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Posted on Mon, Jan 18, 2010 : 2:16 p.m.

Purdue continues to struggle, leaving Boilermakers coach Matt Painter to question his team

By Michael Rothstein


Purdue head coach Matt Painter yells at referee during the second half of an NCAA college men's basketball game against Northwestern in Evanston, Ill.

AP photo

For two months, Purdue looked like one of the best basketball teams in the country, the class of a crowded Big Ten and a legitimate Top 5 power.

Then, in the past nine days, it has unraveled. After winning their first 16 games, the Boilermakers have lost three straight, scoring less than 70 points in each loss.

They’ve squandered leads and fell behind early. And it has all left Purdue’s coach, Matt Painter, all of a sudden wondering about his team’s toughness.

“We have some experienced players that are not being very productive right now,” Painter said. “Not playing hard. That’s why we got to that point, because I thought we played hard and played together and here in the past couple weeks, I felt it in the Minnesota game, we won by 19 but I said it publicly, I thought Minnesota played better than us.”

Purdue beat Minnesota, 79-60, on Jan. 5. It’s also the last game the Boilermakers have won. Since then, Purdue has lost at Wisconsin and Northwestern and home against Ohio State - the latter a game where junior forward Robbie Hummel dominated the first half with 29 points but had no help around him.

The Buckeyes recovered and ended up knocking off Purdue, which fell from sixth to No. 13 in the latest Associated Press media poll.

And with games ahead at Illinois and home against suddenly resurgent Michigan (4 p.m., Saturday, ESPN), it isn’t getting easier as Painter looks for answers.

“We have to get some guys that are going to play harder, just flat be tougher and make plays,” Painter said. “We have a couple guys in Robbie Hummel and E’Twan Moore that I think are playing at a pretty high level but it’s a huge drop-off from there.”

Return of Turner

Ohio State coach Thad Matta knew he’d have impact junior, Evan Turner, back before the end of the season.

The way Turner has returned from fracturing his back in December has surprised the Buckeyes coach. After scoring eight points in his return against Indiana on Jan. 6, he’s been back to his old ways before the injury.

He scored 19 points against Minnesota, 15 against Wisconsin and led his team to a come-from-behind win at Purdue by scoring 32 points.

“Basketball is not like riding a bike, it just doesn’t come back to you when you get on it,” Matta said. “I was surprised in the Indiana game because he had practiced one time leading into that game and he was a little bit sloppy and his timing wasn’t great.

“But he’s a kid that cares and wants to do really well so maybe it isn’t as surprising from that standpoint.”

In less than two weeks, Turner reasserted himself into both the conference and national Player of the Year races.

Improving Indiana

While they aren’t ready to compete for a league championship yet and are still extremely young, Indiana is starting to look more like a Big Ten team again.

A year after winning one Big Ten game the entire season, the Hoosiers have two Big Ten wins in the first month, knocking off Michigan on New Year’s Eve, 69-45, and then beating Minnesota in overtime, 81-78.

“We really are making strides,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “We won some games this year that a year ago we would have had no chance to win. There’s still a lot of hard lessons for us to go through but if you can get a win over a team like Minnesota yesterday, beat a team like Pittsburgh that is playing so well, beat Michigan at home in the opening Big Ten game.

“Those give the players belief and hope that this is all going to work out.”

This and that

Matta said he recently received an e-mail touting the playing abilities of a fourth-grader. He laughed and then deleted the note. … Iowa had to practice from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on Friday before its game against Penn State because of a scheduling conundrum at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. A gymnastics meet was scheduled there the rest of the day.

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan basketball for He can be reached at (734) 623-2558, by e-mail by or follow along on Twitter @mikerothstein.