WEST LAFAYETTE – Prior to Purdue's men's basketball game with Ball State on Tuesday at Mackey Arena, Boilermaker coach Matt Painter issued a statement regarding the loss of freshman forward Jay Simpson for the remainder of the season.
Following the 66-56 Boilermaker victory, Painter may have found his power forward of the future.
Purdue sophomore Jacob Lawson was active early, everywhere and often in the win, and his coach now expects nothing but similar performances until Lawson graduates.
“I thought that Jacob gave is some energy,” Painter said. “He did a good job of rebounding the basketball.”
That he did.
Lawson earned his sixth start of the season and showed Painter that he wants a seventh by pulling down a game-high 11 boards. The 6-foot-8 athlete not only played differently than he has all season, he even warmed-up differently.
“I went out there (in warm-ups) and started jumping a little bit to see if I could get off the floor quicker,” Lawson said.
Lawson has been battling an illness (congestion) for several days, but the Cardinals (5-5) never saw any signs of that.
Painter has been searching for someone to seize the spot next to center A.J. Hammons on a consistent basis all season. The eighth-year coach has tried redshirt freshman Donnie Hale (five starts), Lawson and junior Travis Carroll (one start). Each has had his moments, but not dominant enough to secure the job.
Lawson matched his season-high in minutes (23), but throughout this season, he has also played as little as seven minutes. He has never scored more than eight points this year (he had six against Ball State) and never grabbed more than four rebounds this season.
“I've always said coaching is a coach waiting for the players to tell him what to do,” Painter said. “When (a player) is inconsistent, it's hard for a coach to figure that out.”
But Lawson took a big step in helping Painter make up his mind with Tuesday's performance.
“What Jacob Lawson did tonight, he could do every night,” Painter said. “He could do what he did tonight, every single night. Hopefully this motivates him.”
Hale came off of a leg injury (he sat out Saturday's loss to Notre Dame) and played 13 minutes (scoring four points and grabbing a single rebound), while Carroll played 10 minutes (finishing with four points and one rebound). But regardless of which player Painter goes with, his expectations will remain the same.
“I know this, no matter who we play,” Painter explained, “we have to make good decisions, we have to be consistent, and we have to have that type of effort like Jacob had tonight. Whether it is coaching or playing, your expectation level is always your best game.”