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January 4, 2014
Purdue goes on the road for the first time in Big Ten play Sunday, when it faces 11-3 Minnesota at 2:30 p.m. in Williams Arena, a.k.a The Barn, a venue where the Boilermakers have had success in recent years, but one where it won't be easy to win this weekend against a Gopher team now under the direction of new coach Richard Pitino.
Minnesota's coming off a home loss to short-handed Michigan earlier this week in its Big Ten opener.
About Purdue:: Roster | Schedule/Results | Stats
Projected starters (last game): C - A.J. Hammons; F - Basil Smotherman; F- Rapheal Davis; G - Ronnie Johnson; G - Terone Johnson
About Minnesota:: Roster | Schedule/Results | Stats
Broadcast info:: Radio: Purdue Sports Network | TV: BTN | LIVE: Join GoldandBlack.com tonight for our 30-minute pre-game 'Game Day Live' chat session, then our Twitter account, @GoldandBlackcom, for in-game updates.
Minnesota's going to present some challenges with its multiple forms of pressure defense.
With Pitino obviously being well-schooled by his father, Rick, when it comes to full-court defense, the Gophers will press and trap full-court, pressure throughout.
"We have to be calm and find open teammates," freshman point guard Bryson Scott said. "We have to stay poised to beat their press. Don't try to dribble too much; don't try to dribble through two or three defenders. You have to pass it around to find good shots and open areas where we can attack."
Purdue's seen only sporadic full-court pressure this season to date.
"Siena did and Oklahoma State did," point guard Ronnie Johnson said. "Eastern Illinois did, but that was man-to-man. I think we've been pretty good against that, as far as taking care of the ball."
Coach Matt Painter said the Gophers will back off their pressure at times and fall into either man-to-man or various zones.
"We just have to follow our scouting report and play hard," sophomore Rapheal Davis said, "but also be able to adjust at timeouts or at the spur of the moment and be ready for just about any defense possible."
No matter what Minnesota's done, they've typically been disruptive, leading all Big Ten teams in steals, averaging nearly nine per game.
"We have to be smart with the ball," Ronnie Johnson said, referring to full-court pressure. "It's not as much about the guy with the ball as it is guys coming back to the ball to help and relieve pressure."
Minnesota point guard DeAndre Mathieu's speed and quickness is a concern for Purdue at both ends of the floor. He averages two steals a game; Austin Hollins isn't far behind at 1.8.
"They're good at hawking the ball," Painter said.
Purdue's defensive focus will be centered largely on guard Andre Hollins, the Gophers' leading scorer, averaging just under 16 points per game.
The boards will factor heavily into this game, as they do most games.
Purdue's on a roll on the glass, paced by Hammons' recent dominance, as he's grabbed 28 boards in 54 minutes the past two games, the driving force behind the Boilermakers controlling the glass against both West Virginia and third-ranked Ohio State.
Minnesota, though, has one of the Big Ten's most productive rebounders in big man Elliott Eliason (8.4 per game) and enough perimeter quickness, Painter said, to make the Gophers difficult to beat to long caroms.
Austin Hollins, a 6-4 guard, averages almost seven rebounds per game.
In its Big Ten opener, Minnesota crushed Michigan on the boards, 38-24.
Of note: Purdue backup center Travis Carroll isn't 100-percent healthy after missing the Ohio State game with a knee injury, but did practice Friday and could be available at Minnesota if needed. ... Minnesota's best win came in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, a 71-61 result over a solid Florida State team in Williams.
Prediction: Even though it didn't come away with a win against Ohio State, Purdue took a bit of a step forward heading to an arena where it's quite often played well. The Boilermakers will have to show they can be adaptable and smart on offense against a variety of defenses, but they've been rebounding well, doing some good things on offense and just trending in the right direction of late. Purdue 74, Minnesota 68
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