FORT WAYNE – Purdue opened a busy slate on the right note Sunday.
The Boilermakers secured their first Big Ten victory by defeating Nebraska 70-64 at home, but after having stretches of nine, five and seven days between games, Purdue is in the heart of a busy stretch.
The Boilermakers (11-5, 1-2) travel to play Illinois (13-4, 2-2) at 9 p.m. today then host Penn State on Saturday and play at Northwestern on Tuesday.
It’s crazy, Purdue coach Matt Painter said during Monday’s Big Ten teleconference. We played Dec. 22 (a 73-70 win at West Virginia), then we played Dec. 31 (a 78-69 loss to Ohio State), then I think we played Jan. 6 (it was Jan. 5, 82-79 loss at Minnesota) and then I think we played Jan. 12 (the win over Nebraska); now all of the sudden we play four games in 10 days. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, especially when you are on break at this time of year.
But if you can play well in that stretch while you are playing games it can really help you, it can be really good for you or it can really hurt you. It depends on your team and how well you are playing at that time.
Purdue will take on a wounded Illinois team, which lost its last two games after opening Big Ten play with back-to-back wins.
Illinois coach John Groce said he isn’t sure if Rayvonte Rice (hip) will be able to play against Purdue or how effective he will be if he does play. Rice is the Big Ten’s leading scorer at 18.1 points a game for Illinois. Groce said reserve guard Mike LaTulip is also questionable after suffering a concussion.
The Illini started conference play with an 83-80 overtime win over Indiana and a 75-55 win over Penn State, but after being ranked No. 23 in the Associated Press Top 25, they fell 95-70 to No. 3 Wisconsin on Jan. 8 and 49-43 to Northwestern on Sunday.
We had two games there where I felt our defense wasn’t very good in one of them, and then our offense wasn’t inept in another one, Groce said. I do think we are better than we are playing right now. I’ve said all along our margin for error is not real large, and we’ve got to make sure everybody is contributing at a high level. It takes everybody on our end for us to play good basketball.
While Groce wants everyone to contribute, Painter would like to see more of the defense his team played in the win over the Cornhuskers.
Purdue held Nebraska to six points in the final 6:43 Sunday as the Boilermakers scored 15 over that span to secure the win.
I’d say it comes down to the details, Painter said of being able to replicate that defensive performance. At times you are going to do everything you are supposed to do, and they are still going to score. You are going against good players.
But it’s something that is really important for players to understand if you do everything you are supposed to, now you have given yourself a chance to be successful. If you don’t do what you are supposed to, you are playing against too good of competition, too good of coaches, you’re not going to be successful when that happens. That’s what we try to get our guys to follow what we are doing, play hard, swarm the basketball and then be able to get that rebound and the loose ball.