S. Illinois-Purdue Preview
Purdue coach Matt Painter is very familiar with Southern Illinois. After all, his success with the Salukis helped him land his job with the Boilermakers.
Painter's past catches up to his present when his 10th-ranked Boilermakers play the Salukis in the Chicago Invitational Challenge at Hoffman Estates, Ill., on Friday night.
A former player under Gene Keady at Purdue, Painter took quickly to coaching and eventually became an assistant to current Illinois coach Bruce Weber at Southern Illinois in 1998. He was on the staff when the Salukis reached the round of 16 in the 2002 NCAA tournament.
Following Weber's departure to the Illini in 2003, Painter guided the Salukis to a 25-win season and NCAA tournament appearance in his only season there in 2003-04.
That success prompted Purdue to add him to the staff as Keady's eventual successor. After a one-season apprenticeship, Painter has quickly rebuilt the Boilermakers, compiling a 116-56 record in five-plus seasons, and has back-to-back NCAA tournament regional semifinal appearances among his four consecutive tourney berths.
Painter is aware of the similarities of these teams, but his style has evolved to allow differences as he prepares for his former squad.
"There are a lot of similarities defensively, but we're different on the offensive end," he noted. "We might have different nuances on defense, but you see a lot of similarities. We hang our hat on defense because that's what wins championships."
The need for a solid defense has taken on greater urgency without injured star Robbie Hummel, and while Purdue (4-0) has held opponents to 55.0 points per game and 36.5 percent shooting, there were some issues in the most recent win.
The Boilermakers allowed Austin Peay to shoot 50.9 percent in Tuesday's 87-65 victory, but they compensated by scoring 18 points off 18 Governors' turnovers.
"We're trying to get that defense right, and we're not there," Painter said. "I think we can work toward that and be a good defensive team before it's all said and done."
Chris Lowery, an assistant with Painter under Weber, whom he followed to Illinois for one season before returning to Southern Illinois, had instant success after Painter went to Purdue.
The Salukis reached the NCAA tournament his first three seasons, highlighted by a round of 16 appearance and 29-win season in 2006-07.
Southern Illinois, though, has backslid in the Missouri Valley Conference the past three seasons, going 46-48. Lowery hopes a senior-heavy rotation will help the Salukis be more competitive.
After an 0-2 start that included a loss to Weber at Illinois, the Salukis have bounced back with consecutive wins. Gene Teague paced four players in double figures with 15 points in an 85-67 victory over Charleston Southern on Tuesday as Southern Illinois raced to a 55-28 halftime lead and shot 58.9 percent for the game.
"They were really, really locked in," Lowery said. "I thought the first half was as good as we've played in a really long time."
The Salukis also have done a better job taking care of the ball. After committing 41 turnovers in the two losses, they had 28 in the victories. They also have outrebounded opponents by 9.5 per game overall.
Purdue swept a home-and-home series in 1984 and 1985 in the only meetings between these schools.