FORT WAYNE – Matt Painter calls it the toughest stretch to start a season since he’s been at Purdue.
It’s harder than the first year because we didn’t have enough talent to win the first year, the Purdue coach said during the Big Ten teleconference Monday. We have enough talent to win right now.
It doesn’t get any easier today as the 4-5 Boilermakers face No. 22 Notre Dame as part of the Crossroads Classic. The game begins about 4:30 p.m. at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis after the Indiana-Butler game.
Notre Dame is 8-1, with the only loss coming in overtime against Saint Joseph’s.
They have very good balance, Painter said of Notre Dame, which has won six in a row. Jack Cooley has developed into a good college basketball player. (Jerian) Grant and (Eric) Atkins give them quickness and size at the guard position.
They are just a good team. They have a little bit of everything. And (Notre Dame coach Mike Brey is) a very good coach.
Cooley averages a double-double (14.2 points and 11.3 rebounds). Grant and Atkins average 12.9 and 10.9 points, respectively.
I like how we’re shooting the ball, Brey said last week. Early in the season, we labored making open shots. We’re feeling better about our shots. That’s a big key.
We weren’t making as many of them in the first two to three weeks, but we’re making them now and want to keep that going.
Purdue is coming off a 47-44 loss at Eastern Michigan on Dec. 8, when the Boilermakers had 18 turnovers.
We simply have to do a better job of passing and catching it, Painter said. I don’t care what level you play at, whether it’s third grade or the NBA. You make a good pass, it usually leads to something positive. You make a poor pass, and normally it’s something positive for the other team.
Painter pointed out that the Boilermakers have been close but haven’t been able to close out games.
When you are tied or down two or up two with three minutes to go in all five of your losses, why are you in a position to win every one of those games? Well, you obviously are equal or better, or maybe a little bit less talented than all those people, Painter said.
So now we have to figure out in terms of playing just making decisions and doing the right thing. Up to that point of the game, our decision making is not good and we’re still in the game. We have to do a better job in our decision making and being a functional basketball player.
Painter said Purdue is an immature basketball team.
We don’t have young guys playing young. We have our whole team being immature as a basketball player, Painter said. Maturity-wise as a player, studying your scouting report, getting a good night’s sleep, being engaged in practice, trying to do what the coaches are saying, and just wanting Purdue to win. And we don’t have that. We have too many guys that are worried that they haven’t made a shot or they are not getting enough minutes and it affects their play and they are not giving themselves to the team. And we’ve been harping on a lot of the same things and it’s been disappointing to say the least.
But we’re going to stay with it and keep grinding. That’s all you can do.
Purduevs. Notre Dame
When: 4:30 p.m. today
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
Radio: 1380 AM, 92.7 FM, 1480 AM
Purdue vs. Notre DameFrontcourt: Center A.J. Hammons leads Purdue in rebounding (6 per game) and shots blocked (1.4 per game). He is second on the team in scoring, averaging 9.3 points per game. Forward Donnie Hale (5.2 points, 3.6 rebounds) returned to the starting lineup against Eastern Michigan after coming off the bench for four games. Guard/Forward D.J. Byrd is third on the team is scoring (8.9 points per game). Forward Jack Cooley is averaging a double-double for the Irish (14.2 points, 11.3 rebounds). Guard/forward Pat Connaughton is averaging 7 points and 4.2 rebounds.
Backcourt: Terone Johnson is averaging 15.8 points in Purdue’s last four games. He is averaging a team-high 13 points on the season. Dru Anthrop has a couple of starts this season, including Dec. 8 at Eastern Michigan. Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins are averaging 12.9 and 10.9 points, respectively for Notre Dame. Atkins is also averaging 7 assists. Scott Martin, a former Purdue player, is averaging 8.9 points for the Irish.
Bench: Anthony Johnson and Ronnie Johnson provide depth at guard for Purdue. Notre Dame center Garrick Sherman (10.1 points) reportedly missed the Brown game because of a knee injury.