For Purdue, now comes the real benefit of the World University Games

Brian Neubert, GoldandBlack.com staff
Gold and Black
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Video interviews ($): Seniors, Matt Haarms and Jacquil Taylor

Day 1 of formal practice for Purdue this coming October will, in effect, be Day 60.

That, the Boilermakers hope, should give them a distinct advantage heading into a promising season, that edge being the perspective teams generally need weeks, if not months, to gain.

Purdue formally practiced — as a full team —generally twice a week through the bulk of the summer, the luxury that came with its participation in the World University Games, where it won silver in August.

Normally, teams would be allowed just two hours per week of "official" practice time, to use however they see fit.

Purdue could do, basically, whatever it wanted.

That practice experience, in addition to the eight games and one scrimmage played in Taipei and the two exhibitions played against Team Canada in the U.S., should matter considerably come the season.

"We had our preseason all summer and played a third of our schedule, playing 10-11 games," guard Dakota Mathias said. "… I think it puts us ahead of teams, because we get into practice and there's no rules, per se. The young guys learned how we do things, our principles, things like that. A lot of teams are doing that right now and it might take a little longer. Our guys already have that edge."

Beyond those practicalities, Purdue should have some self-awareness to it, a working knowledge of what it should be good at it and what needs work.

The competition overseas was strong, players say, the better teams comparable to high-major college competition and the stakes NCAA Tournament-like.

Purdue played well, mowing through pool play before winning a close game against Israel — one of the best teams in the event — and beating Estonia to reach the final. There, Lithuania prevailed.

"I think our team's a little different," point guard P.J. Thompson said. "We're really good about competing and wanting to win. We got a silver medal at the World University Games and we were disappointed. I think the third-place team was cheering; they were excited and you see in the picture and we're all just sitting there. We're not sore losers. Lithuania earned it. But we wanted to win a gold medal and didn't.

'But second place is going to look good down the road when we look back and see what we did and how we were blessed and fortunate to get a chance to do something not a lot of people do, to represent the United State. Right now it might not look as good but in 10 years, it's going to look pretty good."

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The short-term value of the gold medal-game loss is clear, as it highlighted Purdue's needed emphases in advance of the season.

"Dribble containment when we're out in open space and to keep tightening up our ball-screen D," forward Vincent Edwards said. "Those are two things that have been getting us in the past."

And rebounding.

Purdue doesn't have Caleb Swanigan anymore. College basketball's pre-eminent rebounder from a year ago is in Portland now and the Boilermakers must do whatever they can to prevent their consistent strength from recent seasons from becoming a consistent issue.

Lithuania gauged Purdue on the glass, grabbing a game-deciding 17 offensive rebounds.

"And rebounding, that definitely stuck out in the gold medal game obviously," Mathias said. "We have to be able to rebound and be a little tougher on the glass."

It was disappointing for Purdue, that it fell short of winning the event, but in the short term that exposure in those areas of the game might prove beneficial.

So will the successes that far outnumbered the failures.

"We're going to take this, run with the momentum and try to jump-start the season from here," Edwards said.

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