WEST LAFAYETTE – As Purdue enters Big Ten play against Illinois on Wednesday (BTN, 8:30 p.m.), there aren't an abundance of positive things for Boilermaker fans to cling to after Saturday's 73-66 win over William and Mary at Mackey Arena in front of 10,185 fans.
However, there is this…
A number of Purdue's younger players are getting better with each passing game, which really bodes well for the future.
The Boilermakers (6-6) have struggled through the first two months of the season in beating most of their opponents, but eighth-year coach Matt Painter has been consistent in his approach to give opportunities to young players that work hard.
So freshman forward Rapheal Davis is taking advantage of it.
“If you've got the mentality of a winner, you're always going to do what it takes to win,” Davis said.
The freshman forward from Fort Wayne is known for his scoring, but on Saturday it was his effort that drew praise from Painter.
“I just thought that (Rapheal) gave us good energy,” Painter said. “He made a couple hustle plays, he grabbed a couple of rebounds, knocked down those two free throws, and that really helped us.”
The game wasn't decided until the final minute, but over the course of the final 10 minutes, Davis made several key plays.
Davis grabbed a pair of offensive rebounds to keep possessions alive, and finished with four boards to go with his seven points.
“Rebounding will help me stay on the floor longer,” Davis said. “Tonight, (Terone) was scoring the ball, and D.J. (Byrd) was making shots, so when they shot, I'd just crash (the boards).”
At 6-foot-5 and 211 pounds, Davis has the strength to grab rebounds over weaker forwards and smaller guards. He grabbed seven against Hofstra earlier this season and six against Lamar.
Davis and sophomore forward Jacob Lawson (six points, four rebounds, and three blocks) made an impression on Painter, so in the game's final minutes, both were on the court, which was something new for Davis. Prior to Saturday he had never played more than 18 minutes, and wasn't a regular during the close games. However, against the Tribe (7-4) Davis and Lawson each played 22 minutes.
“You try to get the lineup that helps your team,” Painter explained. “But (William and Mary) constantly changed (defenses). With Rapheal and Jacob, I thought they gave us a spark, they played hard, and we stuck with Rapheal and he did a good job.”