought Rapheal played harder than the other guys,” Painter said. “I think that was an easy statement.”
Purdue will travel to Nebraska (9-8, 0-4) tonight at 9 p.m. (BTN). Both squads will be in search of a firsts. In the case of the Boilermakers, tonight's game could be their first road win in league play of this season. For the Huskers, a victory would be their first Big Ten victory, period.
Davis has seen his opportunities to impress his coach fluctuate tremendously. There was the two-minutes that he was given at Clemson, and then there was the 22 minutes that he played against William and Mary and then again on Sunday against the Nittany Lions.
Painter has admitted that he isn't positive exactly what perfect spot that the 6-foot-5 forward can fill for his team. However, if the Fort Wayne native “brings energy,” as he has of late, he'll continue to earn time.
Davis is projected to start tonight, along with A.J. Hammons, D.J. Byrd, Terone Johnson and Ronnie Johnson.
“Rapheal has just continued to keep a good attitude and play hard,” Painter said. “He gives us energy. It's been a difficult transition (this season) sometimes because he's kind of an in-between player.”
At 6-foot-5, Davis isn't really big enough to play the power forward (4) spot. But on the other hand, he isn't a great ball handler or perimeter shooter like a small forward (3) or off-guard (2) should really be.
“I don't think that (Rapheal) is a traditional four-man, nor do I think that Byrd is a traditional four-man,” Painter said. “But when guys are out there and they are more productive and they are playing harder, and they are trying to do what we are asking them to do, I think that they need to be rewarded.”
Davis scored 10 points against Penn State, which was his second time this season in reaching double figures. But aside from his scoring, Davis is improving defensively, as well as showing the ability to rebound pretty well.
“I just tried (against Penn State) to play the guys that I thought gave us a chance to win,” Painter said.
So far, that description fits Davis well.