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Painter and Stevens set to reconnect in showdown

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Butler record doesn't fool Purdue coach

Friday, December 16, 2011 - 6:54 am

Butler's 4-6 record doesn't fool Purdue coach Matt Painter. He knows a good coach when he sees one, and he sees it in Brad Stevens, whether it's in leading the Bulldogs to consecutive national title games or in helping Painter coach the U.S. World University Games team to a tourney-tying-best 7-1 record last summer in China.

“He's one of the best coaches in the country,” Painter said. “He's proven that. Nobody has done what he's accomplished in the last two years.

“You take the greatest coaches in major conferences and have them go back to the mid-majors and try to accomplish what he has. I don't think it would happen.

“You could argue he's the best coach in America. He's a well-rounded guy. He has great rapport with his players. He has the whole package.”

Painter was impressed enough with Stevens' approach that he even hired a Butler assistant coach , Micah Shrewsberry, to be one of his assistants.

“I have respect for Butler,” Painter said. “I know they do things the right way. I wanted somebody who would fit in at Purdue. He's a well-rounded coach.”

Painter and Stevens will reconnect Saturday when their teams meet at Indianapolis' Conseco Fieldhouse for the inaugural Crossroads Classic. Also playing are Indiana and Notre Dame. It's a two-year arrangement with an option to continue if it's a success.

The Crossroads Classic is similar to the Hoosier Classic, a two-day event that featured the same four teams at Hinkle Fieldhouse from 1947-51 and 1957-59. Indiana won the event four times, Butler twice, and Purdue and Notre Dame once each.

Saturday's event is sold out.

“I think it's great,” Painter said. “From a scheduling standpoint, it really helps us. Now we can get a great opponent and play a game in Indianapolis. I thought it was win-win for everybody. Hopefully it becomes a tradition and we play it every year.”

Free-throw issues have contributed to Butler's struggles this season. The Bulldogs -- stuck in just their second three-game losing streak since the 2004-05 season -- have been outscored from the line 143-90 in their six losses.

Compounding the problem the last two games has been bad three-point shooting. Butler went 5-for-43 beyond the arc in losses to Xavier and Ball State. For the season the Bulldogs shoot 27.8 percent from three-point range.

“You go through periods like that when shots don't go down,” Painter said, “but they've got guys out there capable of making shots. Their percentage will be same (as it normally is) at end of the year.”

Purdue is 9-2 and could easily be 10-1 if it hadn't blown a 19-point lead in the final 10 minutes at Xavier.

“We've had some good spots, and we've been inconsistent at times, especially with our shooting and free-throw percentages,” Painter said. “Some games they feel good and the next game they let you down.

“We need a more mature approach in getting ready to play, having discipline on the defensive end, just staying consistent and following the defensive game plan.”

The Boilers continue to be limited in practice because of nagging injuries to forward Robbie Hummel (knee), and guards Lewis Jackson (foot, back) and Terone Johnson (knee).

“We haven't experienced this in the past,” Painter said, “with major players not able to practice all the time. It's difficult. You don't make the same improvement when you have guys sitting out like that.

“We can't use it as an excuse. We'll try our best, whether it's through film or pay more attention in program, to improve ourselves.”

Purdue figures to pay plenty of attention to Butler forward Khyle Marshall. He totaled 21 points and a career-high 16 rebounds in the Bulldogs' last game, a loss at Ball State. Marshall leads the team in scoring (10.5 points) and shooting (56.6 percent).

“He's very active and long,” Painter said. “He gets to the glass. Getting 16 rebounds in a college game is very impressive. You can't let him get angles in there. He's a mismatch problem at times.”