It was only an exhibition game against a Division II opponent, but Purdue's 91-58 victory against Wayne State (Neb.) revealed signs that competitive practices will give coach Matt Painter depth and skill at all five positions, something the Boilermakers lacked in a frustrating 16-18 last season.
Point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward and center. Purdue appears to have good pieces in this puzzle's five slots.
Fifth-year graduate student Errick Peck, an Indianapolis native who played three seasons at Cornell, began the game with a dunk and finished with a game-best 16 points to go with six rebounds, five steals and two assists. He often shares the power forward slot with sophomore Rapheal Davis, who added 13 points, three steals and two rebounds.
Peck and Davis were a combined 12 of 14 from the field, helping the Boilermakers shoot 55.9 percent from the field (38 of 68) in their final tuneup before Friday night's regular-season opener against Northern Kentucky.
Eight players each scored at least seven points Monday night, including four in double figures. Purdue also forced 29 turnovers, including 21 during the first half, after which the Boilermakers led 46-15.
"Hopefully, we can continue to have that depth," Painter said. "Everything improves when you have that competition. That was something that really hurt us last year. We couldn't put together two good teams. Now, we can do that, and it really helps us.
"I'm just trying to figure out our pieces. I have a tough time playing guys if I can't trust them. That's probably the most important piece. We will work towards that. In the past two weeks, Errick Peck has really played well in practices and scrimmages. He was just been solid. Tonight, Peck was good. He gave us some energy."
Peck certainly wants to make the most of his only season at Purdue after earning his undergraduate degree in the spring from Cornell. He now is in grad school.
"I got an early dunk, and that kind of got me going," Peck said. "I'm starting to feel comfortable. We've been practicing out there for a while. It's starting to come gradually. I hit some shots early and then got a couple of easy buckets."
Davis said no one has a starting slot locked up. That's how good practice action has been.
"The competition in practice has been real good," Davis said. "It's way different than what it was last year. Coach Painter always says we have eight or nine starters. We could have a real good team, especially if practice carries over into games."
Wayne State coach Brian Dolan especially was impressed with Peck.
"Peck seemed to have a nose for the ball tonight," Dolan said. "He was really impressive. He was aggressive and strong ... really strong with the ball. That is something we don't see on an every-game basis in our league. That man strength he had was very impressive."
Now, the Boilermakers go at it for real beginning Friday night. Thus far, they have played without suspended center A.J. Hammons and will do so again Friday.
Based on what the collective group of others has done thus far, better competition in practice would appear to be paying off in a big way after last season's disappointment.
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