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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, December 06, 2018 1:00 am

Boilers again face ranked foe

Visit by No. 23 Maryland will be 4th Top 25 team in 5 games

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Purdue vs. Maryland

Where: Mackey Arena, West Lafayette

When: 7 p.m. today

Records: Purdue (5-3, 0-1 Big Ten), Maryland (7-1, 1-0)

TV: Big Ten Network

Radio: 1380 AM

Purdue's brutal early-season schedule rolls on tonight, when the Boilermakers welcome No. 23 Maryland to Mackey Arena. It will be the fourth time in five games Purdue has faced a ranked team.

The Boilers (5-3, 0-1 Big Ten) have lost each of the first three games they've had against Top 25 opponents, hanging with Virginia Tech and Florida State, but falling 76-57 in the Big Ten opener against then-No. 7 Michigan on Saturday.

Each of those three games was on the road or at a neutral site, however, and Purdue will return to Mackey Arena tonight for the first time since it beat Robert Morris on Nov. 23. The Boilers haven't lost in three home games this season and were 16-1 there last season. 

Playing in a packed arena could be a significant advantage against the young Terrapins, who brought in one of the best freshman classes in the country. That class has helped Maryland get off to a flying start at 7-1, but all eight of those games were played in the state of Maryland, including seven at home. 

Playing at Mackey, one of the loudest arenas in the country, presents a different challenge.

“(Maryland coach Mark Turgeon) constantly stresses that it's hard to win games on the road, it's hard to win in college basketball, in the Big Ten in general,” freshman Aaron Wiggins said. “(The crowd's energy) is just something we have to look at and find a way to twist it, flip it, just try to silence the joint and keep it all down.”

The Maryland freshmen, led by forward Jalen Smith and guards Wiggins and Eric Ayala, combine to average 37.3 points. Maryland averages 80 overall and will provide a significant challenge defensively for the Boilermakers, who have struggled on that end recently.

When Purdue faced Michigan, the Wolverines hit 13 3-pointers and turned the ball over just 11 times. Boilers coach Matt Painter was unhappy with his team's defensive performance.

“I didn't think (the defense) was very good the other night against Michigan,” Painter said. “I thought we started off poorly and just didn't have an attention to detail. You have to be able to play hard, but you also have to have attention to detail.

Purdue's offense wasn't particularly good against the Wolverines, either, shooting 35.5 percent and scoring a season-low 57 points. It was the Boilermakers' lowest output since a 57-53 loss at Wisconsin on Feb. 15. 

The Boilermakers' offense has run through junior guard Carsen Edwards this season, but Edwards has struggled in recent weeks, averaging five turnovers in his last five games and shooting just 35.9 percent from the field in his last four.

Painter said the talented 6-foot guard is trying to do too much and wants him to let the game come to him rather than trying to force opportunities that aren't there.

“He's got to make good decisions,” Painter said of Edwards. “If he makes good decisions, he's going to play well. ... He's had those experiences (struggling) before, so it's not like this is something that is new, but I think the volume's a little different because he's in a position where he has more opportunities.

“I definitely think it's fixable and I definitely think he'll do that.”

Purdue suffered a pair of back-to-back early-season losses last year, but rebounded with a school-record 19 consecutive victories. The Boilers didn't lose their third game of the season until Feb. 7. 

dsinn@jg.net