Most basketball players find their shooting rhythm in the gym. Purdue senior wing D.J. Byrd apparently found his somewhere in the rolling hills of western South Carolina.
Byrd was hitting shots like he hadn't all season in Wednesday's 73-61 win at Clemson, and now he'll look to carry that offensive momentum into Saturday's game with Xavier (5-1) at Mackey Arena (2:15 p.m., BTN).
“When teams make those kind of shots, it energizes them,” Tiger coach Brad Brownell said in the post-game interview. “Byrd gave Purdue tremendous amounts of confidence.”
Byrd is a career 36.4 percent shooter from three-point range, but that was accomplished while serving as a role player behind the likes of Robbie Hummel, E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson, among others.
This season, Byrd and junior guard Terone Johnson are the focal points of the offense, and Byrd has struggled to make the adjustment. Until Wednesday.
“We let a banked-in three,” Brownell recalled, “and then Byrd makes one while falling out of bounds. We let all of those little things that bother you, that happen negatively for you, bother you.”
Purdue rode Byrd throughout the first half as the Boilermakers (3-3) raced out to a 42-22 halftime lead. He entered Wednesday connecting on just 28.1 percent of his shots from long range this season, including misfiring on nine of his previous 12 attempts. Against the Tigers, he sank six three-pointers in the first half alone.
Byrd had 20 points at the break and finished with a team-high 22 points. He was 6-of-11 from three-point range and 7-of-12 from the field.
“Just working on getting open shots and taking good shots, my percentages tend to go up,” Byrd told The Associated Press. “I was just trying to take advantage of that.”
Byrd wasn't the only Boilermaker to find his shot recently. Purdue had been abysmal from the free-throw line (58 percent) through its initial four games, but in the past two, it has been torrid in sinking 35 of 45 (78 percent) attempts.
After dropping three of its first four games, Purdue has now won two games in a row to even its record.