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Painter battling his own team's apathy

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Purdue coach frustrated on a lot of fronts

Friday, February 15, 2013 - 3:55 am

Midway through Purdue's demoralizing 20-point loss to a 5-7 (Big Ten) Illinois team on Wednesday, Boilermaker coach Matt Painter had seen enough.

He had seen enough of the questionable officiating of post play and, truth be told, he had probably seen enough of his team.

Painter went off verbally on an official, drew consecutive technical fouls, and was ejected. At least somebody from Purdue's program showed that they cared about how the game was unfolding.

“You get to that certain point, you want your team to play harder, you want your team to embrace the physicality of the game,” Painter said in a post-game news conference. “And they weren't.”

It won't get any easier for Painter or his players. They travel to Bloomington on Saturday (2 p.m., ESPN) to face the No. 1-ranked Hoosiers.

In some regards, it's really unfathomable that this situation is occurring in West Lafayette. Not the Boilermakers (12-13, 5-7 Big Ten) losing at Illinois, though they had won eight consecutive over their nearby rivals. Heck, top-ranked Indiana lost in Champaign recently. However, the fact that Painter is often having to coerce his team into showing effort has to be mind-blowing the Purdue Fans. After all, this is Purdue for Gene Keady's sake.

“(Illinois) was quicker to the basketball,” Painter said. “They were able to establish that really from the first couple possessions. Their effort was a lot better than ours.”

How apathetic was Purdue, which is in desperate need for a win, any win? The Boilermakers scored the initial four points of the game and then allowed the Illini to take off on runs of 10-2, 8-0 and 7-0 at varying points of the first half. And it got worse following halftime.

At one point in the second half, Illinois put the game away (which is where Painter's technical came) through an 11-0 tear, which gave it a 24-point advantage.

“The fact that they had energy,” Painter explained, “and they were making hustle plays on top of that. We didn't play hard enough, obviously we didn't play well enough, and really it's unacceptable.”

Many will point to the youth of Painter's team to explain away its inconsistencies. Even Michigan State coach Tom Izzo cited that about the Boilers following its fifth consecutive double-digit win over Purdue.

However, Painter is having none of that.

“I'm tired of hearing the fact that we're young,” Painter said Wednesday. “I'm tired of hearing that. They're 18, 19 years old (and) they've played major college basketball here for three, four months. It's not that big a deal, it really isn't. It's a young game. You just can't be immature, and we're immature.”

Purdue has built a foundation of success on grit, hustle and toughness, coupled with a bit of skill and the result generally is an overachieving team that makes Mackey Arena swell with pride.

The 2012-13 version has proven to be the antithesis of that formula.

This year's group appears to be a team that lacks skill, toughness and can't even be relied upon to consistently work hard. Boiler Nation has needed a Boilermaker to help them get through this season.

“It's February, and it's time to stop using the fact that we're young as an excuse,” junior guard Terone Johnson echoed on Wednesday. “I can't explain why Illinois played harder than we did this time. That can't happen.”

But it did. And it continues to happen.