Purdue head coach Matt Painter, in the opening statement of his Big Ten teleconference appearance, jumped right to the obvious.
“We’ve got a big week coming up,” said Painter.
With a road upset of No. 17 Wisconsin, Purdue flipped the script on its season. Now, the season’s final stretch—home matchups with No. 7 Michigan and Minnesota—offer added importance.
The victory is surely a bright spot on the Boilermakers’ postseason résumé. In a short-term glance, it was vital in jockeying for a higher seeding in the Big Ten Tournament. Purdue (14-15, 7-9) has a chance to jump out of the No. 10 seed—the lowest it could be slotted.
Senior forward D.J. Byrd led the Boilermakers by Wisconsin with a game-high 22 points, including 16 in the second half. As his Purdue career comes to a close, he’s making crucial contributions.
“He got on track and got into a rhythm shooting the basketball,” Painter said of Byrd. “I thought he did a good job on the glass; getting the eight rebounds was huge for us. But he just stepped up, made some timely shots, and did good job shooting within our offense.”
The key for Purdue was a cleaner effort. It had 12 turnovers in the box score on Sunday. While that’s nothing to write home about, it was the difference from three-straight road losses which saw the Boilers be careless with the basketball.
“We just kept telling them: Purdue’s beating Purdue,” Painter said. “We have to take care of the basketball. When we throw the basketball to the other team and we’re careless, we’re beating ourselves.”
With a young roster, Painter has been searching for consistency in his rotation—that can often be easier said than done. When freshman forward A.J. Hammons struggled in the first half, Painter turned to junior Sandi Marcius for minutes. He tallied eight second-half points and pulled down five rebounds in 21 minutes of action.
“When you don’t play at a level necessary in the Big Ten, you need to sit down and watch,” said Painter. “That point normally gets across really quick to young guys. That really helps us as a team to have another guy there.”
It all came together for the Boilers. They had an answer for each punch the Badgers threw. Thanks to timely runs and contributions all around the lineup, Purdue pulled off an important win.
“Hopefully,” added Painter, “we can use that type of effort as some momentum going into our next game.”