"I think they're a basketball team that mirrors Gene Keady," Rick Barnes said Saturday. "They'll fight you hard for 40 minutes and not give you anything easy. They get the ball up and down the floor quicker than any team he has had, they challenge every pass you make and they challenge the ball. On the offensive end, you have to earn it. Nothing is easy."
Asked to compare Purdue to a Big 12 team, the Texas head coach pointed to a team that handed the Horns one of their six losses this season. "They're quick, play great defense, can shoot the ball and they have lots of different screening action that they'll throw at you similar to Oklahoma State," said Barnes.
Barnes said he's not sure that Texas has played any team, even in the rugged and defensive Big 12, that "defends better man-to-man" than does Purdue. During the regular season, opponents hit 41.5 percent of their field goal attempts vs. the Boilermaker D, including 32 percent from beyond the arc. Purdue allowed 65.2 points per game (while scoring 71.8). The Boilermakers, though, were outrebounded by opponents during the regular season 34.1 to 33.9, and Texas will try to outplay Purdue in the paint.
"Their big men are physical, too," Royal Ivey said. "We have James Thomas, they have (Chris) Booker. It'll be really physical. We're going to go to our big guys down low." Ivey also said the game could come down to the "battle of the boards," a sentiment echoed by Boilermaker leading scorer Deane.
"Texas is a team that lives off of rebounds," he said. "We have to keep them off the glass and limit their second chance opportunities."
"It will be important for us to try to limit their second chance points," Lowe added. "We need to limit that and try to limit T.J. Ford's penetration to have a good chance to win the game."
Lowe called keeping Ford out of the lane the "key to beating Texas." At Saturday afternoon's press conference before the Boilermakers' practice, Lowe said he wasn't yet sure who would guard Ford -- "probably three or four guys," he said, although he said he wants a crack at guarding the player "considered the best player in the country" -- and Keady played it close to the vest, saying Lowe would "probably not" be Ford's shadow. "They have two or three players (on the perimeter) that are hard to guard," Keady said, specifically pointing to Brandon Mouton, Sydmill Harris and Ivey as possibilities for Lowe man-up.
"It really doesn't matter who they put on me," Ford said, "I'm gonna get our team in our offense."
"Anytime you play a team that's a No. 1 seed, you're gonna have a difficult match-up," the Purdue head coach said. "With a point guard like T.J. Ford, that's where it starts but with a rebounder like James Thomas, that's another part of it. We've got our work cut out."
T.J. predicts a track meet. "They're a team that can get out and run," Ford said. "It's gonna be a fast paced game."
"Transition defense will be a big factor in this game," Barnes added. "They've got three or four players that if they get it off the board they'll go with it. If they get an early look, they'll take that shot. We've gotta be there to contest that shot and get in rebounding position. I think that (transition) is where defense begins."