Can the No. 3 Boilermakers make it 18 in a row?
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — In the world of college athletics, the challenges that come with historic accomplishments are often lost in the magnitude of the accomplishments themselves.
No. 3 Purdue has embraced the rare and unique challenge of avoiding complacency in the face of unprecedented success.
The Boilermakers (21-2, 10-0 Big Ten) have now won a school-record 17 straight after defeating in-state rival Indiana 74-67 on Sunday at Assembly Hall. They own the nation’s longest active win streak but are still looking for ways to improve.
Purdue seeks its school-record 13th consecutive conference win Wednesday as it hosts Maryland in a rematch of both teams’ conference opener.
“I always feel like we have everywhere to grow,” Purdue forward Vincent Edwards told NCAA.com’s Andy Katz. “Especially, I feel like, from a defensive standpoint, because we have times where we’re really good defensively as a team, but then we have some times where we’ll have a couple breakdowns, like back-to-back breakdowns in back-to-back possessions.
“As we’re slowly approaching the end of the season and going into March, I feel like those are things that we have to limit if we want to make a run and win big games.”
Edwards, a Big Ten Player of the Year candidate, had 19 points and seven rebounds in the win at Indiana. He was the second Boilermakers player in as many weeks to be named Big Ten Player of the Week after teammate Carsen Edwards received the honor Jan. 22.
Maryland (15-8, 4-6) lost to Purdue 80-75 on Dec. 1 but poses a difficult matchup because of their dynamic backcourt.
Anthony Cowan (16.2) and Kevin Huerter (14.3) are the top scoring guard duo in the Big Ten, averaging more than 30 combined points per game.
“Cowan and Huerter can really shoot the basketball,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “They can break you down. We’ve got to do a good job of keeping them off the glass. I think that’s the most important thing is limiting their 3s, trying to keep them out of the paint — they do a good job of breaking you down — and then not allowing second-chance opportunities.”
While Purdue is dealing with the compounding pressure of a historic win streak, Maryland is on a different end of the spectrum, having lost four its last five, including a crushing 74-68 home loss to No. 6 Michigan State on Sunday after leading 37-24 at halftime.
“All I care about is my guys, and I want to get better,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “We’re getting better, I’m having fun coaching them, we’ve practiced really well.
“I want to continue to do that and see where it leads us. I’m not caught up in, ‘we have to win this game to be in that tournament’ — that doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that we play our best basketball, and the rest will take care of itself.”
Purdue is not an ideal opponent for teams looking to right the ship. The Boilermakers lead the Big Ten in scoring, averaging 84.6 points per game, and lead the country in scoring margin, defeating opponents by an average of 21.1 points per game.
They’ve also won 20 consecutive home games and have beaten the Terrapins in each of their last three attempts.
“Purdue is one heck of a basketball team,” Turgeon said. “We’ve played a lot of really good teams, but they’re probably the best team we’ve played, just on paper, and looking at them and scouting them.
“To be 5-0 on the road (in conference) is really hard.”