No. 16 Purdue goes for 8th in row vs. Tennessee St.
After two Thanksgiving week stumbles, Purdue tumbled out of the Top 25.
The Boilermakers have won seven straight since and are starting to resemble a team that can challenge second-ranked Michigan State in the Big Ten.
The No. 16 Boilermakers (11-2), who host Tennessee State on Thursday in West Lafayette, Ind., lost to Tennessee and Western Kentucky in the Bahamas.
Purdue coach Matt Painter went to work on his team’s efficiency.
“I thought we were shooting the ball entirely too quick,” Painter told CBS Sports. “The other team, we weren’t making them work for things and really just trying to harp on our guys to push the basketball, take open-rhythm threes, get to the rim, get a quick post-up. If not, execute.
“We went to a lot more sets because of it, so we kind of forced them. Tried to put up a lot of stop signs just to make them run sets and to make them be efficient on the offensive end.”
The Boilermakers have wins over Arizona (in the Bahamas), Louisville, Maryland and Butler since to climb back into the rankings. Also helping the Boilermakers’ cause: Tennessee got to 7-1 and a No. 21 ranking before losing to No. 5 North Carolina on Sunday.
“I think we learned from our mistakes,” Purdue guard P.J. Thompson said. “We know we can score the ball with anybody in the country. We can really score at a high level. But what’s going to separate us and allow us to be really successful throughout the rest of the season and in the postseason, is defense.
“We didn’t come ready to play defensively, and it kind of bit us. We really — I mean, we’ve really toned it up defensively. I think we’ve gotten a lot better, as you guys can tell, throughout the season, and I think there’s still room to improve.”
Tennessee State (5-5) is coming off a heartbreaking 47-46 loss at Texas on Monday.
The Tigers’ Delano Spencer had a chance to win it at the end, but his rushed shot missed the rim.
Spencer had capped an 8-0 run with a 3-pointer that put the Tigers ahead 46-45, with 1:26 left. But Texas’ Matt Coleman hit the game-winner with 11 seconds left.
“I thought our guys competed really hard tonight,” Tennessee State coach Dana Ford said, according to the school’s website. “You know we came up on the short end of the stick, but not a whole lot to complain about.”
Spencer, an 88 percent free-throw shooter who leads the Tigers with 15.2 points per game, is the guy his coach wants to take the final shot.
“What we preach is if someone makes a big shot against us, get it out and go as fast as you can,” Ford said. “If we let the defense set up, we probably don’t even get a shot at the rim. I thought, maybe we could have put a little bit more pressure on the defense, but that was our best shooter.
“He made a couple and he took it and obviously, it was a tough shot, but hopefully they were thinking get it out and get it to (Spencer), because that’s what we practice, and go.”