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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, March 14, 2018 1:00 am

Boilers not sure if break will help

Will play in tourney after 12-day layoff

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Purdue vs. Cal State Fullerton

When: 12:40 p.m. Friday

Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

TV: Tru TV

Radio: 1380 AM/100.9 FM

When Purdue plays Friday in Detroit against Cal State-Fullerton it will have been nearly 12 days since the Boilermakers last played. That's three days longer than any break the team has had since the season began more than four months ago.

One of the main challenges for the No. 11 Boilers as they prepare for their first game in the NCAA Tournament is balancing the desire to rest after a condensed Big Ten schedule with the need to fight off rust during the lengthy layoff.

The stoppage between the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA Tournament is a week longer than usual for No. 2 seed Purdue this season because the conference tournament was played early in order to fit into Madison Square Garden's schedule.

Coach Matt Painter has a simple test to determine if the extra rest is helpful or harmful.

“If we win it's good,” he said, laughing. 

Painter said that, while his team has been sharp in practice, he won't really know the effect of the increased time off until the Boilermakers actually play No. 15 seed Fullerton.

“We're looking fine, but it's also like the test isn't on a Tuesday between games,” he said. “Your gauge is your game on Friday, so I think that answer comes then.”

Purdue could benefit more than other Big Ten teams from the longer break because it will give forward Vincent Edwards more time to get healthy.

The senior forward sprained his ankle in mid-February and missed two games. He's played in the last four contests but said the ankle bothered him during the Big Ten Tournament. The team's third-leading scorer had just four points on 2-for-6 shooting in the loss to Michigan in the title game.

Edwards used the extra time off to go home and rehab with his older brothers, who also played Division I basketball, and said he's getting his explosiveness back, though he's still fighting some soreness.

“Sometimes you need that tough love because your family's not going to let you baby your ankle,” Edwards said.

“Having them there, pushing me a little extra really helped.”

Edwards is not the only Purdue player who could benefit from a long rest. The whole team looked tired against Michigan after playing 16 Big Ten games in 53 days and then suiting up three straight days for the conference tournament. Even backups such as freshman center Matt Haarms welcome the time off.

“The positive is (we) get some rest,” said Haarms, who was sporting a swollen lip with five stitches in it after taking a bump from Isaac Haas in practice. “(We'll) kind of get our legs under us. It's been a long season. We've played 34 games, so it's been a long year so far.”

Painter has been working to combat potential rust by emphasizing aspects of their game the Boilermakers can fall back on if they're not as sharp as they'd like.

“Defense and rebounding is going to travel,” he said. “Sometimes your jumper doesn't get packed. You're talking to a bunch of guys who can shoot, they don't want to hear that. They simply don't want to hear it, but (shooting) is not the backbone of who they are as a group.

“Your effort, being together, playing unselfish, I think that's what we've learned the most is that when we're that way, we're pretty good.”

The Boilermakers' longest layoff prior to this one was their Christmas break from Dec. 22 to 29. After that time off, Purdue won 11 straight games.

Note: Carsen Edwards, Vincent Edwards and Isaac Haas were all named to the NABC All-District 7 teams the organization announced Tuesday. Carsen Edwards was named to the first team while Vincent Edwards and Haas were tabbed to the second team.

dsinn@jg.net