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Purdue resolves rough week by pounding St. Peter's

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CHICAGO -- Purdue put a week full of rumors, injuries, distractions and a suspension behind it, and put St. Peter's behind as well, with a 65-43 win in the Round of 64.

The Boilers didn't have the best week off the court. On Wednesday, sixth-man Kelsey Barlow was suspended for the remainder of the season for the dreaded and vague, "conduct detrimental to the team." Rumors went flying on the Internet that there had been a fight in practice and/or that the suspension had caused a rift on the team. None of that was true.

Guard Ryne Smith suffered a mild concussion earlier in the week, leading to him being rumored as one of the fight participants, but he just found himself on the business end of an E'Twaun Moore elbow in practice. He played against the Peacocks, although he was held scoreless.

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Reserve guard John Hart reinjured his foot in practice this week as well. He missed nine games earlier in the season with a stress fracture in his right foot. He was cleared by doctors to play today, but sat out anyway. Other than that, it was a week of fun and frivolity.

Purdue coach Matt Painter was unfazed by the rumors and innuendo. "The thing about what actually happens in your program, your players know. So you really don't care what other people say or think because they don't know."

Things hadn't been all that great on the court lately, either. The Boilers entered the NCAA tournament with a two-game losing streak. But through all that bad news, one constant remained: Well, actually two -- seniors Moore and JaJuan Johnson.

The shorter Peacocks threw everything but the kitchen sink at Johnson. They double teamed him, got physical with him, and did whatever they could to harass him, and that was somewhat effective. He had 16 points, but it came on 6-16 shooting. Moore led all scorers with 19.

After the game, St. Peter's coach John Dunne said, "I thought we made Johnson work very hard, but he still made some tough ones. You almost can't even double-team him because all his shots are little fade-aways, the jump hooks, the right shoulder turnarounds, and he makes them even when he's doubled."

He also called Moore, "probably the most efficient player that I've seen in a really long time."

That's a bit of hyperbole, since Moore had seven of Purdue's 16 turnovers. He did set yet another scoring mark, breaking the school record for 3-pointers in a career.

The much bigger Boilermakers also had a commanding lead on the glass, led by Johnson's 16 boards.

Perhaps the most important thing for Purdue though was simply regaining its mojo. During the Boilermakers' skid, everyone around the program talked about how they had not done what Purdue is best known for, competing hard and defensive intensity.

The Boilers set the tone right from the start. By the second media timeout, they had a 15-4 lead, held the Peacocks to 2-of-7 shooting, and forced seven turnovers. It was an uphill climb for St. Peter's the rest of the night.

Purdue's win wasn't exactly a thing of beauty. Painter lamented that his team has to make better decisions and was, "a little careless with the ball." But at least it went back to being "Purdue." That's a start.

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