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Guard play could decide Purdue’s NCAA chances

Iowa State point guard Monte Morris reacts during Thursday's NCAA tourney win over Nevada at Milwaukee. (Photo by the Associated Press)
Iowa State point guard Monte Morris reacts during Thursday's NCAA tourney win over Nevada at Milwaukee. (Photo by the Associated Press)

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UP NEXT: Purdue (26-7) vs. Iowa State (24-10) Midwest Regional, Milwaukee


TIPOFF: 9:45 p.m., Saturday


TV: TBS


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

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press

Surging Iowa State presents contrasting challenge

Friday, March 17, 2017 04:48 pm
MILWAUKEE, Wis. — P.J. Thompson is in the minority. He understands that. He’s convinced he can do what needs to be done, that his fellow Purdue guards can do what needs to be done against Iowa State’s guard-loaded Cyclones, and to heck what others think. If he’s right, the fourth-seed Boilers (26-7) will advance to next week’s Sweet 16 in Kansas City.

If he’s not, well, let others dwell about that.

“We’re here now,” he said. “It’s time to show up.”

Fifth-seed Iowa State (24-10) has one of the nation’s top point guards in Monte Morris. The 6-3 All-America senior leads the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio, at 5.33 assists for every turnover. Since Feb. 1, it’s 6-to-1.

For the season, he averages 16.4 points, 6.1 assists and 4.9 rebounds.

Asked if he’s the nation’s best point guard, Morris didn’t hesitate.

“Definitely,” he said.

“He’s so fast and way he changes pace, he does it at a NBA level,” Purdue guard Dakota Mathias said.

The 5-10 Thompson, who will draw the initial defensive assignment on Morris, doesn’t come close to those numbers. He’s smaller, slower and less athletic. It seems an unfair mismatch.

Thompson’s response — bring it on.

“He’s one of the better guards in the country,” Thompson said. “He’s proven that year after year. He’s a great player. He’s their go-to guy.”

Thompson has faced plenty of top-level point guards in his three Purdue seasons, including Maryland’s Melo Trimble, Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell and Michigan’s Derrick Walton.

“That prepared me for this moment,” he said. “To get where we want to go, you’ve got to play against the best anyway. It’s just another step.”

Iowa State is a huge contrast from Purdue’s inside-out approach. It starts four senior guards, all of whom average at least 12.1 points a game. The other starter is 6-8 freshman forward Solomon Young.

Of their top three reserves, two are also guards.

Beyond that, the Cyclones have won 10 of their last 11 games with an offense that averages 81.0 points.

The Boilers can’t wait, Thompson said.

“This is something you dream about, to go against one of the most talked about point guards in the country, one of the best offenses in the country. It’s a chance to go to the Sweet 16. You can’t beat it.

“Now that we finally got that first-round win, the nerves aren’t as bad. I love where we’re at.”

Not everyone loves the Boiler guards. They were often a liability last season, but made major improvements this year, which was a big reason for the Big Ten championship.

“We knew we had to get better,” Thompson said. “We knew we let our team down at times last year. We needed to make plays and we didn’t. That put a chip on our shoulders to prove everybody wrong.

“We feel we do what we’re asked to do at Purdue at a high level. We know what kind of moment this is and how people talk about the Purdue guards.”

Iowa State’s backcourt experience concerns Painter.

“They start four seniors and you don’t see that all the time now in college basketball. They’re just a skilled team. They have good size, good quickness and athleticism.”

While Purdue features 6-9 Caleb Swanigan and 7-2 Isaac Haas, the contrast isn’t quite the size-against-speed matchup some suggest, Painter added.

“We do have good perimeter and interior play. We don’t only score on the inside. We have guys who can really shoot on the perimeter.”

Iowa State Steve Prohm said defense will determine the winner.

“The biggest thing for us to win is we’ve got to be the tougher team on the defensive end. It’s not about offense. We’re going to do the offense we do. Can we extend their catches, have great ball pressure, defend the post, rebound and finish plays?

“We’ve got to play with great toughness. We’ve got to play with an edge.”



More Information

UP NEXT: Purdue (26-7) vs. Iowa State (24-10) Midwest Regional, Milwaukee


TIPOFF: 9:45 p.m., Saturday


TV: TBS


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

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