Up next for Purdue: Today at Nebraska
When: 4:15 p.m.
Where: Pinnacle Bank Arena
On the air: BTN
Records: Purdue (15-11 overall, 5-8 Big Ten), Nebraska (15-10, 7-6)
Expected starters for the Boilers: Ronnie Johnson – 6-0 sophomore guard, Terone Johnson – 6-4 senior guard, Sterling Carter -- 6-0 senior guard, Basil Smotherman – 6-5 freshman forward, A.J. Hammons – 7-foot sophomore center.
Update: After giving up a Mackey Arena record 17 three-pointers to Michigan State last Thursday, Purdue's perimeter defense is a big concern. But then, when you go on the Big Ten road, concern is everywhere you look. That's especially true given Nebraska is the conference's hottest team. The Cornhuskers have won four straight and six of their last seven. That includes a nine-point win at Michigan State. They have a Big Ten MVP candidate in Terran Petteway, who averages 17.7 points. Shavan Shields averages 11.8 points and 5.4 rebounds.
There's been no freshman wall for Purdue guard Kendall Stephens. In the last for games he's averaged 12.8 points, going 12-for-26 on three-pointers. He leads Big Ten freshmen in Big Ten three-point baskets (55) and is 12 away from breaking E'Twaun Moore's school freshman record. Point guard Ronnie Johnson has elevated his play. In the last seven games he has 25 assists against nine turnovers. He's averaged 16.5 points in his last two games and has scored in double figures a team-best 20 times. He and former Fort Wayne standout Eugene Parker are the only Boilers to total more than 600 points and more than 200 assists by the end of their sophomore seasons. Purdue's prospects in these last five regular season games could come down to senior Terone Johnson, who continues to struggle. Over the last four games he's averaging 7.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists. He's shooting just 29.3 percent from the field and has made just one of his last 11 free throw attempts. On the positive side, he shoots 74.4 percent from the line on the road.
Purdue has two other road games remaining: at No. 15 Iowa (this game has been moved from March 1 to March 2) and at No. 16 Wisconsin. In other words, today would appear to be their best chance at a road victory. Nobody ever said the Big Ten was easy.
Coach Matt Painter: (On the grind of long season): “It's hard for everybody. It lessens as you get older. It gets very hard to be able to continue go to class, to be on time, to do what you're supposed to. A lot of people don't realize how difficult it is to be a successful student-athlete. There are a lot of demands on you. People have no idea of the sacrifices student-athletes have to make. The ones who are successful in the classroom and on the court, it's hard work. They didn't get there by slipping on a banana peel. They got there because they out-worked people. The guys who have been successful in our program are guys who put in more time than we ask them to. The guys who don't are the guys who put in less time. It's not a big secret. Guys who love it, fight through things. That's their craft. Guys don't love it as much they want it over. Those are the guys we want to keep out of our locker room.”