Purdue has had five days off since its most impressive win of the season, a 71-42 beatdown of then-No. 8 Michigan State at Mackey Arena on Sunday.
That five-day layoff is the longest the Boilermakers will have during their Big Ten schedule and they're hoping it will help them bring the same energy they had against the Spartans on the road with them when they face No. 17 Maryland today. The Boilers are 0-3 on the road in Big Ten play and have just one true road victory all season, against Ohio.
Purdue is certainly not alone in struggling on the road in conference play. As of Friday, road teams had won just 14% of Big Ten league games, compared with 32% for every other conference.
“There's a lack of a truly dominant team in the Big Ten, a team that's just ripping it up everywhere they go,” Boilers center Matt Haarms said. “Everyone seemingly has flaws and those flaws are more easily exploited when you're on the road because on the road you don't shoot as well.
“When you're not shooting well, the true flaws of your team come out and you see things that can be exploited.”
Purdue's most recent road game went better than most. The Boilermakers took then-No. 19 Michigan to overtime in Ann Arbor before falling 84-78. Outside of big man Trevion Williams, they shot just 30% from the field, but they brought the defensive intensity necessary to weather the hostile environment.
“I see it as the next step on the path to getting a true road win on the Big Ten,” Haarms said of the loss to the Wolverines. “In that game, we were fighting the entire game, I thought it was extremely impressive from everybody, working really hard. Of course, we don't get the result we wanted at the end there.
“That's something we've got to hold on to. We can't be happy. ... We've got to continue to have that fight for 40 minutes.”
For the third consecutive game, the Boilermakers will have to keep a talented, creative point guard from beating them. Michigan's Zavier Simpson got into the lane at will late against Purdue, but the Boilers then turned around and frustrated Michigan State's Cassius Winston into his worst performance of the season.
Today, Purdue will try to do the same against Maryland senior Anthony Cowan, who is averaging 16.2 points and 4 assists.
“Just trying to keep Cowan out of the paint so he can't create for himself and create for other people,” coach Matt Painter said of Purdue's game plan. “No different than Cassius Winston or Zavier Simpson or (Minnesota's) Marcus Carr, just giving everything you have as a team to limit his opportunities. When he gets a high volume of opportunities, he's proven he's gonna be able to make plays.”
The Boilermakers will also have to deal with Maryland big man Jalen Smith, a 6-foot-10 sophomore who is averaging 13.6 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks.
This season, Smith has added 3-point shooting, hitting 39.4% of his attempts from beyond the arc. Haarms, who is still dealing with a nagging hip flexor injury, and Williams will try to avoid being drawn away from rebounding and shot-blocking position as they defend Smith.
Purdue at Maryland
When: 2 p.m. today
Where: Xfinity Center, College Park, Md.
Records: Purdue (10-7, 3-3 Big Ten), Maryland (13-4, 3-3)
Radio: 1190 AM, 107.5 FM