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January 24, 2014

Purdue wants to make opponents pay for extra attention in post

Often against Northwestern, the Wildcats committed at least two players to crowding Boilermaker center A.J. Hammons in the post, often sagging off other Purdue players to clog up the lane or protect the baseline as the 7-footer set up.

So with extra attention - in some cases three players in some capacity - being paid to the 7-footer, there would be vulnerabilities elsewhere for Purdue to exploit, right?

Didn't seem like at Northwestern, particularly during the game-deciding final 12:54 of regulation, as Purdue went without a single field goal before going on to lose in double overtime.

Hammons scored 17 points in Evanston, but was just 3-of-10 shooting and committed seven turnovers, five of them on traveling violations.

Purdue works diligently and has put a heavy emphasis on getting the ball into the post, but a part of post play that might be particularly relevant to the Boilermakers right now might be for the ball to leave the post, too.

Coach Matt Painter said Friday that sometimes Purdue did an adequate job moving the ball at Northwestern and sometimes not.

"He just has to be patient and read the defense and make the accurate read," Painter said of Hammons.

"When you have a low-post guy, you have to have movement. You have to move the defense or else they're just going to set their defense weak-side. If you don't have any movement, you're allowing the help to stay put. It's very important. Sometimes we do a good with it and sometimes we don't. And (Hammons) has to work toward it. He has to play for the second pass and work. At times we got too deliberate in our halfcourt offense."

That's a team-wide issue, not just on Hammons.

"We have to move off the ball and set screens for each other and create more action away from the ball, so our man can't go in and help or trap A.J," sophomore Rapheal Davis said. "A.J. is a good passer and a willing passer and when he sees the open man, he's going to try his best to hit him, especially out of double-teams, so if we're moving, making good cuts and getting open, that'll help him a lot."

Painter talks often about ball movement on offense, the need to make defenses move or scramble. In that sense, playing through the post and playing to the post can be distinctly different.

When Hammons posts and gets the ball, moving it out, theoretically, can create scoring opportunities for others or better looks for him in re-post situations.

"Dish it out," Ronnie Johnson said. "If they're doubling, usually they'll try to take away the middle to make him go baseline, then put the other guy on the baseline. When that happens, we should have to swing it out really fast and get them in rotations. We do that in practice a lot.

"Here and there, I think (Hammons understands). I talk about that, too: When it goes inside, dish it right back out, put them in rotations, then once that guy leaves, throw it back to him and make that guy come back."

Again, though, the issue - if there is one, other than one game of clear-cut struggles - is not concentrated on any one player. Teammates have to make themselves available for post outlets.

"In our offense, we have post action and we have to be quicker getting into that once (Hammons) has the ball," Terone Johnson said. "They had a lot of doubles where we ended up turning the ball over, where we have to get into our post action.

"You want to move the ball around, but while we're moving the ball around, be seeing the post action as much as we're seeing the action on the outside. I thought we did a really good job getting the ball inside last game, but didn't do as good a job finishing, either from getting it inside or from (guards) driving. That's something we have to change."

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