Purdue strategy is simple, start with Haas

Purdue center Isaac Haas (44) shoots over Northwestern center Dererk Pardon (5) in the second half of a game last month in West Lafayette. (By The Associated Press)
Purdue men's basketball coach Matt Painter directs his players in the second half of a game earlier this season against Maryland in College Park, Md. (By The Associated Press)
Purdue forward Vincent Edwards (12) shoots over Northwestern center Dererk Pardon (5) in the first half of a game last month in West Lafayette. (By The Associated Press)

The good news for the Purdue men’s basketball squad in its game with Rutgers tonight (7 p.m., BTN) at Mackey Arena is that the Boilers, as they are with almost every team in the country, are bigger than the Scarlet Knights in the paint.

The bad news, however, is that Rutgers, despite its lack of size, is a hard-working and athletic team that attacks the glass with a ferocity.

“Rutgers is a good rebounding team,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said recently. “I want (our players) to limit their opportunities on the glass.”

The Scarlet Knights are averaging over 44 boards per game and no player is more effective than forward Deshawn Freeman.

The 6-foot-7 forward is pulling down nearly nine rebounds per game.

A strategy for Purdue will be not only to simply keep Freeman off of the glass, but perhaps to put him on the bench.

“The one thing about guys who drive the basketball or guys that post deep,” Painter said of his offensive strategy, “is that you’re going to draw some fouls. The quicker that you can get into the bonus and get to the free throw line with a great free throw shooting team, it’s only going to help you.”

Purdue can check all of those boxes in that guard Carsen Edwards and forward Vince Edwards can put the ball on the floor and draw fouls, while senior center Isaac Haas can post deep and do the same.

As a team, the 13th-ranked Boilermakers (13-2, 2-0 Big Ten) are shooting accurately (75.4 percent) from the line and abundantly (Purdue has made 52 more free throws than its opponents have attempted) and that offensive strategy that Painter alluded to begins by throwing the ball into Haas.

“That is the one thing about establishing (Haas) early in the game,” Painter explained, “you also can get the back-up (defender) in too. You can get starters out (and) you can get back-ups in.”

“There are just a lot of positives that come with getting the ball inside.”

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The problem for Rutgers from a defensive strategy is that if the Scarlet Knights (10-5, 0-2) worry too much about Haas inside, then Purdue has the shooters to crush Rutgers from the perimeter. So the Boilers’ focus can begin with throwing the ball inside, but Painter said that comes with some caution.

“When you have a balanced team,” Painter said, “you can be aggressive, but it’s got to be there. When it’s not there, you’ve got to move the ball. You’ve got to have trust within your teammates.”

“For us, we’re trying to get (Haas) the ball a lot, but we’re also trying to get the other guys the ball.”

That balancing attack of knowing when to throw it inside or when to show patience is a “concern” for Painter as his team reenters Big Ten play.

“It’s not red flags as much as it is a concern,” Painter said of his offense. “We have some guys that can shoot the basketball and make plays, but sometimes when we go a little bit too quick and we don’t get the ball in the paint enough, it really hurts us.”

“When we move the ball and get the ball in the paint, good things happen for us. But sometimes when we shoot quickly and don’t get the ball in the paint, we have struggles.”

It’s a nice dilemma to have, but the Boilermakers are shooting over 41 percent as a team from 3-point range, so that belief in themselves can lead to a “too quick” offense. Guys like Carsen Edwards (51 percent shooting), Vince Edwards (44 percent), Dakota Mathias (49 percent), and P.J. Thompson (48 percent) all can make shots at a high rate.

“Sometimes confidence in yourself can’t get in the way of the reality of what is going on in a particular situation,” Painter said. “You’ve got to have numbers; you’ve got to have angles. When you have those things, be aggressive. When you don’t, you’ve got to move the ball and make (opponents) play in the half court.”

For more on college basketball, follow Tom Davis on Twitter at Tom101010 and on Facebook at Thomas Davis.