By MICHAEL MAROT
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Matt Painter looks at Indiana and sees the kind of hard-working team he thinks Purdue could be.
The funny thing is Painter’s teams unwittingly served as the model for what the Hoosiers’ program has become — tough, relentless and proficient on both ends of the court.
“I think we learned a lot from watching them,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said Friday as he prepared for this weekend’s rematch with Purdue. “I know some of the loyalists may not like hearing this, but we showed tape of Purdue early on here. Our guys had to see it. I showed them Marquette tape, Ohio State tape, Michigan State tape, you had to show them what it really looks like in this league to sell out on each position and we learned that from them (the Boilermakers).”
Now Painter is trying to re-instill those core blue-collar values — work hard, play hard, be disciplined — into his young team.
When Painter’s team has followed the traditional principles he learned from former coach Gene Keady, it has been competitive and won games.
But when the Boilermakers have strayed from those traits, they’ve been embarrassed by the likes of Indiana, Michigan State, and, yes, even Northwestern. And if they don’t learn from the mistakes they made 2½ weeks ago, Painter knows Round 2 with No. 1 Indiana could turn out even uglier than that ridiculous 97-60 thumping that was the most lopsided home loss in Purdue history.
Not much has changed since then.
The Hoosiers (22-3, 10-2) are still atop the Big Ten standings, still have four players averaging in double figures, still rank among the nation’s best in points per game and defensive field-goal percentage and have won seven of their last eight.
Purdue (12-13, 5-7), meanwhile, is still struggling to find consistent effort, consistent scorers and has lost four of its last five.
So Painter is now urging his team to take a few lessons from the Hoosiers, and not just for this weekend’s game.
“(Cody) Zeller is the backbone of their program because he’s 7-foot and he’s got that work ethic. But it’s guys like Jordan Hulls and Will Sheehey who make that program go, guys like Remy Abell because he knows if he doesn’t work hard, he’s not going to play,” Painter said. “That’s the culture and they’ve got a great culture down there. That’s what we have to get here.”
Mutual admiration is not something that is just tossed around in this bitter in-state rivalry, and nobody knows that better than the players and coaches.
Eight of the 10 starters in the first game were Indiana natives.
Whether they grew up around the rivalry or not, most of today’s players got acquainted on the AAU circuit and some have developed close friendships including Painter and Lamar coach Pat Knight, who played for his father, Bob, at Indiana.
Fans don’t see things quite the same way as Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell found out in his first college trip to Mackey Arena. He played high school ball in Indianapolis and went head-to-head with Purdue point guard Ronnie Johnson for years, but when asked to describe some of the insults lobbed at the Hoosiers last month, the Indiana freshman said they were not G-rated.
“I realized how much Purdue hates us. I had never really seen it,” Ferrell said, smiling. “I had heard about it, but to witness it, I guess they really do hate us.”
Now, it’s the Boilermakers’ turn to hit the road and outsiders don’t expect much to change in Bloomington.
Purdue’s only bright spot from the first meeting was freshman center A.J. Hammons, who scored 30 points against national player of the year candidate Cody Zeller and the Hoosiers’ vastly improved defense. Less than 72 hours later, Hammons showed up late for the team bus and wound up with a seat next to Painter at the start of the Northwestern game.