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Purdue shoots its way to contending status

Purdue's Dakota Mathias (31) and P.J. Thompson celebrate a late basket against Georgia State last month at Mackey Arena. (File photo by the Associated Press)
Purdue's Dakota Mathias (31) and P.J. Thompson celebrate a late basket against Georgia State last month at Mackey Arena. (File photo by the Associated Press)

More Information

UP NEXT: Iowa at Purdue

TIPOFF: 8:30 p.m., Wednesday

TV: BTN

ONLINE: For more on sports, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at www.twitter.com/pdiprimio

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press

No. 15 Boilers open Big Ten play with Iowa

Tuesday, December 27, 2016 8:54 PM

It’s almost not fair, this Purdue shooting spree that threatens to wreak basketball havoc on the Big Ten.

Yes, it comes with a non-conference aura that might not translate to the rigors of conference play, but for now the No. 15 Boilers (11-2) have an inside-outside balance that championships are made of.

Purdue's first shot at making a Big Ten statement comes Wednesday night against Iowa (8-5) at Mackey Arena.

The Boilers lead the Big Ten in three-point shooting, at 41.3 percent, just ahead of perennial conference three-point power Indiana (40.1 percent). They have two of the league’s top-six beyond-the-arc shooters in Dakota Mathias (50.9 percent) and Vince Edwards (46.7).

They also have the Big Ten’s best in smart running of offense in guard P.J. Thompson, who leads the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio with 47 assists to nine turnovers. Right behind him is Mathias at 49 to 14.

This strong shooting is not an accident. It reflects coach Matt Painter’s long-term plan to restore the Boilers to Big Ten and national prominence. They might not always land elite recruits (although they do have one of the nation’s best in sophomore forward Caleb Swanigan), but there’s no reason why they can’t sign good shooters.

And so they have, with Mathias, Edwards, Thompson, Ryan Cline and even freshman Carsen Edwards, a high-volume shooter whose percentages will rise when he better understands selective good shooting as sophomore forward Caleb Swanigan has done.

Swanigan was a 29 percent three-point shooter last year, as Carsen Edwards is this year. Swanigan is at 52.4 percent this season (he doesn’t have enough attempts to qualify among the Big Ten leaders).

“I thought we could be this type of team in terms of shooting,” Painter said. “What we have been able to do is take good shots. When we’ve struggled a little bit is when we’ve taken too many contested ones, too many early ones.

“This has been our plan, to get a guy who we think is the best shooter in our state, the best shooter in the Midwest, someone who is a great all-around shooter. If you look what we’ve been able to do in each class, we’ve done that.”

It also helps to have the Big Ten’s most imposing 1-2 inside punch with the 6-8 Swanigan (18.3 points, 12.5 rebounds) and 7-2 Isaac Haas (14.3, 5.2). All of those are career highs.

“We’ve been fortunate enough to land some very good big players,” Painter said.

Painter has had good shooting teams in the past, but he said, “I don’t think we’ve had this many good shooters.

“I know this -- we should take as many good shots as we can. If we’re in rhythm and open, we should take them.”

Who is Purdue’s best shooter?

Painter refuses to bite.

“The one with the best percentage. No one gets mad at you that way.”

In fact, many Boilers point to Carsen Edwards, even though he has the lowest percentage overall (37.2 percent) and on three-pointers (29.3) among the regulars. However, he averages 10.4 points.

“He has a quicker trigger than those other guys, especially off the dribble, so he can create his shot more,” Painter said.

“The other guys are more selective. Any time you’re more selective, you’re going to shoot a higher percentage. Ryan and Dakota are pretty selective. They’re really good shooters, but they’re also going to shoot a higher percentage because of the kind of shots they take.”

Purdue comes in with a six-game winning streak. It’s allowed just 58.2 points during that stretch while shooting 51.1 percent from the field and averaging just 11.0 turnovers.

Iowa also comes in hot with a five-game winning streak. The Hawkeyes are led by Big Ten scoring leader Peter Jok, who averages 22.6 points.

Iowa seems likely to press Purdue, just as it did so effectively last season in a pair of victories. But these Boilers are far better suited to handle it. They’ve already faced two of the nation’s fiercest pressing teams in West Virginia (in an exhibition) and Louisville, and while they weren’t flawless, they didn’t break as last year’s team did.

Credit strong team chemistry.

“It starts with guys seeing the big picture, sacrificing and understanding what’s best for the team,” Painter said. “If you have the right guys in the locker room, which we do, it’s making the simple play, the simple pass. That leads to good chemistry.”

More Information

UP NEXT: Iowa at Purdue

TIPOFF: 8:30 p.m., Wednesday

TV: BTN

ONLINE: For more on sports, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at www.twitter.com/pdiprimio

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