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Purdue's Painter pulls no basketball punches

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Struggling Boilers hope for turnaround at Iowa

Saturday, March 1, 2014 - 1:46 pm

Matt Painter is a pull-no punches guy. He doesn't dodge the truth behind cliché or coaching babble.

Take, for instance, his thoughts on Purdue's progress this season as it prepares for Sunday's game at Iowa. The Boilers have talent, but have stumbled to a 15-13 record with eight losses in their last 10 games. Some of it is due to youth, some to bad shooting, some to bad turnovers at key times.

Purdue is last in the Big Ten in free throw shooting (66.6 percent). It misses as many layups as any team in the conference, if not the nation. At times it plays, well, dumb.

Yes, this burns a coach who led the Boilers to six straight NCAA tourney appearances, including two Sweet 16s, before last year's 16-18 disappointment.

“No, I'm not (pleased with the team's progress). I felt like we should have played better. Defensively we have too many breakdowns. A lot of it is mental. It's just not having the discipline to carry out assignments, having the discipline to make good decisions and take good shots. When we do, good things happen. We don't and then we hurt ourselves.

“We're the worst free throw shooting team in the league. You've got to work your tail off to get layups and get to the free throw line and make your opponent pay, and then you miss them. There's no excuse for it. You should make your free throws. We haven't done that. I'm not pleased with it.”

Three defeats have been especially displeasing given Purdue was just a play or two away from victory -- the 82-79 loss at Minnesota, the 63-60 double-overtime loss at Northwestern and last Wednesday's 77-76 loss to No. 16 Michigan.

“You don't mind if you play a really good team that just plays better than you,” Painter said. “You just don't like beating yourself. I think we beat ourselves too much as far as turnovers and shot selection and then some inconsistent defense in terms of carrying out our assignments.

“That's been the most frustrating part. We're trying to get the most consistency and find some wins. We want to get two, three, four wins in a row. If you can do that in the Big Ten tourney, you put yourself in position for an automatic (NCAA tourney) bid.”

Leadership has been a big problem, and Painter knows where the the responsibility lies.

“I've done a poor job in recruiting natural leaders. That's my fault. You hear coaches talk and put (the problems and responsibility) on the kids. In a nutshell, it's my fault.

“We don't have any juniors. We only have one guy in our program (senior Terone Johnson) who has been here four years who consistently plays. We have a lot of younger guys who have some good physical ability, but they don't have that leadership yet that we really need.

“Some is because of lack of experience. Some because they're not natural leaders. Some guys don't like that responsibility. They have to get out of their own skin and their own comfort zone. You want kids to get out of their comfort zone, to do the right things, to say the right things, to stand up for the right things. That's leadership. It's hard. It's a hard thing to do.”

Now comes No. 20 Iowa, which has lost three straight to fall to 19-9. Painter hopes the Boilers can build on the solid play from the Michigan loss. That includes making 17-of-18 free throws.

“We can take some positives in how we played in stretches. We had a chance to win. We had some things go against us. We had some turnovers, but we had a chance to win the game twice and we didn't. That's all you can ask for. We've got to close out the game.”