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November 19, 2012
Matt Painter's pretty sure his team is better than its 1-3 record.
The Boilermaker coach has seen his team lose three close games in its first four outings, this new-look Purdue team showing flashes in all three games only to fall short in the games' decisive sequences.
"I like our ability," Painter said. "That probably stands out. I've coached teams before who've struggled, and you wonder, 'Hey, do we have enough pieces?' I don't wonder about that (with this team). I wonder about our maturity and our toughness and making good decisions and those things are by-products of youth.
"That would be great if it were just our freshmen. But I think it's our older guys being able to accept their roles and do what they need to do. We have too many guys on our team playing through their shooting. And if you live and die with your shooting, you're going to be dead a lot. You have to live and die on your effort and your defense and your ability to make good decisions, then just keep working on your shooting to where if it goes in, great, and if not you're still a quality basketball player."
Painter was asked Monday morning about his team's "identity."
"I don't think we have one," he said. "I think we have an identity crisis right now, because guys are thinking about themselves and thinking about their scoring instead of thinking of the things that help Purdue win. It's really disappointing because we have guys who are older who have been here that understand that but aren't doing it.
"It's funny you ask that, because it's the thing I said in the locker room right after Oregon State beat us: 'We have an identity crisis, because we have people in this room who don't get it who haven't been here before, and that's OK - that's why we coach and that's why we're here to help them - but when people don't get it who have been here before, that's not a good sign.'"
Purdue is playing five freshmen significant minutes, but as has been Painter's recurring message following maddening losses to Villanova and Oregon State in New York City, youth has only been part of the problem.
"We've had the talent to beat every team we've played," Painter said. "We haven't had the maturity to win close games and play together at (key) times."
Young big men A.J. Hammons and Jay Simpson each came into the season with the probability they could play major roles on Purdue's front line, but also questions about their conditioning and how well equipped they are to play big minutes or for long stretches.
Hammons, coming off a 20-point, eight-rebound game against Oregon State, is averaging 15.8 minutes; Simpson, who's been pretty productive in limited minutes, is averaging 9.5.
"Jay could play more in spurts," Painter said, "but I don't think he can play longer in the time he's been given. He can get another spurt in there somewhere, maybe another three- or four-minute segment each half because he sits out long periods of time. But in terms of when he goes in and how long he stays, I think that has to stay where it is. And we have to monitor him and pull him out when he's about to hit that wall.
"A.J. has to be a little more consistent in his approach to what's going on every single day. He's a lot better, and you saw (what he can do) with his 20 points and eight rebounds in 20 minutes. He's shown his promise. We just have to get consistency from him, not just in scoring but in those other areas like defense and rebounding, blocking shots, stopping the basketball. If he can get solid in those areas, he's really going to be helpful to our team."
Painter on his team's health after four games, including Simpson, who hobbled off the court against Oregon State: "We're fine."
After four games senior D.J. Byrd is shooting just 35.6 percent and has turned the ball over a dozen times already, only six fewer giveaways than he committed all of last season.
"It's also that we're not doing a good enough job offensively being patient," Painter said. "He's not a guy who's going to create his own (shot) all the time, so we have to be able to manufacture good shots by being patient, moving the basketball and breaking the defense down. When we don't show that patience that hurts his chances in terms of getting a good one, and then he gets frustrated and becomes part of the problem, instead of showing more patience at that time. It's a hard thing to do as a basketball player: You get frustrated and you get mad at somebody for doing something, then you turn around and do the same thing. That doesn't make sense, but we've all done it as a player. We just have to get everybody on the same page in terms of everybody understanding how we're going to win.
"He's proven that. That's what I told him when I met with him: 'What we're asking you to do, you've already done. So just keep your bearings about you and keep your patience even when things aren't going your way.' We're just trying to get guys to understand we're trying to probe the defense and move the basketball, so we can get a good shot."
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