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December 18, 2012

Purdue adjusts without Simpson

Jacob Lawson was Mr. High Energy for Purdue against Ball State on Tuesday, grabbing a career-high 11 rebounds and blocking two shots in 23 minutes.

That kind of production will need to come consistently with the Boilermakers now down a man in their power forward rotation.

Jay Simpson spent the game on the bench in his warmup gear, and it's a spot he'll stay the rest of the season.

Despite playing in the first 10 games, Coach Matt Painter opted to pull the plug on Simpson's freshman season because the forward has been dealing with nagging foot pain.

Simpson broke his foot in the spring, which forced him to rev up his conditioning in the fall to cut weight and regain health.

But it apparently wasn't enough.

"Nothing's changed" recently with Simpson's status, Painter said after Purdue's 66-56 victory. "He's had soreness in his foot the whole time, and he's played through it. He's lost weight and he's gotten better, but it still wasn't at a point where he wanted it to be. He's a real talented kid. I think he's got a chance to be a great player for us."

Simpson hadn't played more than 11 minutes in a game this season and got only two against Clemson. He averaged 2.6 points and 2.3 rebounds in the first 10 games.

He waged quite a fight just to get ready to play, reaching Painter's mandated weight drop to 250 pounds by Game 1 by working with the team trainer in early-morning workouts in the offseason, among other things. Simpson didn't redshirt initially because Painter said he was probably the team's most talented player with his ability to dribble, pass and shoot at his size.

Now, though, that's going to be what Simpson is hoping for.

He will apply for a medical hardship waiver to get the season back, and NCAA rules would seem to give him a chance.

The timing of sitting Simpson likely wasn't random: A player can't be granted a waiver if he's played in more than 30 percent of his team's games in the first half of the season. Purdue will play at least 32 games this season, allowing Simpson 9.6 games to play (rounded up to 10) before being disqualified for eligibility to apply.

When asked Monday what he planned to focus on during the break from classes, Simpson gave no indication he would be slowing down.

"Just really trying to get stronger, play harder and play smarter," he said.

Those just as easily could be the goals for Lawson and redshirt freshman Donnie Hale, the other likely option to see minutes increase in Simpson's absence, unless Painter decides to go back to a small lineup.

Hale played 13 minutes against Ball State after missing the Notre Dame game with a thigh injury. He had four points on 1-of-4 shooting and had a rebound and a steal.

Lawson reached the 20-minute mark for only the second time this season against the Cardinals, and he made them count.

He started for the sixth time this season and came out fired up, despite shaking off a cold he's had for the past three or four days that included chest congestion and a sore body. Lawson had seven rebounds in the first, matching his previous career-high best of four in the first four minutes.

"That's what we need from him - he's an energy guy and he needs to be that way at all times," Painter said. "He's been up and down, but you can say our team has been up and down. … What Jacob Lawson did tonight, he can do every night. Sometimes you can't make seven threes a night if you're a shooter. But he can do what he did tonight every single night. Hopefully, this motivates him."

Copyright, Boilers, Inc. 2012. All Rights Reserved. Reproducing or using editorial or graphical content, in whole or in part, without permission, is strictly prohibited. E-mail GoldandBlack.com/Boilers, Inc.

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