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Young Boilers struggling with immature play during rough start

Purdue's A.J. Hammons right battles for loose ball with Eastern Michigan's Ray Lee left  during first half an NCAA

Purdue's A.J. Hammons, right, battles for a loose ball with Eastern Michigan's Ray Lee, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec, 8, 2012, in Ypsilanti, Mich. (AP Photo/Lon Horwedel)

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The Big Number

44 — Purdue’s points in a three-point loss at Eastern Michigan, its lowest output since a 69-42 rout at the hands of Minnesota on March 13, 2010, in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.

The Bonus

Purdue coach Matt Painter was asked about how the team practices.

“I would say average,” he said. “It probably needs to be more competitive, and it needs to be more fundamentally sound. What you see in games is what you see in practice; we turn the ball over too much in practice and in games.”

The Boilermakers took off Sunday, and were planning to take off Wednesday. They weren’t expecting any conflicts with practices during finals week.

“We’re fine,” Painter said. “Some years, it’s just the way it happens with one particular guy or with particular majors. But this year, it’s fine. We’ve been able to get a 2-hour,21/2-hour window all the days that we’re practicing.”

Updated: January 13, 2013 11:16AM



Even with its graduation losses, even with its reliance on freshmen, even with its returning players taking on new and expanded roles, Purdue still likely projected as an NCAA Tournament team before the season.

Now, the Boilermakers could face an uphill climb to even make the NIT.

It’s probably too early to make such broad pronouncements. Things might click for them sooner rather than later, and they still might yet prove to be a tournament team.

But, at the moment, they’re 4-5 after a dismal loss at Eastern Michigan; it’s their worst start in eighth-year coach Matt Painter’s tenure, with the 2005-06 team 5-4 after nine games and 6-5 after non-conference play en route to a 9-19 record in his first season.

This season, their remaining non-conference schedule includes Notre Dame and West Virginia, and the Big Ten obviously is going to be a bear, with anything in the vicinity of a .500 mark more than respectable. As the week began, no other conference team was sub-.500.

“I wouldn’t say surprised; I knew it could go either way,” Painter said when asked about the team’s start. “I wouldn’t have said that about our talent unless it was true; I’m not trying to make somebody feel good about themselves. … If we didn’t have the talent, we wouldn’t be in all five games that we’ve lost.”

The Boilermakers committed 18 turnovers against Eastern Michigan, underscoring an ongoing issue. They have 129 for the season, an average of 14.3 per game (190th nationally), and 126 assists (an assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.98 for 142nd); with opponents having 114 turnovers (a minus-1.7 margin for 254th).

Last season, with a roster that included Robbie Hummel, Ryne Smith and Lewis Jackson, they led they nation with 8.7 turnovers per game, were third with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.54 (470-to-306), and ninth with a turnover margin of plus-3.8.

“For us, if I was in a position to reach them, we wouldn’t keep doing the same things,” said Painter, adding last season’s team “valued” the ball, “played to their strengths,” and played within themselves, with this season’s “overdoing things” at times. “We have an immature basketball team. I told them at the start of the year, you could be a young team, but if you’re going to be an immature team, then you’re going to have struggles.”

Purdue has employed five different starting lineups in its nine games, and another could be on tap against the No. 22 Irish on Saturday at the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis. Painter continues to get a feel for the makeup of this team, after the Boilermakers practiced over the summer (through a change in NCAA rules) and additionally took their trip to Italy.

“We don’t have young guys playing young; we have our whole team being immature as a basketball player,” Painter said. “Maturity lies as a player in studying your scouting report, getting a good night’s sleep, being engaged in practice, trying to do what the coaches are saying, and just wanting Purdue to win. And we don’t have that. We have too many guys that are worried that they haven’t made a shot or they aren’t getting enough minutes, and it affects their play. … We’ve been harping on a lot of the same things, and it’s been disappointing, to say the least.

“But we’re going to stay with it, keep grinding. … That’s all you can do; that’s all you can do, is stay with it.”



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