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January 29, 2013
Terone Johnson knows what Purdue must expect from Wednesday night's game against third-ranked Indiana.
"Forty minutes of sprinting," the Boilermaker leading scorer said.
While Purdue has improved considerably in recent weeks defensively - opponents are shooting just 39 percent in league games - a remaining deficiency has been transition D.
Indiana will be the ultimate test in that sense.
The Hoosiers are the second-highest scoring team in college basketball, averaging 83.3 points per game. Those numbers do remain propped up some by a host of non-conference games against badly overmatched opponents, but since the start of Big Ten play, only top-ranked Michigan has scored more points than the Hoosiers' league-play average of 72.
IU is well-rounded on offense, with an interior threat in Cody Zeller, wings who can penetrate and some of the Big Ten's finest three-point shooters.
But it's in the open floor where the Hoosiers are especially potent.
Zeller runs the floor as well as any big man in the game; point guard Yogi Ferrell's as fast in the open court as any who play his position; and shooters Jordan Hulls (49.5) percent and Christian Watford (45.5) must be accounted for at all times, but especially in transition.
"We have to get back in transition," senior D.J. Byrd said. "Obviously Cody Zeller runs the floor really well, along with (Victor Oladipo) and (Will Sheehey, those guys on the wing. We have to be able to get back on defense and rebound. Those are the two biggest things.
"Even on makes they get the ball out and try to run to get easy buckets, open threes and that sort of thing. That's one of the biggest parts of the game for us: Getting back on defense."
Purdue knows full-well, though, that part of a sound defense is a sound offense.
As the Boilermakers have improved defensively, reflected in Sunday's shackling of Iowa, one of its greatest defensive issues has been its own offensive failings, its maddening tendency to allow poor judgment at one end of the floor to impact the other.
Purdue isn't just throwing the ball away like it did at times earlier this season, when turnovers literally cost it games, but it still endures spurts of puzzling shot selection and wrong decisions at the wrong times.
"Coach (Matt) Painter just says, 'Bad shots lead to them scoring at the other end,'" point guard Ronnie Johnson said. "We have to take good shots, jam the ball and the slow the ball up in transition. And we all have to sprint up and down the court and get back (on defense).
"We're going to push the ball in transition, but when things slow down, we just have to get the best shot we can and shots the person can make."
Painter disagreed that the result of Wednesday night's game might be determined by "tempo."
"The one thing you can control is taking care of the basketball and making good decisions. We're going to score more points if we're patient and if we make good decisions," Painter said. "Sometimes being more efficient with fewer possessions is going to help this team score more points than getting a whole bunch of possessions and shooting the ball quick.
"If you have a lot of talent and a lot of skill, that can work for you. We're not in that position at this time, because we've not shot the ball as consistently as we'd like it. You can have an outlier game and knock down shots and it can be the difference in the game. But for our team, we need to be consistent on both ends of the court instead of trying to dictate how the tempo is. I think you can set the tempo through your decision-making and discipline."
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