Purdue’s defense is still among the best in the nation, and its offense is finally starting to click.
The fifth-ranked Boilermakers look to improve upon their best start in 16 years Saturday when they face an Alabama team coming off one of its best performances of the season.
Purdue (8-0) hasn’t been unbeaten this far into a season since opening 14-0 in 1993-94, but that record could be tested in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide (6-2) have had a week off to prepare and are riding a three-game win streak that includes a victory in their only game against a ranked team—68-66 over then-No. 15 Michigan on Nov. 29.
The Boilermakers played Wednesday, causing 18 turnovers and holding Valparaiso to 42.2 percent shooting in an 86-62 victory. The Boilermakers, ninth in the nation with 20.0 turnovers forced per game, are holding teams to 38.1 percent from the field.
Purdue, however, struggled with its shooting during the first six games, making 42.9 percent while going 29 of 109 (26.6 percent) from 3-point range. But after hitting 12 of 24 from beyond the arc and shooting 52.2 percent in last Saturday’s 101-65 victory over Buffalo, the Boilermakers hit nine of their first 11 shots Wednesday and made a season-high 52.7 percent from the floor.
“We just started making shots,” said junior Robbie Hummel, who had 15 points and made all three of his 3-point attempts after hitting 4 of 28 in his previous six games. “We haven’t really been doing anything different.”
The Boilermakers, who were 10 of 22 from 3-point range Wednesday, have scored 80 or more points four times this season compared to just five in 2008-09.
“I wouldn’t say we’re in a comfort zone, but we’re confident,” coach Matt Painter said. “When you get comfortable, you get beat. That’s why you have to keep players on edge.”
Aside from last month’s Paradise Jam title in the Virgin Islands, Painter’s team will play its first game of the season away from Mackey Arena on Saturday.
Purdue’s only previous road game against Alabama was a 97-80 loss Nov. 26, 1976, in Birmingham.
The Crimson Tide have won four straight at home and are coming off a 74-46 victory over Louisiana-Monroe last Saturday. Alabama committed nine turnovers and had a season-high 16 steals.
“If you can play unselfishly, play hard, play with energy and play with purpose you’re going to have a chance to be successful,” coach Anthony Grant told the school’s official Web site. “What that means for our next game, I really don’t know. We’ve just go to continue to try to get better and to continue to try to control the things we can control.”
Mikhail Torrance averages a team-high 15.1 points and JaMychal Green adds 14.4 per game for Alabama, which has lost three straight against top-five teams by an average of 8.7 points since beating then-No. 1 Stanford on March 20, 2004.
“I look it as a chance find out where we are at this stage of the season,” Grant said of facing Purdue. “It’s a test for us and another opportunity to see where we are, where we need to improve and where we’ve grown.”
Purdue leading scorer E’Twaun Moore, averaging 16.8 points, matched a career high with five 3-pointers and scored 19 points Wednesday. The junior is 11 of 21 from long range in his last five games.
In its last game versus Alabama, Purdue lost 85-77 in double overtime March 23, 2001, in the postseason NIT. The Boilermakers lead the all-time series 3-2.