No. 21 Purdue stays home to race another in-state foe

INDIANAPOLIS — Only 70 or so miles separate the two schools, but when it comes to basketball, Purdue is light years ahead of IUPUI.

On Sunday, the Boilermakers (9-2) will get a chance to dominate another Indiana program when the Jaguars (2-5) travel to Mackey Arena.

On Thursday, the No. 21 Boilermakers rolled past Valparaiso 80-50. Next week, Purdue faces its toughest in-state task when it takes on Butler.

But for now, the chore for Matt Painter’s squad is to keep getting better against non-Big Ten opponents and prepare for conference play. And the way the Boilermakers have been preparing and playing, it’s no wonder the spread is around 30 points for Sunday’s affair.

Painter has made sure everyone on the team knows their role and not to look ahead.

“You can’t take anyone lightly with the upsets that are going around in college basketball,” Purdue forward Vincent Edwards told The Indianapolis Star after the Boilermakers dismantled a previously unbeaten Valpo squad. “We had a lot of respect for them. … We just followed our scouting report.”

Valparaiso was one of the best defensive teams coming into that game. By the end, it was Purdue’s defense that dominated.

“We wanted to come out pressure the ball and make them uncomfortable in their sets,” P.J. Thompson told the Star. “Force them to try to get one shot and then run, and then try to go score on offense.”

With two rim protectors towering over 7 feet, Purdue’s guards have the luxury of pressuring and taking chances knowing that behind them lurk senior Isaac Haas and freshman Matt Haarms. Together, the pair are averaging 4.5 blocks per game.

“You feel more comfortable with those guys behind you because even if (the opponents) get a step or two, it’s going to be a tough shot, it’s going to be altered, it’s going to get blocked,” guard Dakota Mathias, a Big Ten all-defensive team member last season, told the Lafayette Courier & Journal. “Having them behind you is a sense of security.”

That doesn’t bode well for the Jaguars, who have lost three straight, including a one-point loss to SIU-Edwardsville on Wednesday night. Despite the loss, coach Jason Gardner is focused on the positives.

“I thought we got great looks from the outside. We were moving the ball well,” Gardner told reporters. “We got looks inside, we got to the free throw line especially early on.”

He credited SIUE with making plays when they most needed it, and he hopes his squad learned a lesson.

“They had some really good looks and they made shots. They made some tough shots with our hands in their face,” Gardner said. “We gave up some that could have been more contested, but overall I think they just did a good job of knocking down their looks.”

Aaron Brennan equaled his career high with 25 points in the loss. But the Jaguars failed to convert late opportunities.

Ron Patterson (11.6 points per game) also scores in double figures for the Jaguars. TJ Henderson comes in with 9.9 points and 3.1 assists per game.

Sunday’s game is part of a three-game gauntlet against two ranked teams (Purdue and Gonzaga) and one team just outside the Top 25 (Washington State).

IUPUI and Purdue have met only twice. The Boilermakers won in 2014 (57-77) and in 2015 (80-53), both at Mackey.