Purdue has been inconsistent offensively. Its defense has been anything but, and that may prove critical to the Boilermakers with the loss of another key scorer.
The No. 19 Boilermakers visit Valparaiso on Tuesday night looking to continue their domination of the series.
Purdue (7-1) won at Alabama 66-47 on Saturday for its second straight victory. The Boilermakers were held below 40 percent shooting for the third straight game, but forced 18 turnovers and held the Crimson Tide to 0-for-9 from 3-point range.
E’Twaun Moore scored 23 points and hit five 3-pointers while JaJuan Johnson had 17 points. Moore added nine rebounds, two steals and two blocks.
Moore and Johnson have carried Purdue offensively this season in the absence of Robbie Hummel. They are scoring 20.3 and 18.1 points per game, respectively, and are the only two Boilermakers averaging in double figures.
The pressure on them to put up points is likely to increase without key reserve John Hart. The guard, third on the team with 8.4 points per game, is out at least a month with a stress fracture in his right foot.
Purdue also lost swingman D.J. Byrd, who has started four games and is averaging 5.3 points, to a shoulder injury against Alabama. He played only two minutes Saturday and his status for Tuesday is uncertain.
That makes the ability to shut down opponents all the more important for coach Matt Painter’s team.
“It’s all about matching up on defense,” said Painter, whose squad is limiting teams to 55.9 points and 38.3 percent shooting per game while forcing 18.3 turnovers. “We’ll continue to tinker with things and play the guys who are most productive. I’m excited about it.”
Purdue’s defensive prowess could get tested by a balanced Valparaiso attack. The Crusaders (6-2) have four players averaging double figures in points, led by Cory Johnson with 14.6.
“Valpo is a very good basketball team with a lot of good scorers,” Painter said. “They really stretch you out with their ability to shoot the basketball. They have a very skilled team, and it’s going to be a tough matchup.”
Valparaiso has won four in a row, the last two coming on the road. The Crusaders defeated Loyola of Chicago 66-56 on Saturday, as Howard Little scored 16 points and Johnson added 14.
“I thought we had five guys on the floor really working hard defensively and doing a great job to extend our lead,” coach Homer Drew told Valparaiso’s official website.
The Crusaders have played five straight away from home. They’ll return to the Athletics-Recreation Center looking to build on some solid defensive work, having held their last four opponents to an average of 61.3 points and 38.0 percent shooting.
This is the 16th meeting between Purdue and Valparaiso. The Boilermakers lead the series 13-1 and had to vacate a win in 1995.
The Boilermakers, who last played at Valparaiso in 2001, beat the Crusaders 86-62 on Dec. 9 behind a team-high 19 points from Moore and Johnson.
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