With two games next week at Madison Square Garden, 11th-ranked Purdue could easily overlook Saturday night’s meeting with Coppin State at Mackey Arena.
It seems unlikely to happen considering the way the Boilermakers dominated their first three opponents.
Despite starting 5-of-15 from the field on Tuesday, Purdue (3-0) advanced to the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals by defeating Loyola of Chicago 78-46.
The Boilermakers will continue that tournament in New York on Wednesday with a matchup against unbeaten Boston College, and will face either No. 12 Oklahoma or Utah in the championship or consolation game.
Saturday’s game is their only one before that trip, and they hope to roll to victory just as they have in their first three contests. They won those games by an average of 31.0 points.
Purdue held Loyola to 29.8 percent from the field and 14 first-half points - one off the school record. The Boilermakers have limited their opponents to a combined 33.9 percent shooting this season.
“When shots don’t fall, that’s something we’ve talked about, can we beat really good teams when we don’t shoot well, because that’s going to happen,” said Purdue coach Matt Painter, whose team is shooting 46.7 percent from the floor. “There’s not been a team yet that went through the course of a season where you don’t have a handful of games where the ball doesn’t go in for you.
“Our staple is our defense. You have to reward yourself defensively.”
Last season’s Big Ten defensive player of the year, Chris Kramer, didn’t score Tuesday but had three steals to move into seventh on the Boilermakers’ career list with 148.
Purdue leading scorer E’Twaun Moore, who had 14 points and seven rebounds, added three steals as the Boilermakers forced 22 turnovers for the second consecutive game.
Preseason Big Ten player of the year Robbie Hummel hit 2-of-3 from 3-point range and had 13 points versus Loyola. Hummel, averaging less than 20 minutes per game, is second on the Boilermakers in scoring at 15.0 points per contest and hitting 58.3 percent from the field, including 7-of-10 from beyond the arc.
Senior Marcus Green posted his first career double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds against Loyola.
“Our strength lies in our balance,” Painter said before the season. “If we play unselfish and hard, I believe we can compete with anyone in the nation.”
While Purdue aims for its first 4-0 start since 2003-04, Coppin State is looking for a strong start to a tough stretch in which it will play eight consecutive road games—three against ranked teams. The Eagles (1-0) visit No. 24 Kansas next Friday and face No. 25 Wisconsin on Dec. 20.
They hope this run of road games goes much better than the one they had last year, when they played nine straight away from home from Dec. 8-Jan. 16 and won only once.
Coppin State opened its season with a 94-73 victory over Division II Wilmington on Saturday, shooting 59.3 percent from the field. It was the program’s best shooting effort since making 59.6 percent in a 80-65 win over Maryland-Eastern on Feb. 26, 2007.
Freshman Jordan Lee hit 3-of-4 from 3-point range and led the defending Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament champions with 22 points.
Sophomore Vince Goldsberry scored a career-high 20 and senior Tywain McKee, the conference preseason player of the year, added 20 on 9-of-16 shooting before leaving with an ankle injury. McKee’s status for this game is uncertain.
Purdue, which defeated Coppin State 86-65 on Dec. 11, 1999, in the teams’ only previous meeting, is 4-0 all-time versus the MEAC.