It looks like Purdue Boilermakers head coach Matt Painter has completed the turn-around of the program that Gene Keady had built up then let falter in his final years of his illustrious career. Painter took over officially in 2005 and only won nine games his first year. But his teams would advance to the 2nd round in the following two years before really breaking through and announcing their return to prominence with a trip to the Dance’s second weekend.
Against Washington on Saturday afternoon, the Boilermakers were led by JaJuan Johnson, who scored 22 big points to go along with 6 boards. More importantly, the 6’10″ sophomore blocked two key shots late to preserve the Boilers preserve a late narrow lead and escape with a 76-74 lead against a Huskies club that was playing good ball. Painter joined 1070 The Fan in Indianapolis on Monday to recap the weekend and look ahead to a regional semi-final showdown with top seeded Connecticut Thursday in Phoenix.
On what his team needs to do to limit Connecticut’s explosiveness:
“I think it’s important for us to stay in to Connecticut, get into them, be aggressive, but keep the ball in front of us and then do a good job on the glass.”
On the outstanding play of Johnson thus far in the tournament, particularly scoring the basketball:
“Yeah, he’s a confident player. And if you can get him the ball in position to score, whether that’s in transition or the half court. He’s really gotten aggressive and taken his shot. Before, I think he was a little bit hesitant. I think he would defer to others at times. And now we’ve just tried to encourage him to be agressive and take his shot.”