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February 19, 2013
Purdue's a program that's won a lot of games with players most of whom accustomed to winning prior to their college careers.
So the Boilermakers' struggles lately have been, well, a struggle. Purdue's lost five of its last six, all the losses coming in one-sided fashion.
One of the few players on the roster who's experienced such struggles at any level is freshman Rapheal Davis, whose Fort Wayne South Side team didn't win much his freshman and junior seasons.
"Everybody's lost before," Davis said, "but I think I might be the only person who's lost this much in one season."
In a season in which effort and work ethic have been questioned over and over, Davis has been one of those for which neither has been an issue.
"You may lose one day, but you always have the next day to come out and fight and get better," Davis said. "If you keep your head down, you're not going to get any better. If you lose one game, you have to wake up the next morning and go fight for the next."
That's been the goal for some time now for Purdue, which, barring an improbable Big Ten Tournament title, will almost certainly see its run of consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances end at six.
What's transpired lately - a series of blowout losses, including two losses to rival Indiana by a combined 65 points - is not what Purdue is used to.
Confidence might now be an issue, or so freshman point guard Ronnie Johnson made it sound.
"I don't know," Johnson said when asked if Purdue remains confident. "... I don't think so. I think we could have more confidence."
Added senior D.J. Byrd, "Some (players' confidence is) higher than others."
In Byrd's case, he was part of the past three Purdue teams that combined to win 77 games. It's been an especially foreign experience for him.
"It's a lot different," Byrd said. "It really makes you humbled and makes you appreciate the opportunity you have and know you have to put forth the effort to maintain a winning team and play a winning style."
If Purdue is going to right the ship, it now has a week to do it.
It's the Boilermakers' bye week, giving them eight days between Saturday's loss at IU and Sunday's home game vs. Northwestern.
"It's a good time to work on things we need to work on," Ronnie Johnson said, "and get our confidence back offensively and defensively."
It's also a chance for players to sit back and hope whatever lessons can be learned from losing sink in.
"The break's helpful for us," Davis said, "to get back on the floor together and try to fix all the issues we have, watch film, get shots up, rest our brains up, work hard and try to come together mentally. We have to focus on Northwestern Sunday. This is a good eight days, especially with the offense they run, to get all our defensive principles down. It's a good break for us."
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