Unbeaten No. 6 Purdue, No. 17 North Carolina embrace early test

NCAA Men

This weekend looms big on the early schedule for No. 17 North Carolina and No. 6 Purdue.

They’ll meet Saturday in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament in Uncasville, Conn.

“Now we’ll get a real test in our next tournament with the teams that we’re going to play,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said, pointing to North Carolina first. “They have great individual players. They’re like everybody else, trying to find themselves, especially defensively.”

North Carolina (3-0), which won 94-83 on Tuesday night at College of Charleston in a hostile environment, is hoping a good test away from home will help build toward something even better in this tournament setting.

“To see them respond on the road in a packed house,” North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said, “… This builds a lot of confidence for us moving forward. I love it now that we won. Everybody tells us that this is going to make us better.”

Purdue (3-0) has dominated three games at home, blasting Bellarmine, Indiana State and Wright State. The Boilermakers have scored more than 90 points in each of those games – something that Purdue hadn’t done in three straight games in almost 21 years.

Yet the Boilermakers have been trying to make headway defensively.

“Defense is something we wanted to stress even more,” Purdue forward Caleb Furst said.

North Carolina traditionally has a high-powered offense. Davis, in his first season, has players capable of continuing that trend.

“We’re still having breakdowns, but they’re diminishing,” Painter said. “We want to be better from a defensive standpoint because we know just how talented North Carolina is and all the weapons they have.”

Early on, North Carolina players have taken turns as offensive standouts. Most recently, it has been Armando Bacot in the lane and Caleb Love from the backcourt.

“We have a lot of weapons and everyone has a chance for a Superman night,” Tar Heels guard Kerwin Walton said. “(Love) got aggressive. He has got a lot of confidence this year. I think he knows how good he is.”

Love has reached the 20-point mark twice this season after doing so two times in all of last season as a freshman.

Davis has implemented an offense that could take some players out of the lane. He would like to see multiple threats on the perimeter.

“Our strength is attacking the basket,” Davis said. “Now we have shooters — if people want to clamp down – (who) can make shots from the outside.”

Purdue senior forward Trevion Williams passed the 1,000-point mark for his career earlier this week.

The Boilermakers are 3-0 for the 11th time in Painter’s 17 seasons.

Both teams play again Sunday against either No. 5 Villanova or No. 17 Tennessee in a championship game or consolation game depending on Saturday’s results.

It’s certainly odd for North Carolina to be in an in-season tournament as the lowest-ranked team of the four entrants.

Both previous Purdue-North Carolina meetings were won by the Tar Heels in November games on neutral courts (1998 in New York, 1999 in Honolulu).

–Field Level Media

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