I wrote yesterday that Purdue should be able to cruise to an easy win and head to Orlando at 5-0 after today's game against Siena. Much to noone's surprise, I was quite wrong.
The Saints team I said Purdue would be able to physically dominated instead made Purdue's centers look like freshmen playing their first collegiate game for much of the first 30 minutes of the game Sunday. 7-foot-tall A.J. Hammons and fellow center Jay Simpson struggled with shorter, more physical defenders. Hammons had three turnovers and four points, while Simpson had one point at halftime.
Hammons and Simpson refused to use their height and weight advantages to their... advantage for most of the game. The Saints didn't just double, they nearly tripled Purdue's scoring in the paint in the first half as Hammons especially was frustrated by the Saints into several post turnovers or just outright missed layups.
Despite this, Purdue managed to extend its lead to double-digits late in the first half after Sterling Carter hit one three against Siena's 2-3 zone, followed by three more long-range makes from Kendall Stephens. The next trip down, Stephens missed a shot from inside the 3-point line. Not long after Stephens picked up his second foul and both he and Carter went to the bench and Siena went on an 8-0 run to end the half, cutting Purdue's lead to 39-36.
I wish I had half a clue what Painter's intention was in taking out both of his 3-point shooting. Purdue hasn't just struggled against the zone this year, it's struggled against the zone for nearly a decade. Finally the Boilers find success against it with 3-point shooters and both of those shooters head to the bench at the same time? It blows my mind.
In the second half it was more of the same. Purdue tried to get Hammons going and saw limited success. Eventually, however, Hammons finally started to get some calls to go his way, as both of Siena's bigs fouled out with nearly 10 minutes left in the game. Still, turnovers and misses were all too common. At one point, he tried a face-up jumper and was just flat out blocked like a point guard shooting at, well, a 7-foot center.
With Siena's top two centers fouled out, eventually his size was simply too much for Siena to handle. Hammons finished with 12 points, including eight-of-12 from the free-throw line, to go with four rebounds and his usual multitude of blocks. Simpson finished with three points and six rebounds.
The bright spot in this game for Purdue was clearly Bryson Scott, who finished with 16 points for his third straight game in double-figures off the bench. Errick Peck continued to dominate the boards, grabbing 11 rebounds despite not scoring a single point.
Terone Johnson scored the 15 points he needed to become Purdue's 47th 1000 point scorer. He was also the only Boilermaker other than Jay Simpson (1-for-1) and Basil Smotherman (3-for-5) to connect on better than 50-percent of his field goal attempts, going 6-for-11 from the field, with many of his points coming off floaters as he sliced his way through the Siena zone defense. He also added four rebounds and three assists.
His brother Ronnie, meanwhile, had his first "struggle" game of the season despite finishing with 14 points, five rebounds, three assists and a perfect 4-for-4 from the foul line. Yeah, on paper I realize how ridiculous it looks for me to say he struggled with a stat line like that. I guess that's just speaking to how wonderfully he's played so far today. Still, he had several mistakes in transition today, from flat-out mishandling the ball, to trying to do too much and forcing passes, to the one possession when he ignored a wide-open Errick Peck on the 3-point line so that he could dribble into three defenders and get blocked.
Altogether, it could have been much worse for Purdue. They got the win and they came away injury free. They now take their undefeated record to Orlando for their matchup with No. 7 Oklahoma State in the Old Spice Classic, where they will have to play much better than they did today to stay undefeated.