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January 13, 2014

Coming off a strong game, Simpson heading back home

Jay Simpson returns home Wednesday and does so with some momentum.

The Boilermaker redshirt freshman big man and Champaign, Ill., native will play at Illinois this week coming off one of his best games of the season, or at least one that snapped an extended dry spell.

Simpson scored seven points in Purdue's win over Nebraska Sunday, including an inside bucket and a three-pointer that sparked a modest Purdue run before halftime.

It was the backup center's first game scoring more than two points since the early December win over Boston College.

"I just had more confidence," Simpson said. "I can't blame anybody but myself for that lack of confidence, so I'm trying to get that back slowly but surely."

That confidence may have been reflected in Simpson's aggressiveness against the Cornhuskers.

Coach Matt Painter said Sunday after the 70-64 victory that he'd rather see Simpson attack the rim than fall away from it, as Simpson's vast array of post moves often have him fading away from the basket or shooting turnarounds.

"I just wanted to be aggressive, to go down there with a wide base and try to be a strong in every move I did. It worked out for me," Simpson said.

"Sometimes I think too much about what to do. I talked to Coach Painter and Coach (Brandon) Brantley about that yesterday. I just have to go out there and not think as much, but just play my game."

That's what Simpson will strive to do Wednesday playing in his hometown for the first time. He'll do so, he said, in front of family and friends who've never seen him play a college game. While redshirting last season, Simpson didn't make the trip to Champaign for Purdue's loss at the newly named State Farm Center.

"I have to stay level-headed and stay humble and just help do what we have to do to get the win," Simpson said.

Simpson committed to Purdue - immediately upon being offered a scholarship - prior to his sophomore year at Champaign Central after having attended numerous Illinois games growing up.

Then, Purdue recognized his uncommon blend of size and skill at an early age.

Years later, Simpson's still just as gifted - more so, really - and in the best physical condition of his life.

But, he still has a long way to go.

"Now it's just a matter of getting him to sustain his effort. He has to be more of a detailed guy if he's ever going to be successful in this league," Painter said. "He has to hang his hat on being in a stance, communicating loud, early and continuous on those ball screens, and then just being engaged through the game.

"If he can keep improving in those areas - and he's doing a much better job in all of them - he can be pretty successful. … His consistency's really improved, but yet he has a long way to go. If he can get consistent in all areas of his life, I think he has a chance to be a really good player at Purdue."

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