January 24, 2013

Painter: Wolverines are cerebral

Purdue undressed Michigan on its own court a year ago, defensively hounding the Wolverines into their only home loss, 75-61. Michigan's 68-53 answer on Thursday night revealed two very different teams, Purdue head coach Matt Painter noted.

He focused on his own team first, pointing out that the Boilermakers are younger and not as savvy in some ways as they were last season. Yes, Michigan is better, but…

"Well, we had a different team, too," Painter cautioned. "We were number one in the country in fewest turnovers, so we didn't beat ourselves. I thought we did a better job last year in our ball screen 'D.' I thought that really helped us."

The Purdue coach quickly shifted gears, though, noting the Wolverines didn't get to No. 2 in the nation on smoke and mirrors.

"That being said, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, I wouldn't call them the same players," Painter pointed out. "They've made some strides and matured as players. They're doing a better job of picking their spots.

"They have two mature freshman in [Glenn] Robinson and [Nik] Stauskas. Both of those guys do a good job of turning things down and just moving the basketball and picking their spots. They have a really cerebral team. They have an efficient offensive team, and then they have physical play at the five, especially from a defensive standpoint.

"They just have a great mix. They obviously have a better team this year than they did last year, in my opinion. And they won the Big Ten. That kind of speaks volumes for the kind of team they have."

A year ago, Burke struggled to a 4-for-12 shooting night against the Boilermakers at Crisler, turning the ball over four times with four assists. He didn't light it up in the Crisler Center rematch, going 6-for-14 on his way to 15 points, but racked up eight assists to only one turnover this time around.

Painter noticed the difference, not only in what the Boilermakers were unable to accomplish, but in what Burke did get done.

"In the ball screen defense with Trey Burke, we really tried to keep him to a side, not let him open some things up," Painter said. "At times, he got loose, and when he gets loose, he does a good job of getting into his pull-up, getting to the basket, and then finding guys, especially opposite.

"So when we allowed him into the teeth of the defense, or he just made a good play, good things are normally going to happen. You've got to try your best to keep him on the side and not let him get to that point. Any time you let players with quickness and vision and skill have the whole court to operate from, they're going to make good decisions."

Those decisions led to the Wolverines remaining undefeated at home, unlike the last time the Boilermakers came calling.

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