With seven consecutive wins, including five against teams from major conferences, No. 16 Purdue has turned its season around since consecutive losses in the Battle 4 Atlantis right before Thanksgiving. Coming off a wire-to-wire victory against in-state foe Butler on Saturday, the Boilermakers can’t afford to relax when battled-tested Tennessee State visits Thursday in a nonconference matchup.
Purdue averaged over 100 points per game in winning its first four contests before losses to Tennessee and Western Kentucky forced coach Matt Painter’s squad to refocus on both offense and defense, resulting in a stretch where the Boilermakers are averaging just 79.4 points per game but yielding only 63.3. “I would say that just shot selection is a little bit better. I thought we’ve done a much better job of not trying to shoot the ball so quick. I thought we were shooting the ball entirely too quick,” Painter said about the difference since the consecutive losses. “We went to a lot more sets because of it, so we kind of forced them ... When we have a better balance like we’ve had since there, it really helps us, and it also allows us to set our defense. So a lot of times in our sport, the two ends are connected.” All five starters scored in double figures, led by Carsen Edwards’ 18 points, and the defense held the Bulldogs to 37.7 percent shooting while forcing 17 turnovers against the Bulldogs. Tennessee State, which returns two starters from a 17-win team that played both Duke and North Carolina State tough last season in nonconference play, dropped a 47-46 decision at Texas on Monday despite holding the Longhorns to 35.3 percent shooting and forcing 17 turnovers.
TV: 6 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
ABOUT TENNESSEE STATE (5-5): The Tigers used an 8-0 run down the stretch at Texas that included a dunk from Christian Mekowulu and 3-pointers from Daniel Cummings and Delano Spencer to take a 46-45 lead with 1:26 to play before Longhorns freshman guard Matt Coleman knocked down a runner in the lane with 9.2 seconds remaining. “I thought our guys competed really hard tonight. You know we came up on the short end of the stick, but not a whole lot to complain about,” Tigers coach Dana Ford said after the game. “So I’m just really proud of our players and what they were able to come in here and do, this being the third game of a six-game road trip.” Mekowulu (11.8 points, 9.7 rebounds) picked up his fourth double-double of the season with 15 points and 11 rebounds and Delano Spencer (15.2 points) added 11 points but rushed a shot from just inside half court when he had a few more seconds left on the clock to get a better shot.
ABOUT PURDUE (11-2): Vincent Edwards and Isaac Haas added 15 points against Butler, Dakota Mathias 14 and P.J. Thompson 12 as the Boilermakers shot 52.9 percent. Haas (15.1 points on 63.1 percent shooting, 5.2 rebounds), is one of four players in Division I and the only player from a major conference to average 15 points in fewer than 22 minutes per contest. Backup center Matt Haarms, a 7-foot-2 freshman, leads the Big Ten in block percentage (15.6), which is seventh best in Division I among players with 200 minutes.
1. Purdue has won 14 straight games in the month of December.
2. Ford was the youngest coach in Division I when he was hired in 2014 at the age of 33.
3. According to KenPom.com, Purdue has six wins against top-60 opponents - two more than any other team.
PREDICTION: Purdue 72, Tennessee State 51