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March 11, 2013

Turnaround excites Painter

A couple weeks ago, Coach Matt Painter wanted his team in the postseason.

Now, he really, really wants his team in the postseason.

"A month ago, it's a situation where you're trying to beg people to do stuff, just basic things, and now they're fun to coach," Painter said Monday morning, after his team closed a turbulent regular season with three consecutive strong showings, winning two of three. "It's fun to coach when everyone's on the same page. … You want to start over and play 30 games, but that's not quite the way it works. Hopefully we can continue and keep playing games here. This is am exciting time of the year."

At 15-16, Purdue's only path to the NCAA Tournament is through the Big Ten Tournament, which it will have to win to make its seventh consecutive Big Dance.

The NIT has never taken a sub-.500 team, but could, and the Boilermakers' 8-10 record in a Big Ten considered the top league in college basketball - and the possibility it could be the first team left out of the NCAA from the Big Ten if both Iowa and Minnesota get in - could give the NIT reason to be interested. It would be a moot point if the Boilermakers can beat Nebraska and Ohio State in Chicago and guarantee themselves a .500 record.

But if neither the NCAA Tournament nor NIT happen, Purdue will pursue a place in the College Basketball Invitational, it would appear. That would require Purdue to pay a hosting fee to become the first Big Ten team to play in the CBI.

But given his team's turnaround in recent weeks, Painter just wants to keep the season going as long as possible.

"I want to play basketball," Painter said. "Hopefully we can get in the NCAA Tournament, and if you can't, you try to be in the NIT and if that doesn't happen, you hope (for the CBI). The way they've played the past two weeks, I'd play exhibition games. I 'd do anything in my power to keep playing."

The turnaround was a sudden one, starting with Purdue's impressive win at Wisconsin, prior to its near-upset of Michigan and its convincing win over Minnesota.

The biggest change has occurred on offense, where Purdue has averaged 77.6 points the last three games, topped by a season-high 89 against Minnesota.

"We actually started passing the ball to each other," Painter said. "For the majority of the year, our guard play - whether it was a lack of understanding, knowledge or experience or whatever it may have been - they all tried to make the play. That's not the way the game is played. You have to pass the basketball, move the basketball. But you still have to be aggressive when you're doing it. The term I always use is 'patiently aggressive.' It's a contradiction in itself, but when you think about the game, that's the way it is. You always have to be on the hunt, waiting for the breakdown, waiting for angles, waiting for numbers and attacking when it happens. When it's not there, you have to put them on defense, but you can't go through the motions.

"Until you understand how to run good offense and always be cutting hard and setting good screens and doing all the little things necessary, you're going to bog down. And that's what we did, we bogged down and we had too many guys wanting to make a play for themselves, then it gets contagious. It's no fun to coach and as our fans know it's definitely no fun to watch."

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