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Purdue, Texas Tech coaches have history

By
The Sports Xchange
Coach Matt Painter and Purdue face Texas Tech in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. File photo by Mark Goldman/UPI
Coach Matt Painter and Purdue face Texas Tech in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. File photo by Mark Goldman/UPI | License Photo

Neither Purdue coach Matt Painter nor Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said they believe their previous meeting will have any impact when their teams face off in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament on Friday night in Boston.

But it's still a pretty compelling subplot.

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Beard's national profile skyrocketed two years ago when his Arkansas-Little Rock squad, the No. 12 seed in the Midwest Region, upset fifth-seeded Purdue in the opening round, 85-83 in double overtime.

Arkansas-Little Rock fell in the second round against Iowa State and 10 days after the Trojans knocked off the Boilermakers, Beard was hired away by UNLV. But his stay there was brief.

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Texas Tech, having been jilted by Tubby Smith when he led the Red Raiders to the tournament and then left for Memphis, used Smith's buyout money to help lure Beard away from UNLV. Beard spent a decade as an assistant at Texas Tech, so it was a surprisingly easy sell for the Red Raiders.

It worked out for Texas Tech as Beard has the program back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2005. And as fate would have it, the Red Raiders (26-9) will play the Boilermakers (30-6).

While Painter refuted the idea that Arkansas-Little Rock's win in 2016 will help the Red Raiders on Friday, he knows the kind of tenacity Beard brings to the game.

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"His teams play extremely hard," Painter said. "Obviously coming up (with an) Eddie Sutton, Bob Knight background the way they play tough, hard-nosed man-to-man defense. They're very good on the offensive end too at breaking you down."

Along with game planning for the Red Raiders, Painter has to figure out how to keep advancing with 7-foot-2 center Isaac Haas likely out of the lineup. Haas fractured his right elbow in Purdue's first-round victory over Cal State Fullerton on Friday. A report surfaced earlier this week that the school's engineering program was working on an NCAA-approved brace that would allow Haas to play against Texas Tech.

But Painter, at least with the media, has treated that idea as science fiction.

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"I don't think so," Painter said. "Like I've said all along, if you fracture your elbow, it's really hard. It makes for good conversation because he wants to play. I don't think the key is him getting some other apparatus that gets approved by the NCAA. He's still got to be able to shoot a right-handed free throw."

Luckily for the Boilermakers, they're one of the few programs in the country that can sub-in one agile 7-footer for another. While Haas averaged 14.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks, 7-3 backup Matt Haarms performed well in the second-round victory over Butler. Haarms posted seven points, six boards and two blocks to help the Boilermakers outlast the Bulldogs.

Haarms' defensive presence could be crucial against Texas Tech, which likes to get to the basket on the offensive end.

The Red Raiders have made only 10 3-pointers in the NCAA Tournament, but they're shooting 50 percent from inside the arc. Texas Tech has made a name for itself with point guard Keenan Evans (17.8 points per game) driving for buckets and guard Zhaire Smith finishing ally-oops in impressive fashion.

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