Rapheal Davis had played all of about 90 minutes in 10 games when he checked in for Purdue at the 12:51 mark of the second half Saturday, with the Boilermakers down 17 and taking on serious water against Notre Dame.
Not quite 2 1/2 minutes later, Davis drove into the paint, stopped and dropped a short jumper, Purdue’s first points in more than five minutes.
Thirty-three seconds later, he hit a layup.
Sixty-four seconds after that, he rang in a three-pointer.
After that there was a jumper and another jumper, and another and another. And by the time it was done, Davis, the Boilers’ 6-foot-7 freshman from South Side by way of LaPorte La Lumiere, had scored 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting in not quite 13 minutes, one of the few bright spots in a dreary 81-68 loss to the Irish.
Suddenly the TV lights and digital recorders were finding him, and Purdue coach Matt Painter -- desperate for any kind of offense, let alone the instant sort Davis provided – was saying that the kid had indeed appeared on his radar.
Sure, Painter said when asked whether Davis had perhaps bought himself a few more minutes with his out-of-nowhere eruption. We don’t have anybody else that’s scoring 21 points on nine shots. Being efficient like he was tonight, he’s really gonna help us.
They can use it, frankly. Heading into another cross-state game against Ball State tonight, the young Boilers stand 4-6, and while there’s a lot for that – poor decision-making, spotty defense, all the maladies of inconsistency consistent with young teams – the inability to score sits near the top of the list.
Going into the Notre Dame loss, Purdue was averaging 66.6 points, but it was shooting just 41 percent as a team and 26 percent from behind the three-point line.
(As a team), we’ve improved, we just haven’t found that consistency, Painter said Saturday. We have to take a better shot, we have to make a better decision for our offense. It’s hard when somebody is totally outplaying you to kind of keep that edge and keep that fight. Rapheal really helped us in that area because he was able to score on consecutive possessions there midway through the second half.
Long before that, Davis looked into the stands, saw his father and his middle school coach looking back at him, and somehow knew this was going to be his day.
Really once I dribbled into the lane and got the layup, I just knew I was in the zone from there, he said. I just got that feeling. It was really, just, me being a scorer all my life, you know when it’s coming. So I just turned it on from there.
And from here, with Ball State (5-4) coming?
This game gave me a lot of confidence, Davis said Saturday. Coach Painter knows I work hard. I want to play more, but I know what the team needs, and I trust Coach Painter whatever he decides to do.
I hope this gets me some more minutes. But if it doesn’t, I know I can still play.