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Last updated: Wed. Apr. 02, 2014 - 05:58 am EDT

NCAA tourney absence motivates Purdue's Davis

Boilers' Scott watches tourney to find answers

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WEST LAFAYETTE — Purdue's Rapheal Davis couldn't do it. Wouldn't do it. The disappointment was too raw, the thought of what was lost too frustrating.

There was Massachusetts and Manhattan, Weber State and Wofford, Coastal Carolina and Cal Poly, six of the 68 teams that made the NCAA Tournament field while the Boilers watched and wondered.

Well, at least in Davis' case, he wondered. Watching wasn't going to happen.

“I couldn't watch the first couple of days,” the sophomore swingman said.

Davis stood in the hallway between Purdue's state-of-the-art practice facility and its state-of-the-art locker room reliving a basketball season gone wrong. The former South Side standout was dressed and braced for a Tuesday workout designed to ensure this postseason absence wouldn't happen again.

“Not being in the NCAA Tournament is a huge motivator,” he said. “We want to get there and make a dream come true. We're taking this offseason real serious. The guys we have now will buy in to what Coach (Matt) Painter wants to do. We'll make it more of a family atmosphere and try to make our dreams come true.”

Fellow Boilermaker Bryson Scott knows the feeling. Like Davis, he didn't want to watch the NCAA Tournament. Unlike Davis, he couldn't help himself.

“I happened to turn on TV and some of the games were on,” the former Northrop standout said. “I went out to eat a lot with my family, and at those places games were on, so I had to watch.

“It was interesting, seeing other teams and how they did things. What made them successful. Those were the things I was looking at.”

Davis finally gave into must-see temptation for the Round of 32, when unbeaten Wichita State, the Midwest Region's No. 1 seed, played No. 8 seed Kentucky.

“I hadn't seen Wichita State play before, and I wanted to see how they played. Watching that game brought back what could have been with the talent we had. If we had just played the right way, played the way those teams played, we could have got into the tournament.”

But Purdue didn't. It lost its final seven games to finish 15-17, its second straight losing record. Adding to the misery, the Boilers were last in the Big Ten, a huge blow given they seemed to have talent for a middle-of-the-conference pack finish.

Scott had played against several of Kentucky's ultra-hyped freshmen who, after a regular season of dysfunction, finally bought into coach John Calipari's message. The result: The Wildcats will play Wisconsin in Saturday's Final Four hoping to win their second national title in the last three seasons.

“I played against some of those Kentucky freshmen at camps, and felt I competed well against them,” Scott said. “They're getting all that (publicity), they're good players, but it is agonizing because you know you can do those things.

“We have to be in that position. We have to work harder. We're in a rut right now. We have to work our way back to the top. I feel we can do that with guys who are here and guys coming in if we embrace all the challenges and work hard.”

Anybody can say those things, Painter has said, but not everybody can do them. Scott and Davis insist the lesson has been learned.

“It can click in,” Davis said. “If everybody puts the time in, works tougher, plays a lot in open gym over the summer, we'll shock a lot of people. It might be the biggest turnaround in Purdue history.”

In the meantime Davis and Scott contemplate a Final Four (No. 1 seed Florida plays No. 7 seed Connecticut in Saturday's other semifinal) rich in possibilities. Both see a Florida-Wisconsin title game, with Florida winning.

“Florida is good with the way those seniors play and the passion they play with,” Davis said. “Wisconsin has that discipline in every aspect. That's taken them this far, that and the way (forward) Frank Kaminsky is playing.”

Added Scott: “It's going to be tough.”

This time they'll both watch.

pdiprimio@news-sentinel.com


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