FORT WAYNE – Purdue’s early portion of the Big Ten season reads like The Associated Press Top 25 poll.
The Boilermakers (6-6) open conference play today against No. 11 Illinois (13-1). Purdue travels to No. 18 Michigan State on Saturday and then has a home game Tuesday against No. 8 Ohio State.
Purdue coach Matt Painter listed several keys to a successful Big Ten season during a teleconference Monday.
Being mentally tougher and aware of what we need to do as a team is going to be important, Painter said.
Taking care of the basketball and rebounding. We’ll see if rebounding is a strength against teams in the Big Ten. If we could do those things, that will give us some confidence. And if we can be more patient and execute, we are going to shoot a better percentage.
Purdue got back to .500 with a 73-66 victory over William & Mary on Saturday. The Boilermakers had only seven turnovers in the win and has 16 turnovers in its last two games.
For us there for a little while, it didn’t matter who we played, we were going to turn it over. And every day in practice we were turning it over against ourselves, Painter said.
We’re being a little bit sharper in what we do and executing a little better. Hopefully it’s a sign of maturity and we can continue to play the game and be under 10 turnovers. Our goal is eight turnovers a game. Hopefully we are turning in that direction.
Junior guard Terone Johnson is averaging 14.9 points and 5.5 rebounds in Purdue’s last eight games.
We need him to be consistent, Painter said. It’s very important for a guy that has the ability to be a really good player on both ends of the court.
We need him to make the right play on the offensive end and be aggressive and drive the basketball. At times be a facilitator and at times be a scorer. Defensively, just pay attention to detail and have discipline.
Brandon Paul’s play has rubbed off on the Illini. The senior is second in the Big Ten in scoring, averaging 18.7 points. Illinois won the Maui Invitational and defeated Gonzaga on the road.
They had a great start with how well they played in Maui, I think that gave them confidence, Painter said.