The Boilermakers are hoping a surprise loss to Indiana was just a case of the Hoosiers playing inspired ball for their fired coach, but the Purdue needs to play better to clinch the conference title. Get the report on the Gophers' Wednesday night opponent.
Chalk it up to lame-duck inspired angst, with a touch of overconfidence.
Kelvin Sampson's NCAA-induced dramatics wound up the Hoosiers like nothing else, and Purdue
, riding a big winning streak and high atop the Big Ten standings, paid the price Feb. 20 in a 77-68 loss in Bloomington.
"It was just about the game," G Keaton Grant
told the West Lafayette Journal & Courier. "I don't think it was so much their situation. There was so much riding on the game. It was the same thing with us. We had so much riding on it."
No. 14 Purdue simply didn't play well. Due for a letdown after starting 12-1 in the Big Ten, the Boilermakers were pounded on the boards and shot 34.7 percent from the floor, their worst effort in league play.
Still, the Boilermakers control their own destiny, and with the meat of the schedule behind them — barring an unexpected nosedive — they should at least snag a share of the Big Ten title.
Following the loss to the Hoosiers Feb. 20, the Boilermakers had scheduled eight days off. And coach Matt Painter knows exactly where his focus will be. "We are not a good rebounding team," Painter told the West Lafayette Journal & Courier. "We have to fight and scrap, especially when we go small. But in going small, we're trying to gain an advantage at the other end. We did that [at Indiana]. We just didn't take advantage of it by making our free throws."
The extra rest will allow several players with nagging injuries — G Chris Kramer, G Keaton Grant and G/F Scott Martin — to recover from nagging injuries that have slowed them in recent games.
The time off will also allow the Boilermakers to rue the loss to Indiana. "We have a good future, but we wanted to make a point at IU," G Keaton Grant told the West Lafayette Journal and Courier. "We wanted to put a stamp on what we want to do. We still can do that. We just have to handle our business."
Improving rebounding and defense are keys for the Boilermakers down the stretch. The Boilermakers ranked eighth in field-goal percentage defense (.355) and ninth in rebounding margin (plus-0.6). "To do that, we have to work on defending and rebounding," E'Twaun Moore told the Journal & Courier. "Those are the two things that win games.
Lawrence (Ind.) North star Jeff Robinson told the West Lafayette Courier & Journal that he has accepted a scholarship to Purdue. Robinson, who's averaging eight points and five rebounds, is a 6-foot-9 forward/center who joins a 2009 recruiting class that includes North Montgomery's 6-foot-5 DJ Byrd and Indianapolis Cathedral's 6-foot-6 Kelsey Barlow
IN FOCUS: Time off — and an easy part of the schedule — will allow Purdue's freshmen to heal and get a second wind before starting the Big Ten Tournament.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters — F Chris Kramer, G/F Robbie Hummel, G Keaton Grant, G JaJuan Johnson, G E'Twaun Moore. Key Subs — G Marcus Green, G. Tarrance Crump, G Bobby Riddell, G/F Scott Martin, F Nemanja Calasan.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Unfortunately, we didn't [win]. But the big picture is that while that loss hurts, we still can win the Big Ten." — F Robbie Hummel, putting the Feb. 20 loss to Indiana in perspective.
Purdue 60, Michigan State 54
Purdue 71, Northwestern 56
Indiana 77, Purdue 68
vs. Minnesota, Wednesday, Feb. 27
vs. Northwestern, Saturday, March 1
vs. Ohio State, Tuesday, March 4
at Michigan, Saturday, March 8