The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, November 28, 2017 1:00 am

Boilers learned lessons in Bahamas

Slow starts, poor shooting costly in back-to-back losses

Jeff Washburn | For The Journal Gazette

WEST LAFAYETTE – At 9-7, Purdue has the Big Ten's best ACC-Big Ten Challenge record heading into tonight's matchup against unbeaten and 17th-ranked Louisville – a team that defeated the Boilermakers 71-64 in the 2016 event in the YUM Center.

The No. 17 Cardinals' victory last season snapped Purdue's seven-game ACC-Big Ten Challenge winning streak that began in 2009 when E'Twaun Moore, Robbie Hummel and JaJuan Johnson led the Boilermakers to a victory against Wake Forest.

After a strange trip to the Bahamas for the eight-team Battle 4 Atlantis, during which Purdue (5-2) was stunned by Tennessee,78-75 in overtime, and then by Western Kentucky, 77-73, before crushing then-No. 2 Arizona 89-64 for seventh place, the Boilermakers will try to regain their momentum against a second consecutive ranked opponent.

Shooting likely will be at the core of that attempt. Purdue shot only 39 percent (46 of 118), including 18 of 54 from 3-point range, in the losses to Tennessee and Western Kentucky. But it bounced back to shoot 57.4 percent (31 of 54), including 11 of 22 from beyond the arc, in destroying Arizona (3-3), which was 0-3 in the Bahamas.

Entering the Louisville game, all five Purdue starters are averaging in double figures, led by Carsen Edwards at 18.0, Dakota Mathias at 16.1 and Isaac Haas at 14.4. Purdue is shooting 52 percent overall and 44 percent from 3-point range.

Mathias hopes Purdue learned valuable lessons in losses to Tennessee and Western Kentucky heading into the Louisville game.

“The first two teams we played in the Bahamas were just ready to play right from the get go, and we weren't, for whatever reason,” Mathias said. “That is on us seniors to get everybody ready to go. Those are things we can correct. We will bounce back.

“It's nothing you can just pinpoint. Sometimes, it doesn't go your way, but that's not an excuse why you can't win a game. We have won plenty of games where we haven't shot the ball well. That is where we have to get better – grinding it out when you don't shoot the ball well. That's where maturity and growth has to come in and maturity shows. We haven't shown that yet.”

Mathias said the experience was gut-wrenching.

“It was pretty depressing (Wednesday and Thursday),” Mathias said. “We learned from it. We had a lot of conversations, a lot of film sessions. Our leadership really showed Friday night in our grit. We just have to do that every day. We know what can happen if we don't bring it.”

Senior point guard P.J. Thompson fears Purdue felt entitled heading to the Battle 4 Atlantis.

“Feeling entitled didn't mean nothing,” Thompson said. “That just puts a target on your back. And if you're not mature enough to handle a target on your back, then that stuff that happened this week is going to happen.”

Haas said it hurt to hear Western Kentucky coach Rick Stansbury tell media members that the Hilltoppers were the tougher team when they played the Boilermakers.

“It stinks, to be honest,” Haas said. “But I mean, it's true. They out toughed us, and so did Tennessee.”

Purdue coach Matt Painter says he knows what his team must do moving forward.

“You have to be able to concentrate and have some mental toughness,” Painter said. “It's winning time. When you have a team that's outplayed you and you get right there, you have to make the most of it and score the basketball.

“We had an advantage at that time in the Western Kentucky game, we had momentum and we took the momentum right away from ourselves. More than anything, I think it bothers guys when their shots don't fall. We took some good shots in the first half that didn't go down. And you can't let that bother you.”

Louisville (4-0) is led by Deng Adel at 17.5 points and 5.5 rebounds and by 6-10 forward Ray Spalding at 12 points and 9.3 rebounds. Spalding had 19 points and 13 rebounds in Friday's 84-72 victory against St. Francis (Pennsylvania).

The Cardinals also have beaten Southern Illinois, Nebraska Omaha and George Mason.

Purdue leads this all-time series 11-6.


vs. No. 17 Louisville

Records: Purdue 5-2, Louisville 4-0 

When: 8 p.m. today

Where: Mackey Arena, West Lafayette


Radio: 106.7 FM

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