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February 19, 2012

Adjusting without Barlow, Byrd

Purdue lost its first game without Kelsey Barlow, who was dismissed from the team on Friday.

Without him, 5-foot-9 guard Lewis Jackson was stuck guarding Michigan State's 6-5 Austin Thornton, who scored 17 points in the No. 7 Spartans' 76-62 victory.

Without Barlow, the Boilermakers endured a stretch to start the second half in which it missed 22 of 23 shots.

Without Barlow, the team's second-leading rebounder, Purdue was outrebounded by 12.

Barlow, a 6-5 junior guard, brought athleticism, an ability to defend multiple positions and a burst of quickness to the basket on offense. They were skills that had him being watched by some NBA scouts.

But basketball abilities weren't what will keep Barlow from returning to the Boilermakers' bench.

And they weren't what Coach Matt Painter, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo and players were lamenting on Sunday.

"When something happens and you have to part ways with guys, it doesn't make you feel good," said Painter, speaking for the first time since making the decision to dismiss Barlow. "Because in a way I failed also because you're trying to reach people. That's our job. That's what we do. But you wish him well and you hope things work out. If this decision helped him in life, then so be it."

Barlow was suspended prior to the NCAA Tournament last season for conduct detrimental to the team. But Painter welcomed him back to the team for 2011-12, though Barlow was being watched closely. Ultimately, Barlow's role in an off-campus incident early Friday morning ended his Purdue career.

"It is disappointing. There's no doubt about it," Painter said. "It's disappointing because when you put in time with guys and you give guys a second chance, that's what it's all about. You think about somebody sticking by you. I know I had people stick by me maybe when they shouldn't have done it. I stood by somebody, and it didn't pay off and I feel like I let our team down by doing that because I think I made a decision that was best for an individual and in the long run wasn't best for our team."

Senior tri-captain Ryne Smith, for one, seemed confident Purdue would be able to absorb Barlow's loss.

"I think we're going to come together as a team better," Smith said. "Honestly, I think it's addition by subtraction."

Izzo has kicked players out of his program for off-court issues - Chris Allen and Korie Lucious most recently - and said he felt Painter and his staff did a great job preparing Purdue to play on Sunday despite the circumstances. The Boilermakers led 38-35 at halftime but were doomed by an inability to make shots in the second half.

Izzo said he thought Purdue missed Barlow and D.J. Byrd, who was suspended for the game after being arrested on suspicion of public intoxication but still said he thinks Purdue is a "very good" team.

"For (Barlow), from what I know, it's just a shame," Izzo said. "He was starting to play well. … It's mind-boggling to me. I've had guys that I thought were sure pros and ruined it. Til the day I get out of it, I'll never understand it."

There aren't concerns with how junior Byrd will respond when he's, presumably, back on the court for the Boilermakers against Nebraska on Wednesday.

Byrd was arrested early Friday morning on suspicion of public intoxication and was suspended for the game against the Spartans.

"D.J. is coming to come back in full force," Smith said. "He's a great player for us. I tell you one thing, when he comes back on Wednesday night, he's going to be ready to go."

Byrd has been playing the best complete basketball of his career during the Big Ten season. He has scored in double figure in five consecutive games and made 50 percent of his three-pointers in league play.

"I think D.J. Byrd is a great kid. He made a mistake and hopefully he learns from it, and I think he will," Painter said. "He'll respond. It's like taking Ryne Smith and Lewis Jackson out of the stating lineup. Anytime you take character out of the starting lineup and do something, character always responds. D.J. Byrd has got character. He'll respond."




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