FORT WAYNE – Freshmen have played major roles for Purdue and Michigan this season.
Purdue had three freshmen – Ronnie Johnson, A.J. Hammons and Fort Wayne product Rapheal Davis – starting in Saturday’s win against West Virginia.
Michigan’s Nik Stauskas (twice), Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III have each earned Big Ten freshman of the week honors.
The Boilermakers (10-8, 3-2) will get a close view at the three today when Purdue visits No. 2 Michigan (17-1, 4-1).
College basketball gets younger and younger, Purdue coach Matt Painter said during a teleconference Monday. They don’t just have freshmen. They have freshmen playing major minutes on a top-five team. It’s a little bit different than us. We’ve had our struggles and our growing pains with our group, but we’ve played a lot better here of late. Their guys have been great. Glenn Robinson (12.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and the son of former Purdue All-American Glenn Robinson) has been spectacular. Stauskas (12.6 points per game) has been very steady to say the least. Robinson is so selective and efficient. He can stretch the defense. He’s just a great addition. And Mitch McGary (5.7 rebounds per game) is a big, strong kid who can run.
Painter said the Wolverines’ variety makes them dangerous.
Guards Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. are averaging 18 and 16.4 points. Burke is third in the Big Ten in scoring, and Hardaway is fifth.
They have a great lead guard in Trey Burke, they have an experienced two-guard (Hardaway) who has become a great overall player, playing on both ends, doing the little things, Painter said. (Forward) Glenn Robinson has been very efficient. Not a guy that requires a high number of shots to be successful. He’s rebounded for them. Stauskas has been a good guard, he can do more than make shots. (Forward) Jordan Morgan has some experience. And McGary gives them size off the bench.
Michigan rebounded from its first loss of the season by winning at Minnesota on Thursday. Purdue is riding a three-game winning streak.
The process is ongoing, Painter said. We still have to be able to do some basic things. With our free-throw shooting, our attention to detail at times, especially when we get a lead, carrying out an assignment, we haven’t been as consistent as we need to be in some of those areas. And then we have to be a better defensive group.
Purdue’s recent wins have come with a smaller lineup. Davis has started the last three games. The 6-foot-5 guard is averaging 10.3 points during that stretch. He had 16 points against the Mountaineers.
I did it (playing small) because of the matchups, and I did it because Rapheal Davis’ effort was better than the other guys I was considering playing, Painter said. He needed to be rewarded for having a good attitude, working on his game, playing hard.