If Purdue basketball fans want to see their favorite program return to its winning ways of yesteryear (meaning last year), then eighth-year Boilermaker coach Matt Painter explained that the players' actions have to change way before the tip-off of games.
Purdue (12-11, 5-5 Big Ten) will host No. 12 Michigan State (19-4, 8-2) tonight at 7 p.m. (BTN).
“Winning teams have winning ways,” Painter said. “And losing teams have losing ways.”
What Painter was alluding to was the fact that the 2012-13 Purdue squad doesn't act in the proper manner all of the time.
Following a humiliating 37-point demolition by its arch-nemesis (Indiana) recently, the Boilermakers responded in the following way. Freshman center A.J. Hammons overslept and was late to the team bus prior to leaving for a road game at Northwestern. Then Purdue failed to be ready to play hard from the opening tip against the Wildcats and allowed Northwestern to open the game with a 12-0 start.
“A winning team is on time,” Painter explained. “They pay attention to a scouting report and they trust the coaches. A losing team will slip in those areas.”
Throughout the majority of Painter's time in West Lafayette, there has been no slippage of focus and responsibility. That is precisely why the Boilermakers have won at least 22 games in each of the six prior seasons.
However, there is just something different about this current group that shows that they don't grasp the importance of details.
“We've had a very good basketball culture here,” Painter said. “And it has slipped.”
Little problems accumulate into bigger issues over time and that has happened with the Boilermakers.
A year ago, it was the lack of discipline by both (current senior) D.J. Byrd and then junior Kelsey Barlow (who has since been kicked out of the program).
This past summer it was freshman Jay Simpson reporting to campus so out of shape that his first season has essentially been a waste of a year.
And throughout this season, Purdue fans have had to sit and endure moments of immaturity and even a lack of effort at times from their team.
“When you talk of your basketball culture, it starts with your discipline off of the court,” Painter said. “Then it goes to your discipline on the court. We have to be better in both areas.”
Painter is hoping for signs of progress in his team's ability to work, focus, and be disciplined and tough against the Spartans today. Michigan State has owned those areas – and this series – over the past few seasons. The Spartans have won four consecutive games between the two teams, as well as 5 of the past 7 meetings.
However, even if the Boilermaker players do demonstrate growth in the eyes of their coach, it'll take more than just a solid two-plus hours to make a believer of Painter.
“If you can take care of everything off of the court, then it'll help you on the court,” Painter said. “If you don't, then it'll really hurt you. It doesn't happen on one day or doing something the right way for two or three days. That is a habit that you have to build over time.”