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COLUMN

Boilers embrace the bad within the good

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Tipoff: Purdue at West Virginia, 1 p.m., Sunday.
Radio: 1380-AM
TV: ESPNU

Online: For more on college sports, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at www.twitter.com/pdiprimio

Purdue routs Maryland Eastern Shore

Wednesday, December 18, 2013 - 2:10 am

WEST LAFAYETTE -- Purdue's Travis Carroll found basketball perfection.

OK, maybe he just didn't miss a shot against a patsy, but let's not quibble over specifics.

When you win a game before the ball is even tipped, which is basically what the Boilers (9-3) did Tuesday against outgunned Maryland Eastern Shore (2-6), you embrace the positives even while recognizing the fantasy.

And you'd better believe winning 79-50, as Purdue did at Mackey Arena, is fantasy as it pertains to Big Ten reality.

What does it mean for Purdue's national aspirations?

Not much, coach Matt Painter said.

“We have the guys and the talent to be really good, but we haven't beaten anybody that's going to help us in terms of trying to get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament,” Painter said. “You win a lot of home games, and that's good, but you have to go on the road, go to neutral sites, and win.”

So what did the Boilers get out of Tuesday night other than boosting their Mackey Arena record to 8-0?

“We want to take the bad out of this,” guard Terone Johnson said. “What we did wrong we want to correct it.

“We turned it over 10 times. We wanted to keep it under seven. There will be repercussions for that.”

Repercussions come with intent and not punishment. Purdue has potential to be a Big Ten surprise, but has yet to show the production to make it so.

“I think we're pretty good,” Johnson said, “but we just have a problem with playing full games. I don't know if it's youth or not keeping our composure, but we'll go certain possessions in a row where we look like a team that can win the Big Ten. And then we'll have a couple of possessions where we look like we're last in the Big Ten.

"It's ridiculous. If we're able to take away those lows and keep the highs up and not get too high off of it, I think we can be real good.”

Carroll, a senior forward with more lows than highs this season, went 3-for-3 for six points. His three baskets were one more than he'd had in any game this season. He came in with just 13 total points this season.

That reflected a game of full Purdue contribution where the Boilers worked different lineups while tweaking, adjusting and playing without the threat of defeat --or even a competitive game. Twelve Boilers scored and 15 played.

“We were trying to get as many guys out there as we could, and get as much experience as you can,” Painter said. “We were trying to throw some things against the wall and hopefully some of it sticks in terms of playing certain guys.

“The balance was good, but young players and their families are into scoring, I'm into winning.”

Purdue did everything well -- to a point. It shot 50 percent from the field and a season-high 50 percent from three-point range. It had 20 assists against those 10 turnovers. It was 13-for-16 from the free-throw line, huge given its season-long inconsistency from the line. It held Maryland Eastern Shore to 34 percent shooting and forced 15 turnovers, 10 by steal.

Freshman guard Bryson Scott was once again a big contributor. The former Northrop standout made his second start and his first with fellow point guard Ronnie Johnson. Scott, the latest Big Ten freshman of the week, had five points, five rebounds and two steals in a low-key 19 minutes.

"He's a tough-headed guy," Terone Johnson said. "He's ready to play at all times. We have to get him to play where he's diving into that scouting report.

"Other than that, he brings energy, he brings another defensive player that can really guard out in the open. Offensively in transition he's been tremendous. I like his attitude. I can't say I've seen a day where he hasn't gone hard, and that's huge for us."

Maryland Eastern Shore was here for the guaranteed money, which goes with the low-major territory. You play brutal road schedules and, more than likely, lose while filling athletic department coffers.

The Hawks had previously lost at Iowa, at Navy, at Columbia, at Maryland Baltimore County and, two days earlier, at Oregon State. A trip to Mississippi State also is coming, along with an almost certain defeat, before they can focus on Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference competition.

Now Purdue gets a true road taste after going 1-2 in Orlando's Old Spice Classic. It wraps up nonconference play Sunday at West Virginia (7-4). It will be, as Maryland-Eastern Shore wasn't, perfect preparation for Big Ten play as well as a chance to boost postseason prospects.

“West Virginia is huge for us,” Johnson said. “We need that road win. We've lost on neutral floors.

“We have to go to West Virginia with a chip on our shoulders and get a win. We have to get into the scouting report and get ready to play.”

That's no fantasy.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Pete DiPrimio at pdiprimio@news-sentinel.com.