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Day 1 at Purdue as No. 1: Even Coach Matt Painter 'Thinks It's A Pretty Cool Honor'

Monday, Dec. 6 was the first day ever that Purdue's men's basketball team was ranked No. 1 in the country. Purdue guard Sasha Stefanovic said coach Matt Painter congratulated them at the start of practice and said ''he even he thinks it's a cool honor. But then we went right to watching film and seeing what we need to work on.''

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Rick Mount never did it. Joe Barry Carroll never did it. Even the Big Dog, Glenn Robinson, never did it.

But Sasha Stefanovic and his current Purdue teammates did it on Monday, celebrating being ranked No. 1 in the country for the first time in school history. It was a nice moment for the 8-0 Boilermakers — but then they got right back to work.

"It's interesting to see our name with the No. 1 attached to it. It was a very surreal moment,'' Stefanovic said Monday night at Mad Mushroom Pizza during the Sasha Live! podcast on "You'd be a fool to say you wouldn't want to be No. 1, and for a split second there, you just really want to enjoy the moment. But we've got bigger goals and we've got a lot to improve on. Still, it's great for the university to do it, for the first time in history.''

"There's been so many great players in our program for hundreds of years, and great coaches and great teams that never did it. It is what it is right now. We're not engaging with anyone. Even our preseason rankings, it's a great honor, but at the end of the day, you still have to show up and play. It's a great problem to have.''

Stefanovic said that coach Matt Painter acknowledged the accomplishment at the start of practice, but then they got right to work on fixing issues from the 77-70 win over Iowa on Friday, and getting ready for a big road trip this weekend.

"Practice was pretty much same as usual. He did give us a little congratulations, and even he thinks it's a cool honor,'' Stefanovic said. "But then we went right to watching film and seeing what we need to work on. It was business as usual, not too much celebrating.

"We talk about it all the time that you can learn a lot from wins, too. We won, and we have been winning, but there's a ton we can still work on, and we do. That's our mentality right now. We're No. 1 and we're 8-0, but we have to keep improving.''

Stefanovic also talked about the win over Iowa, and this weekend's East Coast road trip to Rutgers and Brooklyn. Here are some of the highlights:

— on the challenges that Iowa presented

"We were talking about it today among the players that Iowa is really good team and they fought us to the end. They've got good players. We had a few great stretches in that game, and I thought Jaden (Ivey) was the catalyst there. We struggled a little bit, but then we weathered the storm down the stretch and made some big stops.

"One of our goals is to win the Big Ten title, so starting off with a win is a massive thing. It's always good to get a win. I thought we did a great job defensively, especially in the first half, in not letting their guards get going. Like Jordan Bohannon, we really did a great job of limiting his looks. (He only had four points). In the second half, we had too many breakdowns. You know every Big Ten game is going to like that, kind of a rock fight. I'm glad we were able to come up with a win.''

— on traveling to Rutgers

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"Playing in that arena is tough, and I haven't won in that arena before. It's a very tough environment. I think they're talented, they're just struggling early on. Ron Harper Jr. is a good player, and Geo Baker,  too, he's had some big games against us.

— on centers Zach Edey and Trevion Williams

"It comes along with the depth of our team. When you have two centers of their caliber, it's just a constant attack. Being able to get them touches and force teams to double, that's a big thing. That's always in our game plan, to get the ball inside. We're going to be prepared, be ready to play.

— on Mason Gillis playing well

"He was huge and made an impact right away. He's one of our best rebounders outside of Trevion because he's so strong and so aggressive. I know I hate trying to box him out in practice. He's getting back in game shape, and he's really helping. He and (Caleb) Furst have been great rotating in and out at the four position, and we're always getting something from both of them, kind of like it is with Zach and Trevion.

— on helping to accelerate Caleb Furst's growth

"Caleb's first introduction to Big Ten basketball has been trying to deal with Zach and Trevion and Mason in practice. Going up against all of our bigs every day, you've got to toughen up right away. Caleb's done a good job of that. He knew if he could hold his own against those guys, that he could play against anybody.''

— on Furst's future

"I was very surprised how strong he was when he showed up. I'm one of Caleb's biggest fans. He's going to be an All-Big Ten player here for sure. His versatility has been really key for us. He's a lot more athletic than people think, and he's a good shooter. We'e already seen that. He's made a massive impact for us so far.''

— on trip to New York

"We'll practice at the (Brooklyn) Nets' facility, which will be fun, and we'll have a chance to get out in the city a little. Hopefully I'll be able to grab a slice (of pizza). It'll be nice to see different things, experiencing new things and playing in new arena. It's a great experience.''

Watch the Sasha Live! podcast here

  • HANDLING EXPECTATIONS: Purdue has all the pieces to make a national title run this season, and since the bitter end to last season, those goals and lofty expectations have been in place. After getting off to a great 8-0 start, the Boilermakers are now ranked No. 1 in the country, a first in school history. But it's just a start, and they know it. CLICK HERE
  • BOILERS RANKED NO. 1: For the first time ever, the Purdue Boilermakers are ranked No. 1 in the country in this week's Associated Press top-25 poll. CLICK HERE
  • BOILERS TOP IOWA: Even though Purdue let most of a big second-half lead slip away, the Boilermakers hung on to beat Iowa 77-70 on Friday night in their Big Ten regular season opener. CLICK HERE
  • SURVIVING IOWA PRESS: Purdue struggled with Iowa's full-court pressure down the stretch, turning the ball over too much and allowing the Hawkeyes to get back in the game. An issue to be concerned with? CLICK HERE