FORT WAYNE – No player exemplifies the type of inspired play Purdue coach Matt Painter wants from his team more than Rapheal Davis.
The Boilermakers finally achieved that kind of intensity across the board in Wednesday’s 77-76 overtime loss to No. 16 Michigan, and the team’s effort was encouraging.
Davis, who said Purdue didn’t seem to play that hard leading up to the game against Michigan, saw teammates match his effort level.
He knows what’s going on, Painter said. Ray is a guy that works hard and puts in extra time. He speaks up. You have to have big-time effort. He does. I do not ever doubt his effort.
Carrying over that hustle will rank as one of the Boilermakers’ priorities when they face No. 20 Iowa today at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Boilermakers could make Painter 12-4 against Iowa, but a loss would extend their losing streak to four straight.
Davis felt Purdue learned from battling Michigan to the final buzzer.
We played hard, so now we know how hard we can play, said Davis, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds. Bring that to Iowa, and we can go get us a win. If we play with the energy we did on Wednesday, we can go 3-0 heading into the Big Ten tournament.
Purdue (15-13, 5-10) has had trouble repeating much of anything, so its last performance could easily be an aberration.
You see us in flashes and spurts, Painter said. You think we’re starting to take off a little bit, then we revert back. A lot of it’s mental.
Iowa (19-9, 8-7), reeling from three consecutive losses, played a makeup game Thursday at Indiana. The Hawkeyes were slated to face Purdue on Saturday, but Painter accommodated their wishes and agreed to move it back after Iowa’s schedule disruption.
If they were in the same situation, they’d help us, Painter said. It’s the right thing to do. Our business is so competitive. If you don’t enjoy it or help someone else out, what’s the point?
Painter’s next mission is to squeeze more urgency from his team. Part of the problem, he said, is leadership.
We have young guys with physical ability who don’t have that leadership capability, Painter said. I’ve done a poor job in recruiting natural leaders. That’s my fault.
Kendall Stephens remained optimistic that Purdue can finish the year with consistent passion, resiliency and toughness.
You have to remind yourself that we’re a young team, he said. You just keep trying to get tougher mentally. This Iowa game is big for us to keep the same level of energy we played with against Michigan.
Davis, a sophomore, has made big strides on being a worker. To Painter, he’s a microcosm of what the team can do.
When guys care and want Purdue to win, Painter said, you’re going to make improvements.