Matt Painter says he made sure to show his team some of Vincent Edwards’ missed shots from Michigan State as part of its video montage from the narrow loss in East Lansing.
“I’m a big believer that when you miss good shots, that needs to be positively reinforced,” Painter said. “I’m huge on that, because you might lose that game, but in the long run, you’re going to win more than you lose, because Vince Edwards is a good player and a good shooter and he takes good shots.”
It’s been a strange turn for the senior at the offensive end, as the past two games he’s seen seemingly countless high-percentage shots around the basket miss, but just barely.
He has dealt with the "aftermath," as he called it from his illness and did show up for practice Wednesday for his left thumb area wrapped — ligament bruises, he said — but whether either relates to his struggles on the highest-percentage shots in his arsenal is unclear. The illness clearly affected his three-point shooting prior to the Ohio State game.
He’s made threes in Purdue’s back-to-back losses — 3-of-8 between the Ohio State and Michigan State games — that he wasn’t making during an 0-for-13 stretch while battling illness, but it’s been his bread-and-butter-type scoring that’s largely dried up the past 80 minutes, of which he's played 73.
He was 1-for-9 on two-point shots vs. Ohio State, the lone make being the late and-one that gave Purdue a lead in the final minute; he was 2-for-6 on two-point shots at Michigan State, one of the misses coming on a second-half drive underneath Jaren Jackson for an open layup that rimmed off.
Painter sat down several players if not all of them to review shots, Edwards included.
“He said, ‘These are great shots,’” Edwards said. “We were sitting there talking about it and it was literally, ‘Your shots are like a frog hair away from going in,’ the expression he used.”
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The past two games came down to no single play and no individual player, but being as close as they were, obviously the list of what-ifs is extensive, and Edwards isn’t the only Boilermaker who can wonder what might have happened had one more shot gone in, as percentages would suggest they should have.
That’s part of the reason Purdue seems to come off the back-to-back losses unshaken.
“We’re fine,” senior Dakota Mathias said. “We’re right there and if a few things go our way, we’re having different conversations.”
The Boilermakers had won 19 straight prior to the two losses that changed the complexion of the Big Ten race, but didn’t change Purdue’s standing as a No. 1 seed to the NCAA Tournament as of this moment, as the NCAA selection committee confirmed with its partial bracket reveal Sunday.
Purdue did play well enough — it might not say “well,” but certainly well enough — to beat both the Buckeyes and Spartans. It just didn’t.
But for the Boilermakers to close the season in winning-streak form, it would help if Edwards' shooting turned back to its historical norm.
“The shots he’s taking, he’s going to make, and I just think he’s going to go on a run here,” Painter said. “But if he doesn’t, he’s still going to help us win.
"That’s the maturity our guys have to show here. If we go to Wisconsin and just do not make shots, we can still play well and win the game.”
But it has been a frustrating past week for Edwards, who looked midseason like Keita Bates-Diop’s strongest challenger for Big Ten Player-of-the-Year.
Social media, he said, has piled on.
“I guess when you win 19 straight, the fan base loses its mind when you lose two in a row,” Edwards said, apparently referring to Twitter, the very reason Painter bars players from tweeting in-season, so that they can’t respond to such things. “We went two-and-a-half months without losing so I guess we spoiled them and they weren’t too happy about it.”
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