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Purdue faces early challenge

Think of it as a taste of March Madness in November.

Purdue and Villanova meet tonight at Madison Square Garden in New York as part of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Wounded Warrior Project. The Boilermakers (1-1) will face either Alabama or Oregon State on Friday.

“You get the chance to play quality opponents on neutral courts,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said during a teleconference Monday. “It’s about as close as you’re going to get to an NCAA tournament setting.”

Painter said the similarities include the preparation for multiple games in a short period of time.

“You have a lot of data for the NCAA tournament in terms of game film, but it’s a short amount of time,” he said. “You still need to focus probably more on yourself than you do your opponent. But you are foreign to them unless you’ve played them in the past.

“It’s kind of along the same line, especially that second game. Getting to that second game, you’ve got an assistant (coach) that’s been working on it for a while, but the head coach and the players have been thinking about that first game so you get that quick turnaround. This is kind of the same thing. We’ve both got a couple of games we can watch, but we don’t have a lot of data.”

Painter knows these games could be important down the line.

“You want to build your resume to so you can get into the NCAA tournament,” he said. “That’s something we really stress with our guys, nothing is automatic, we have to be able to continue to build our resume so we can get in these situations.”

Villanova coach Jay Wright looks at it as an opportunity to gauge his team.

“Especially playing on a neutral site, because it gives you a feel early in the season where you might be if this were NCAA tournament time,” Wright said. “It gives you a real good feel for where your team is and where you’ve got to get to if you’re going to make the NCAA tournament.”

The Wildcats improved to 2-0 after freshman Ryan Arcidiacono scored 25 points in an 80-68 victory against Marshall on Sunday. The guard is averaging 18 points per game.

“I expect it every night, I think he’s capable of that,” Wright said of Arcidiacono’s performance. “I think within our offense you have the freedom and we have the confidence in him to allow him to play like that. I don’t know if he’s going to get 25 every night, but I think he can average 17-18 a game for us and distribute the ball. That would be a very good season for him and could make us a very good team.”

He could be matched at times with Purdue guard Terone Johnson. The junior returned from an ankle injury to score six points in Sunday’s win against Hofstra.

“To be able to play on Sunday was a positive sign,” Painter said. “We just have to be smart in terms of continuing to treat it.”

lpope@jg.net

Purdue vs. Villanova

When: 9:30 p.m. today

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York

TV: ESPN2

Radio: 1380 AM, 92.7 FM

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