Matt Painter is quick to point out Purdue’s imperfections (there aren’t many)

Purdue men's basketball coach Matt Painter encourages his team as they play against Wisconsin recently in West Lafayette. (By The Associated Press)
Purdue guard Carsen Edwards drives to the basket past Iowa guard Isaiah Moss (4) during the first half of a recent game in Iowa City, Iowa. (By The Associated Press)

It has been 62 days since Purdue last dropped a men’s basketball game and the national adulation for the No. 3-ranked Boilermakers is smothering West Lafayette like a late January snowstorm.

However, despite his team’s success, veteran Purdue coach Matt Painter is adamant that all is NOT actually good within his program.

The thing that you have to do when you win,” Painter said recently, “because you are making mistakes, you’re obviously not making more than your opponent or you wouldn’t win, but you still have to make improvements and you still have to have a fight to you.”

The Boilermakers (19-2, 8-0 Big Ten) will try to climb back into a tie for first place in the league with unbeaten Ohio State (18-4, 9-0) when they host Michigan (17-5, 6-3) Thursday at 7 p.m. (ESPN).

Purdue hasn’t lacked much “fight” for over two months, but that isn’t preventing Painter from continually addressing any imperfections with his team’s execution.

“One thing that we keep talking to our team about in practice is really pushing them to improve and to see some of the mistakes that they are making,” Painter said. “That’s how you get better.”

Not to nit-pick with the experienced and proven coach, but he may be nit-picking with this team, particularly in the case of current Big Ten Player of the Week Carsen Edwards.

Over the past four games, the sophomore guard has totaled 76 points and 19 assists, while throwing the ball away just one time.

“He’s been really good here the past couple of weeks,” Painter said of Edwards, “in terms of getting the ball out of his hands, finding guys for shots, finding guys diving, and then taking his pull-up (jumper).”

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Edwards dished out eight assists, but still managed to score 22 points in a recent rout of Iowa, which is all great, but what has really stood out this season with him is his decision making.

As a freshman, Edwards had more turnovers (64) than he did assists (62). However, this season, those numbers aren’t even close.

Edwards has dished out 65 assists this year while only turning it over 38 times. He really hasn’t had a bad game in terms of turnovers since Purdue smoked Butler on Dec. 16 and Edwards threw it away five times.

“I really want him to try and probe the defense as much as possible and get into the paint,” Painter said. “The more that he can get into the paint the more I think that it will open up things for him.”

Which is what happened against Iowa.

Edwards is such a tremendous scorer, but now he brings the ability to find open teammates AND a high basketball intellect to the court. He is becoming nearly impossible to defend.

“He can shoot the basketball,” Painter said following the win in Iowa City. “He can get his own shot. We can try to manufacture a shot for him or he can make a play for himself or his teammates. It really puts people in binds when you’re that well rounded.”

As good as Purdue – and Edwards – is playing, and both have been awesome this season, Painter’s point regarding improving is valid.

The Boilermakers have been outshot from the free throw line in four consecutive games (though that really is attributed to the fact that they have been blazing from beyond the arc) and Painter’s team has been outrebounded in three of the past four games.

“That’s really what we try to do is stay and have that competitive edge,” Painter said, “but to also be honest with ourselves. We have had some things that weren’t perfect.”

“So (we’re) just trying to improve.”

That can be a challenge when every media outlet, both local and national, is ascending onto your program. That level of attention has been somewhat of a rarity over the course of these players’ careers.

“If you want to read every article about yourself,” Painter said, “I think you’ve got an issue, because you don’t want to read every article about yourself when you lose.”

“Just kind of keep that mature pulse to you as a young person and understand that there are people out there that are gunning for you the next game. That is how you win a championship.”

Purdue is the defending Big Ten champion, so Painter knows of what he preaches.

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


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