Dakota Mathias is going out in a big way for Purdue

Purdue guard Dakota Mathias, left, drives past Maryland guard Anthony Cowan in the second half of a game in College Park, Md. Friday. (By The Associated Press)
Purdue guard Dakota Mathias (31) shoots against Maryland guard Dion Wiley in the first half of a game in College Park, Md. Friday. (By The Associated Press)
Purdue University men's basketball coach Matt Painter directs his players in the second half of a game against Maryland in College Park, Md. Friday. (By The Associated Press)
Maryland guard Kevin Huerter, center, tries to protect the ball from Purdue guards Carsen Edwards, right, and Dakota Mathias in the first half of a game in College Park, Md. Friday. (By The Associated Press)

Every college athlete is supposed to develop through time and finish their careers performing at their best. The story doesn’t always unfold that way, but it often does, and in the case of Purdue guard Dakota Mathias, he is taking that philosophy to an absolutely absurd level.

The 6-foot-4 senior is not only playing the best basketball of his career at this juncture, but veteran Boilermaker coach Matt Painter said that Mathias has become one of the best nationally at his position in some regards.

“He’s one of the most efficient players in the country,” Painter said following a recent win over Louisville in Mackey Arena.

Mathias put together his eighth really good game – at both ends of the floor – in nine outings Friday to lift the Boilermakers to an 80-75 win at Maryland to open the Big Ten season.

Purdue will host Northwestern Sunday at 4 p.m. (BTN).

It was the third consecutive victory for the Boilermakers (7-2, 1-0 Big Ten) over a nationally-relevant program (they beat Arizona in addition to Louisville and Maryland) in eight days and Mathias has played a huge role in each of those.

“When you talk about Purdue,” Painter said, “sometimes people don’t mention his name, and that is crazy. He’s been our most efficient guy offensively.”

Against Maryland, Mathias hit 7 of 10 shots, including 4 of 6 from long range, as he finished with 20 points.

“He’s put in a lot of hard work into his shot,” Painter said. “He has great mechanics and has a nice release.”

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For the season (and no, these numbers aren’t typos), Mathias is connecting on 57 percent of his shots overall and 55 percent from 3-point range. Those numbers are drastic improvements from last year, which was his best statistical year to that point.

As a junior, Mathias shot a very respectable 47 percent from the floor, and an even more impressive 45 percent from long range, as he averaged a career-best 9.7 points per game. However, compared to this insane (in a positive sense) season, last year was fairly pedestrian.

“He’s just a really good player,” Painter said.

Notice that Painter used the word “player,” and not just “shooter,” to describe Mathias. That is because as good of a shooter as he is (Mathias is averaging a career-best 16 points per game); he is just as impressive in many other areas of play.

Mathias has evolved into not just Purdue’s most efficient offensive player, but he is also the Boilermakers’ best defender.

In the Louisville win, he limited Cardinal star Deng Adel into missing 10 of 15 shots and in Friday’s win, Terrapin scorer Kevin Huerter didn’t manage a shot attempt in the final 2:13, as Purdue made enough plays down the stretch to win.

“Mathias can guard,” Painter said late Friday following the win. “Sometimes people don’t want to give him credit, but Mathias is a really good defensive player.”

Maryland tried to limit Mathias’ offensive contributions by “crowding him” defensively. Painter explained that when teams do that, the Purdue coaches will simply “make him into a passer” and put him on the same side of the court with Boiler center Isaac Haas to prevent double-teams.

Against Maryland, Mathias dished out nine assists and only turned the ball over twice in 33 minutes. If he would’ve passed for one more assist he would’ve become the first Purdue player in 30 years to score 20 points AND pass for 10 assists in a game.

“He can really pass the ball,” Painter said. “He can affect the game a couple of different ways.”

For the season, Mathias has a startling 44 assists (a team best) and just nine assists.

In addition to the shooting, passing, and guarding the opponents’ best perimeter scorer, Mathias is also active on the glass and is averaging five rebounds per game, and oh, for good measure, he is second on the team with 13 steals.

“He’s our best perimeter defender,” Painter concluded, “and he’s our most efficient player. We have a lot of other quality players, but he’s a guy that when he comes in, he’s very, very steady and knows what’s going on. He’s really built on it and put a lot of time into it.”

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