Tipoff: Minnesota at Purdue, noon, today
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As far as Purdue is concerned, an 0-3 Big Ten start can't happen.
Check that. It won't happen.
“If we play like we did at the end of the Minnesota game, we can't be beat,” guard Sterling Carter said.
The problem -- the Boilers (10-5 overall, 0-2 in the Big Ten) don't always play like that, when they nearly rallied back from a double-digit road deficit. This most up and down of seasons has them determined to play to their potential. They've had a week of practice to work on it.
“We're still feeling good about ourselves,” sophomore swingman Rapheal Davis said. “We feel we should have beaten Ohio State here. We should have beaten Minnesota. We know the corrections we've got to make. We hope to make them (today) and move forward.”
Purdue hosts Nebraska (8-7, 0-3) today and the blue print is simple -- play hard, pay attention, play defense.
“We have the ability to play great defense,” said Davis, a former South Side standout. “It's all about focus. Tough players make mistakes, but then come back and get stops. For us, it's the mental standpoint. We can't have people not knowing the scouting report. We have to play tough.
“We've had some tough practices. We have to do the little things to help us win.”
Purdue retains Big Ten title aspirations, and if that seems a long shot given the firepower of a conference that includes No. 3 Ohio State, No. 4 Wisconsin and No. 5 Michigan State, the Boilers don't want to hear it.
“From here on out, it's a must win,” senior guard Terone Johnson said. “Defensively, we've got to pick it up a lot. We've been coming out too lackadaisical. We've got to keep a positive attitude. Offensively, we've got to get the ball to the rim more.”
Purdue has played just three games in the last 21 days. Now it will play three games in the next week. It travels to Illinois on Wednesday and hosts Penn State on Saturday.
The key, coach Matt Painter said, is defense. The Boilers have allowed at least 70 points in three straight games. It gives up more points than any other conference team.
“Defense starts with preparation and mindset,” Painter said. “You have to do what the coach says, what the scouting report says. When we do that, we have success. When we're not consistent with that, or we don't hang our hats on the details, we struggle. We have to do a better job of doing the little things and being more disciplined and having a better mind set with following the scouting report.”
While the Boilers average 77.8 points, their most in 16 years, Painter sees opportunities to do more.
“We do some good things and then we don't make free throws. We do some good things and then miss a good shot. Then we get away from what we're doing well. Missing good shots is not a negative. It's part of the game.
“We've made strides. We have really bad possessions. We have really good possessions. It comes down to how we are (mentally).”