|No. 17 Purdue looks to end hex vs. Butler|
No. 17 Purdue will try to end a five-game losing streak to Butler when the in-state rivals meet Saturday at the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis.
Three of the losses in that skid have come at this tournament, in its seventh season of putting on a doubleheader that also includes Indiana and Notre Dame. Purdue and Butler meet every other year. Big Ten foes Purdue and Indiana never play each other in this event.
The Boilermakers (10-2) and Bulldogs (8-2) will meet in the first game Saturday at noon ET at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
"I think this is probably the biggest game of the season so far, because we have a chance to finish the non-conference strong," Purdue senior guard P.J. Thompson told the Lafayette Journal & Courier.
"Any time you play an Indiana school you always want to win so you have those bragging rights. Butler's had success. I think they will in the future, too. It's a big game, man."
Both teams are hot.
Purdue has ripped off six consecutive victories, kick-started by a 25-point win over then-No. 2 Arizona in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. The Boilermakers also have wins over Louisville, at Maryland and against Northwestern in that stretch.
Coach Matt Painter, who picked up 300th career win Sunday with a victory over IUPUI, has a standout guard in sophomore Carsen Edwards (17.0 points per game), along with great post play. Forward Vincent Edwards averages 13.5 points and 9.2 rebounds; 7-foot-2 center Isaac Haas averages 15.1 points and 1.3 blocks.
Matt Haarms, a 7-3 freshman, comes off the bench to swat 2.92 shots per game.
"He brings some big-man qualities. He can score around the basket and he can block shots. But he has a lot of guard qualities," Painter said of Haarms, averaging 17.3 minutes per game.
"If he was 6-3, he would be a good player. He can dribble, pass and shoot. He knows what's going on. He's very intelligent. Sky's the limit. ... We have to find a way to get him on the court more."
Butler has won five consecutive games, during which forward Kelan Martin is averaging 20.8 points and 8.2 rebounds. Guard Paul Jorgensen has made 16 of 30 3-point attempts in those five games, while forward Tyler Wideman had hit 20 of 24 attempts from the field.
"I think guys are starting to know each other a lot better on the court, finding a little bit of a rhythm together and be more connected," said Butler first-year coach LaVell Jordan.
The Bulldogs shoot 47.4 percent from the field, although just 31.3 percent from beyond the arc. Martin, averaging 17.6 points, is hitting 25 percent from long range (18 of 72), while guard Kamar Baldwin is at 29.8 percent (14 of 47).
Painter is 275-144 at Purdue but hasn't defeated Butler.
"They've got size; they're a really good team," Jordan said.
The Boilermakers lead the series 37-19 but their last victory came nearly 19 years ago -- on Dec. 19, 1998, when Jordan was a sophomore at Butler. He scored three points in 13 minutes that day.