No. 3 Purdue hopes bumpy road behind it, faces Butler

NCAA Men's Basketball

No. 3 Purdue has been a bit shaky over its last two games but still owns the fourth 9-1 or better start of coach Matt Painter’s tenure.

The Boilermakers take aim at their 10th win on Saturday when they face Butler in the Crossroads Classic on a neutral floor in Indianapolis.

Purdue won its first eight games to move atop the national rankings before hitting a few bumps.

The Boilermakers lost 70-68 at Rutgers on Dec. 9 when Ron Harper Jr. buried a 3-pointer from just inside midcourt at the buzzer. Three days later, Purdue never led in regulation and had to overcome a 13-point second-half deficit before producing an 82-72 overtime win over North Carolina State in New York.

“You’re not pleased with the position that you’re in,” said Painter, “but you’re pleased about being able to dig yourself out of a hole.”

Trevion Williams had a monster game against NC State with 22 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists, four blocked shots and two steals. The assists were a career high, the point total was a season best and the blocks matched a career high.

It was the second straight 20-point outing and fourth of the season for Williams, who ranks third on the team with a 14.2 scoring average and has a team-best 9.3 rebounding average despite playing just 21.1 minutes per game off the bench.

Jaden Ivey leads the Boilermakers with a 16.4 scoring average and Zach Edey is second at 14.6. Sasha Stefanovic (11.9) also averages in double digits.

Against NC State, Purdue trailed 54-41 with just over nine minutes left in regulation before outscoring the Wolfpack 41-18 over the game’s final 14 minutes.

“Our consistency in our execution offensively got better as the game went along,” Painter said. “You really judge things on the results, the ball doesn’t go in. But what it really comes down to if you get good shots and the ball doesn’t go in there’s only so much that you can do. As it went on, I thought our energy picked up especially down the stretch.”

Butler (7-3) has won its past four games, a stretch that includes a 66-62 overtime road at Oklahoma.

The Bulldogs defeated visiting Eastern Illinois 66-54 on Saturday in their last game.

Bryce Golden tied his career best of 20 points and knocked down 8 of 10 shots. Golden is averaging 15.3 points over the past four games after reaching double digits just once in Butler’s first six games.

“Obviously, I started off a little bit slow, but no one lost faith in me,” Golden said. “I kind of just fed off that energy and obviously I’ve had some success over the last few games, but it all came from my teammates believing in me.”

Aaron Thompson also fared well with season bests of 14 points and 10 assists for his fourth career double-double. He also made 6 of 7 free throws after being just 5 of 16 entering the game.

“I think I do a good job at drawing fouls,” Thompson said. “I think I’ve grown at that over the years. Learning how to draw fouls when I can and when refs are telling me to not flop and stuff like that. I want to make it realistic.”

Chuck Harris leads Butler with an 11.6 scoring average. Jair Bolden averages 11.4 and Jayden Taylor chips in 10.2 per game.

Purdue leads the series 39-20.

Indiana and Notre Dame meet in the event’s second game of the day.

–Field Level Media

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