Journal & Courier Purdue insiders Nathan Baird and Mike Carmin on the Boilermakers’ bowl destination and a rough stretch for men’s basketball.
Nathan Baird, jconline.com
The Boilermakers prepare to face No. 23 Maryland with some questions to answer and problems to solve on defense.
WEST LAFAYETTE — In real time, Michigan’s opening torrent washed over Purdue basketball last Saturday in the span of a thunderclap.
In the film room, those opening 10 minutes crawled by. The Boilermakers dissected their shortcomings – the late rotations, the missed assignments, the at-times turnstile approach to stopping dribble penetration – and emerged with a few truths.
First, Michigan is still really good, and a few Wolverines shot better than their reputations would predict. And second, Purdue did not communicate or execute its game plan well enough to stop a team of that caliber.
It was a frustrating and potentially important lesson to learn on Dec. 1, with one of the Big Ten Conference’s most challenging schedules extending beyond the new year. Maryland brings one of the league’s best frontcourts and a talented, veteran point guard to Mackey Arena on Thursday.
“It let us know that we can play a lot harder,” freshman guard Eric Hunter said of the losses to Florida State and Michigan. “We all just need to be on one string defensively.
“I wouldn’t say we have a problem communicating, but we shouldn’t be told we need to communicate, and it’s why we have a lot of mistakes. It’s really easy, fixable stuff.”
Scouting report: Purdue men’s basketball vs. No. 23 Maryland
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While Big Ten teams have played schedules of varying degrees of toughness through eight games, Purdue does not like where it sits relative to its peers.
The Boilermakers rank 10th in scoring defense, 11th in field goal percentage defense and 14th in 3-point percentage defense. Success in rebounding and a positive turnover margin have somewhat mitigated those deficiencies.
Purdue expected to be in a better position at this point. Matt Haarms projected as one of the best shot-blockers in the league. Nojel Eastern has emerged as a defensive leader when avoiding foul trouble. Carsen Edwards and Ryan Cline are veterans with years of reps against high-caliber players.
Boilermakers coach Matt Painter saw letdowns all over the court at Michigan. While not every team in the Big Ten can match the Wolverines’ talent, the league has taken a jump in terms of top-to-bottom talent.
Painter knows what lies ahead, and how much growth remains on the defensive end.
The Boilermakers coach breaks down Wednesday’s opponent, discusses Carsen Edwards’ recent play and more.
Nathan Baird, jconline.com
“For the most part, it’s just guys capable of doing their job that’s not,” Painter said. “You have to have the will to want to guard people. You have to take that kind of pride and understand.
“… You have to understand the importance of the game, and that’s how you win. We’re not there. We don’t have that mental toughness yet.”
A little over a month ago, prior to the start of the season, the narrative around Purdue basketball concerned all of the new faces in new places and how long it might take the new pieces to take shape. That process continues on both sides of the ball. It showed up at Michigan in one especially important detail: communication.
In other ways, the communication issues extended beyond unfamiliarity. Hunter mentioned a specific action Purdue’s players were supposed to call out every time against Michigan. He estimated the actual percentage of following through was about 50 percent.
“If you had to point to one single thing, I think that was the most important thing,” junior forward Evan Boudreaux said. “We had some inexcusable communication lapses that led to some of their really easy points. When you’re playing a great team like that, or really any Big Ten team, you can’t have that if you want to win.”
The Boilermakers’ junior frontcourt player discusses Maryland’s Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith, the defensive lapses from the Michigan loss and more.
Nathan Baird, jconline.com
Maryland possesses the most imposing frontcourt Purdue has faced so far. Bruno Fernando, a 6-10, 240-pound native of Anola, posted a double-double in Mackey Arena last season as a freshman. Jalen Smith, a 6-10, 215-pound forward from Baltimore, will be playing his first Big Ten road game.
More that one Purdue player said they felt they were out-toughed at Michigan. This Terrapins combination will challenge the Boilermaker big men to find that toughness quickly.
The battle does not end under the basket. Anthony Cowan will play his fourth game against Purdue in search of his first victory. He’s among the Big Ten leaders in scoring, assists and steals and brings a veteran savvy to the league’s second highest-scoring offense.
Reflecting on Michigan and prior, Painter referred to guards — plural — who lacked concentration and have not sufficiently stopped the dribble.
“It will probably have to be one of our better defensive games from a guard standpoint,” Hunter said. “Those dudes don’t bring the ball up the court and they can’t get it if we’re pressuring the ball.”
Nathan Baird reports on Purdue men’s basketball for the Journal & Courier. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 765-420-5234. Follow on Twitter: @nbairdjc