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November 8, 2013

Breakdown: Purdue-Northern Kentucky

Purdue opens its regular season at 7 p.m. tonight in Mackey Arena against Northern Kentucky.

About Purdue:: Roster | Schedule/Results | Stats (there are none yet)
Projected starters (best guess): C - Jay Simpson; F - Errick Peck; G - Ronnie Johnson; G - Terone Johnson; G - Kendall Stephens

About Northern Kentucky:: Roster | Schedule/Results | Stats (2012-13)

Broadcast info: Radio: Purdue Sports Network | TV: ESPN3 | LIVE: Join GoldandBlack.com tonight for our 30-minute pregame 'Game Day Live' chat session, then our Twitter account, @GoldandBlackcom, for in-game updates.

Game Breakdown
Purdue opens a string of five games to open the season in which it should be heavy favorites, starting with tonight against the very young Norsemen.

Matt Painter wants to see his team be more "mature" than it was a year ago.

Purdue can show maturity in its preparation and the seriousness with which it plays against opponents it should, on paper, get past with relative ease.

"We just have to be ready to come in right away and be ready to play as hard as we can for as long as we can," point guard Ronnie Johnson said. "We have to take our assignments that we work on in practice into the game.

"Those things mostly show maturity, when you do what the coaches asks for in practice and bring it into the game."

With a string of very winnable games to start the season, Purdue's schedule is set up for early success, an opportunity it must capitalize on.

Painter will have a close eye on both how this new-look team prepares and especially how it handles itself when adversity hits, things the coach believes can be influenced by his team's veterans.

"A lot of it (depends) on what happens when you're not around," Painter said. "Obviously as a coaching staff we've talked about that and discussed what it takes to be successful in non-conference and what it takes to be successful after something goes wrong. That's going to be really important for us.

"When we have some adversity, how do we handle it and how do our older guys and captains help through that time? … It's really going to be our calling in non-conference here to gain some confidence and trust in each other, so when things do go wrong, we can regroup and get back on a winning track."

Look for the Boilermakers to stay with the same starting five they used against Wayne State in the exhibition finale, in which case guard Kendall Stephens would be starting his first official college game and Errick Peck starting his first game as a Boilermaker. Center Jay Simpson would be making his first career start also, though that spot could quickly go by the wayside as center A.J. Hammons returns from suspension for Central Connecticut State.

Because of Hammons' situation, any lineups or rotations set now are subject to change.

"That's definitely the monkey wrench in our equation, when he comes back and how we handle that with other guys," Painter said, "because he's obviously made some improvements and I think he has a chance to be a force in our league."

Purdue opens the regular season with Painter's concerns largely being turnovers and rebounding.

The Boilermakers committed 17 turnovers in their exhibition finale against Wayne State, a 91-58 win.

"I thought that was just kind of that game getting out of hand (quickly)," said Ronnie Johnson, who committed four turnovers. "When it's that big of a lead in a game like that, people start to do what they want to do and start to forget how we came out at the beginning of the game.

"I think we'll be fine these next couple of games, but we have to take care of the ball a lot better."

In the rebounding column, everything might change when Hammons returns from suspension, but Purdue was rebounded to a standstill by the University of Indianapolis and barely outrebounded Wayne State.

"We have too many guys not embracing the physicality of the game," Painter said.

Of note: Northern Kentucky's in its second season as a member of Division I. …. The Norsemen must replace 73 percent of their scoring from last season after losing a number of seniors, including Fort Wayne native and one-time Purdue recruiting prospect Eshaunte Jones. Northern Kentucky returns just one starter from last season's 11-16 team. Eleven of its 14 players are underclassmen. … Freshman Cole Murray is from near-by Delphi. … Northern Kentucky plays at No. 1 Kentucky Sunday.

Prediction: This marks the beginning of a season-opening stretch that should see the Boilermakers open up 5-0, but it wouldn't be a bad thing long-term for Purdue to be challenged by someone. Northern Kentucky, particularly considering how young it is, wouldn't seem up to it. Purdue 87, Northern Kentucky 57

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