The Purdue Boilermakers lost one of the biggest keys to achieving their lofty goals before the season even began, but they haven’t seemed to notice.
Senior forward Robbie Hummel tore his right ACL for the second time in less than a year during the Boilermakers’ first full practice, an injury that many thought would derail their shot at winning a Big Ten championship. Many, before that, had them pegged as the favorite to do so.
Well, a couple weeks into the conference season and they appear to still be a favorite. Purdue is one of just two Big Ten teams that hasn’t lost a conference game yet. The Boilermakers have won 10 games in a row, the last nine by double figures, and will take that streak to Minnesota tonight. Ten of their next 14 games come against teams that are currently ranked, and that doesn’t include an awkwardly scheduled trip to West Virginia this weekend.
Purdue coach Matt Painter joined 1070 The Fan in Indianapolis with JMV to discuss his team’s play thus far in the Big Ten season, the breakout of Ryne Smith, the game with Minnesota tonight on ESPN and the weird game this weekend at West Virginia.
If he’s liked what he’s seen from his team during early Big Ten play:
“I think we’ve made some improvements. We still have a long ways to go. We’ve gotten better from a defensive standpoint, kind of following the scouting report and understanding what we want to do. … You just hope your guys can continue to improve while you’re winning games. A lot of times guys look at the wins like nothing wrong happened.”
On the breakout of Ryne Smith, who scored in double figures just one before conference season but has done so in four straight league games:
“He’s a confident player and he’s never really go on track in terms of shooting the basketball. He’s worked hard to get on the court and learn our system defensively and physically be able to guard people. Now he’s put himself in that position where he’s able to do that. Making shots on top of that gives him a lot of confidence.”
On the game tonight with nationally ranked Minnesota:
“Obviously from a physical standpoint, they could be the most physical team in our league. They’ve got two 7-footers. … They’re the best rebounding team in our league right now. I think that’s going to be a challenge for us. … They have some very good balance with their team.”
Purdue will play at West Virginia on Saturday in an oddly scheduled nonconference game:
“I like playing West Virginia because I know he’s one of the best coaches in the country and you know they’re going to play hard. I think this is the first time we’ve had an opponent kind of sandwiched in on one of our bye weeks during conference play. We’ll see.”