Matt Painter asked and received. He's gotten his adversity wish. The result: Purdue has two come-from-behind basketball victories and growing confidence.
Oh, and one other thing: a 3-0 record for the sixth time in Painter's nine years as head coach.
The Boilers have rallied to beat Northern Kentucky 77-76 and Rider 81-77. They have displayed tenacity and resolve in crunch time, attributes that were lacking last season. They also have regained their shooting and scoring touch. They lead the Big Ten in shooting (51.0 percent) and are third in scoring (89.0 points).
Painter isn't satisfied, but he is pleased.
“A big question mark was how we'd deal with adversity and so far we've been good in that area,” he said. “We've had good starts and good finishes. We made plays at the end of the Northern Kentucky game. We made plays at the end of the Rider game. We can build off that.”
Building will resume tonight against Eastern Illinois (2-1).
“We need to figure out where we are as a group,” Painter said. “Can we keep playing 10 to 11 guys and still be functional?”
Painter has basically used a starting line of Terone and Ronnie Johnson, Kendall Stephens, Errick Peck and A.J. Hammons. Ten players average at least 14.5 minutes.
The lineup is not etched in stone. Painter works players in and out to get the most effective group for that game. Basically, he said, players determine their minutes by their performance during games and practices.
“When guys are playing well in a rotation, they need to play more,” he said. “Now you might get some established guys, guys who have been productive, when struggling not see as much time.”
Three games haven't provided enough data for Painter to know the best groupings.
“It takes some time. You try to evaluate who we have in there, who had good stretches and bad stretches. There really hasn't been a trend.
“When you're adding a lot of new faces, they still don't have experience with the system and style. We're trying to adjust to that, to officials calling the game a little differently, and to each other. You try to figure out who plays better together and what stretches.”
Figuring has led to miscalculations.
“A couple of times I stayed with a group too long,” Painter said. “I have to do a better job of getting subs in or calling a timeout.”
Eastern Illinois leads the Ohio Valley Conference in blocked shots behind 7-foot brothers Luke and Mat Piotrowski. The Panthers hold opponents to 66.0 points. Last year they led the OVC in scoring defense (64.2 points).
Eastern Illinois is led by Reggie Smith, a UNLV transfer who averages 21 points a game.
“They pick up the ball full-court and guard you,” Painter said. “They get into you. They do a lot of pressure, but they'll also mix it up. They'll run out to the dribbler some. They'll trap. They do some things to see if you have issues with it. We have to be prepared for everything.”
Painter got his first NCAA Division I coaching experience at Eastern Illinois. He was an assistant there from 1995 to 1998.
“I got it right when I was turning 25,” he said. “It was a great experience for me. I got a lot of responsibility at an early age as far as breaking down film and recruiting.”
Haas picks Boilers
It took an extra week, but Painter is set to get his center for the Class of 2014.
Isaac Haas, a 7-foot-2 center from Alabama ranked as the class's No. 64 player by Rivals.com, a national recruiting service, is set to sign with Purdue this week. He had originally committed to Wake Forest in September, but backed out last week. Painter traveled to Alabama to talk with Haas on Friday.
He chose Purdue over Alabama-Birmingham and Wake Forest.
The Boilers earlier signed guard Dakota Mathias, forward Jacquil Taylor and forward Vince Edwards.
Painter couldn't specifically address Haas during Tuesday's teleconference because he hadn't signed his national letter of intent. But Painter did talk about what he looks for when recruiting inside players.
“It depends on the guy you're recruiting and what he can do, and what you project he'll do in three to five years,” Painter said. "You always have some surprised with guys, but it always comes down to work ethic. Are they going to put time in on their post moves, on their perimeter shots, on making free throws? If they do, you have something special going on.”
One of the reasons why Haas picked Purdue was because of its ability to develop big men such as JaJuan Johnson and Carl Landry, and now Hammons.
“JaJuan wasn't the strongest individual when he got here,” Painter said. “At first he couldn't establish position inside. He worked on it. He got better and bigger. He was able to establish an inside threat for us.
“Carl was strong and could muscle people. A.J. is imposing with his size, strength and length. You always try to get guys to play to their strengths and play with the ball.”