So what will the Purdue University men’s basketball team use as motivation in the NCAA tournament now?
After the fourth-seeded Boilermakers were picked as the most likely first-round upset – based largely on the season-ending knee injury to junior forward Robbie Hummel seven games ago and their 69-42 loss to Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament semifinals – Purdue (28-5) used the perceived slight to stop Siena 72-64 on Friday in a South Region opener.
Next up are the fifth-seeded Texas A&M Aggies (24-9) in a second-round game this afternoon at the Arena about 30 minutes following the 11:40 a.m. game between Michigan State and Maryland.
“I don’t think our team needs any more motivation,” junior forward JuJuan Johnson said. “We have dealt with our share of adversity this whole year. Pretty much we know as long as the guys in that locker room believe that we can accomplish something, that’s all that really matters.”
Both Purdue and Texas A&M entered the tournament expecting to make deep runs. And both teams pride themselves in hard-nosed defense. So something will have to give.
The defenses aren’t likely to rest. So the difference might come down to which team pieces together the longest stretches of effective offense.
“I think that’s the strong point for both teams is defensive play,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “Not to say on the other end of the court it’s a weakness because I don’t think it is for either team. But that’s what you have to hang your hat on – on the defensive end.”
Aggies coach Mark Turgeon agrees.
“You’ve got two tough teams,” Turgeon said. “Who is going to be tougher tomorrow at 2 o’clock? That’s what to me is going to come down to. And it should be a real physical, low scoring game.”
And Turgeon believes the Boilermakers still might have a burr in their shorts.
“I saw a team yesterday with a little bit of a chip on their shoulder, everybody telling them they’re no good any more without Robbie and they’re going to lose to Siena and they kind of stepped up and played pretty well,” Turgeon said. “Defense and toughness. I think that’s what (Purdue) is all about.”
Texas A&M is 17-2 when holding opponents to under 42 percent shooting from the field. Purdue is 25-1 when it leads in field-goal percentage. In the last 14 games, the Boilermakers are 12-2 when allowing opponents to shoot just 39.8 percent from the floor and 34.1 percent from 3-point range.
Offense won’t likely come easy for either team. If either team has an offensive advantage, though, it’s probably Texas A&M.
“You just can’t grab a guy or two and say shut these guys down and you’re going to shut down Texas A&M,” Painter said. “They have a lot of weapons.”