Purdue lost a preaseason scrimmage against Providence, falling 89-88. Coach Matt Painter was blunt when he was asked what he learned from that game.
“That we weren't very good on defense,” Painter said.
In their first two regular season games, a pair of resounding victories over Bellarmine and Indiana State, the No. 6 Boilermakers held those teams to less than 40% shooting and less than 30% from 3-point range. But Painter believes there remains significant work to be done and wants to see his team continue to improve when it faces defending Horizon League champion Wright State tonight at Mackey Arena.
This will be Purdue's final tune-up before the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament and a matchup with No. 18 North Carolina on Saturday.
“This is going to be a tough game for us,” Painter said of facing the Raiders (1-1), who are coming off an 18-6 campaign. “I thought we made improvements defensively (against Indiana State), but we still make just so many mistakes where we start off in the wrong spot. Our concentration level is just not where it needs to be. But if we can keep making steps each game, hopefully you can get to where you can defend quality people.”
One area where Purdue's defense has shined is in getting easy baskets for its offense with turnovers that create run-out opportunities. The Boilermakers scored 21 points off 12 takeaways against the Sycamores on Friday and guard Jaden Ivey has been a weapon on defense, stepping into passing lanes to steal passes and race the other way for high-flying dunks. He has four steals in two games and scored a career-high 27 points on 10-for-13 shooting against Indiana State.
“We just have to all be locked in defensively because everyone's going to give us their best game since we're highly ranked,” the sophomore guard said. “Every team is going to come out to battle and we just have to keep that in our heads.”
Still, Painter wants to see more from Ivey and the rest of the guards on defense.
“We really don't have a good, consistent defensive guard right now,” Painter said, emphasizing the need to be on the same page, which has only been the case intermittently in the first two games.
Tonight, Purdue will get a test from a fast-paced Wright State team that has averaged 87 points in its first two games.
The Raiders employ a different offensive style than Purdue's first two opponents, with several players capable of getting to the basket and scoring off isolation sets. Painter lamented his team's inability to adjust defensively to different styles at the start of games.
“There's things that are happening early where it's as if we haven't talked about it, we haven't discussed it,” he said. “It might be a simple dribble-drive and there's a breakdown.
“We just have to clean up those areas and get better. ... We're getting a little confused and now they score three baskets in a row and then we do a better job, instead of not letting them score and getting off to a better start. ... I don't think it's a lack of effort. I do think it's a lack of awareness at times.”
Wright State is led by 6-foot-9 forward Grant Basile, an All-Horizon League performer last season who scored 37 Friday against Marshall.
Note: Purdue freshman Brian Waddell, a Carmel graduate who is redshirting this season, has a torn ACL. Painter said the Boilermakers are hopeful Waddell will be 100% for the start of the 2022-23 season.
vs. Wright State
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Mackey Arena, West Lafayette
Records: No. 6 Purdue (2-0), Wright State (1-1)
TV: Big Ten Network