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October 19, 2013

Purdue's promise on display in scrimmage

Purdue looks different, that's for sure.

During the team's first scrimmage Saturday evening in Mackey Arena, the Boilermakers appeared rough around the edges in some ways, typical of this stage of preseason preparation.

"I've never been part of a good first scrimmage," Coach Matt Painter said. "Your first scrimmage, you go through a lot of different things. We have a lot of new faces and we have a long way to go."

But there were very obvious signs of promise displayed as Purdue broke its roster in half and played a trio of eight-minute games.

"We all get judged on winning," Painter said, "and Bryson Scott and A.J. Hammons won all three, so that's good for those guys."

Scott was a highlight, as Painter said he thought the freshman guard played "inspired" in scoring 18 points with a team-best eight assists total over the three sessions.

But all three freshmen impressed one way or another. Kendall Stephens was 4-of-8 from three-point range in scoring a total of 14 points; Basil Smotherman showed off his athleticism and some tenacity in the open floor and on the boards.

Early on, Smotherman leaped to tip a defensive rebound to a teammate, then sprinted down the floor for an athletic tip-in.

"I think they're all going to play," Painter said. "Kendall Stephens can really shoot the basketball and stretch a defense, Basil Smotherman can really defend people and he's athletic and Bryson Scott has brought some energy to the table and he can break people down off the dribble and defend. I think from a physical standpoint, he'll create a mismatch at both ends of the court."

As for those returning, improvement was fairly evident, particularly in the much-needed area of shooting.

Purdue, total, was 11-of-28 from three-point range, a number held back somewhat, perhaps, by some shots being taken that might not be taken in games. From the foul line, the Boilermakers were 32-of-43, led by Scott's 12-of-15.

"When we went zone - we don't do a lot of zone - we really stretched the defense out by having shooters out there," said Terone Johnson of the limited zone looks Purdue put out there to simulate such looks, "and then when we went man-to-man we got drive-and-kick shots."

Terone Johnson and Ronnie Johnson each scored 22 points to lead the team, with the former going 3-of-7 from long range and the latter 2-of-4. Sterling Carter was 2-of-4.

"That was the best we've shot right there," Painter said afterward. "I don't know if it's because we can make an open shot, better than we could last year, or our defense isn't very good and they're open. We'll go back and watch the film. It was probably a little of both."

In the post, Hammons was 5-of-6 shooting for 10 points, with eight boards and three blocks.

Errick Peck led all rebounders with 12.

Jay Simpson, meanwhile, impressed, coming out aggressive, hitting a mid-range jumper over Hammons to start Game 1, then a long jumper from the corner, en route to scoring 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting.

"I kind of got a little tired and winded toward the end and that kind of affected my game," said Simpson, who also grabbed five rebounds. "But earlier I was more aggressive on the offensive end, but later on I kind of (fell) off. I have to have that consistent effort next time."

In the final of the three sessions, Simpson and Hammons played side-by-side, a look Purdue will use at times this season with its top two big men, though Painter believes Simpson's best matchup lies at center.

"It's tough for other teams to guard us, because we're both big and strong and can rebound and score. I feel like with that lineup, it'll be tough for a lot of other teams to stop us."

Saturday gave the Boilermakers a chance to cut loose to an extent, playing in game-like conditions with live officiating. In practice, coaches stop and start play at their discretion.

Saturday, Painter was mostly an observer from the sideline, his assistants guiding the two squads and the head coach jokingly calling whichever unit was winning "his."

"It was (fun) to come out and just run like in open gym," Ronnie Johnson said, "but still make … the kind of decisions you would make in a game."


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