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October 30, 2013
Matt Painter reeled off a list of why he likes this year's Purdue team.
The versatility of players.
The ability to play different ways with different lineups and mixes.
The bulk of players willing to be coached.
The shooters in Kendall Stephens and Sterling Carter.
The ability to get to the rim with consistency from guards Terone Johnson, Ronnie Johnson, Bryson Scott and Rapheal Davis.
Some of those reasons showed up in the Boilermakers' first exhibition game Wednesday night, an 80-73 victory over Indianapolis in Mackey Arena.
Some of the concerns did, too.
In a typical exhibition opener, Purdue showcased some promise and showed how many more strides can be made by a young team.
"This is the first exhibition game. I thought we made a lot of mistakes, defensively and offensively, but I think there's a learning curve for that, and I think these guys are willing to sit down and watch film and learn and get better at it," said senior Terone Johnson, who had a game-high 17 points in 22 minutes. "I think everybody has a good attitude as far as listening and getting better. That's something we're going to have to have, especially going into the Big Ten with young guys. But like Coach Painter said, this is the year to do it for us, we're not trying to wait."
It was clear early, Johnson and Painter said, that Indianapolis was ready from the get and had the proper energy level. The Greyhounds - "It looked like the game meant more to them," Painter said - worked their way to a 33-27 lead with about five minutes left in the half as the Boilermakers struggled to make shots and keep Indy out of the lane.
But then Purdue woke up, limiting Indianapolis to one shot on most occasions thereafter in the half and picking up its aggressive play on offense, having Scott and Davis get points from the line after drives and Davis get a tip-in off a crash to the offensive glass. By the time Stephens' jumper banked in near the buzzer, the Boilermakers had used a 14-1 run to close the half with a 41-34 lead.
Painter wasn't happy that his team seemed to fall into a pattern of shooting too many quick three-pointers - and most of them didn't fall. The Boilermakers made only 5-of-17 three-pointers in the first half and came out with an eye on getting to the rim in the second.
That worked, largely, especially during a stretch midway through the half after Indy had pulled back within four points. Ronnie Johnson used a crossover to get a layup, Scott got to the rim easily for another, Terone Johnson sunk a floater in the lane, Davis drove from the corner for an inside bucket and Errick Peck got to the rim to push the lead back to a comfortable 70-54.
"Obviously we took too many threes in this game," Painter said. "We'll have to go back and watch the tape and learn from that. I think that's something with this team that we're going to have to closely monitor. We're going to have to get a good balance of drives, getting in the paint, deep post touches and also rhythm threes."
Scott got the start at point guard in place of Ronnie Johnson after winning the most competitive drills in practice, Painter said.
In 17 minutes, Scott had 11 points, nine coming from the free-throw line, five rebounds, zero assists and one turnover.
"I'm just doing what Painter wants me to do, really," Scott said. "He asked me to step up and be a starting point guard, that's what I'm going to do. Ronnie is just as capable of starting. He's probably going to start a lot of games this year over me. I'm just going to step up and do what I have to do and do my job, whatever Painter asks me to do."
Painter said he's "ecstatic" with Scott, who has shown a willingness to play hard and compete.
He's looking for the same out of Johnson, whom he called the team's best "quintessential point guard" but one who has more work to do.
"He needs to do some little things to help us win games," Painter said. "Hopefully, this will motivate him. I told Bryson, 'This could continue, you could start every single game. You might start one game. I didn't recruit you guys to start, I recruited you guys to win.' That's what I'm going to hang my hat on - guys who win, guys who go out there and week to week, game to game, keep getting better that are coachable. I'm not going to fight anybody over little things. ... I look forward to Ronnie competing and getting out there and being one of the better players in our league."
Without A.J. Hammons, serving the first of a three-game suspension for violation of team rules, the Boilermakers didn't go into the post much. Jay Simpson had one notable post-up for a bucket - backing his defender down, then sticking a turnaround jumper from the block - but mostly preferred to shoot from the perimeter. He made only 3-of-10 shots, including taking three three-pointers and making one, to score 10 points in 20 minutes.
Simpson, though, is eager to prove he's a different player than when he came into the program last season, and not only in appearance, slimmed down by nearly 30 pounds.
"Changing my body, it really helped me out mentally, too, because I got the confidence to play to this year," he said. "Last year, I really didn't have the confidence. I couldn't stay in the game more than two minutes. I feel a lot better."
Stephens said he was glad to get the jitters out of the way and play in his first Purdue game.
He scored 11 points on four-of-nine shooting, including making three of seven three-pointers. He also was credited with three blocks in 22 minutes.
All of his made three-pointers came from the left wing.
"I had a couple shots that I felt were bad shots for me, but Coach Painter has told me, when I pass up shots, he lets me know that I should be the one shooting them," Stephens said. "So he obviously doesn't like me passing up shots, so I just have to keep that in mind."
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