That was ugly.
The Boilers move to 8-0 after a 70-58 victory against a New Mexico team that didn't show any sign of intimidation going into Mackey Arena going against the 11th ranked Boilermakers.
An Elijah Brown layup had the Lobos up 44-43 with 11:24 left in the second half, and had the Boilers worried that the they could be suffering from a big road victory as part of the ACC/B10 challenge. Instead, the Boilers force fed sophomore Isaac Haas inside who scored seven straight points to build a four point lead for Purdue before going to the bench and letting seniors A. J. Hammons and Johnny Hill carry the team to their eight straight victory to start the season, all of them by double digits.
The Boilers came into the league as one of the best defensive teams in the country, leading the nation in effective field goal percentage against them, but were out shot by the Lobos. New Mexico were 38.9% from the field, and 38.5% from three compared to Purdue's 37.1% shooting from the field and a 3 for 21 night from behind the arc. But the Lobos could not overcome the 23 rebound edge Purdue had on the glass, including 17 offensive rebounds for the Boilers while only allowing 3 offensive rebounds to the Lobos.
Elijah Brown lead the Lobos with 21 points, nailing three 3's, and making 6 of 7 attempts at the free throw line. Cullen Neal, held in check most the night by Johnny Hill, put up 16 points but needed 16 attempts to get there. The two guards combined for 8 of the Lobos 19 turnovers committed.
The Boilers were 21 of 28 at the free throw line, getting to the bonus early in the second half, resulting in fouling out two Lobos in Sam Logwood and Obij Aget. New Mexico made 11 of 17 free throws.
The game ball absolutely goes to Johnny Hill, who was the lone Boiler able to get to the basket off the dribble. The fifth-year transfer scored 13 points on 4 of 5 shooting from the field and 5 of 6 from the line. He also played lock down on the Lobos best perimeter threat Neal, had 3 steals, and forced a huge half-court violation that gave momentum back to the Boilers. He made a couple circus shots, and had an even more impressive one not count as a foul was called against him before the shot.
A. J. Hammons might have an argument for that ball, too. He closed out the game with his usual control of the rim, blocking 3 shots. For the second game he recorded a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Vince Edwards had an uncharacteristically sloppy and inefficient game. He scored just 5 points on 2 of 11 shooting, missing all 5 of his 3 point attempts, and turning the ball over 6 times. Caleb Swanigan also continued his struggles, shooting 1 of 6 from the field, scoring 2 points, and turning the ball over 4 times.
Isaac Haas lead the team in scoring with 21, making half of his 12 field goal attempts, and 9 of his 13 free throw attempts. Dakota Mathias was 0 for 5 from the field, but made both his free throws and played well defensively late in the second half.
True freshman Ryan Cline and Kendall Stephens combined for all 3 of the Boilers made threes. Kendall made one in each half in six attempts, while Cline connected on 1 of 4. Cline also had the play of the game, on a beautiful feed to Haas for an oop lay-up in the first half.
Over all, the Boilers did not play well. They struggled to shoot against the zone, settling for too many 3's, and not getting to the basket. Johnny Hill was the savior, showing aggression early and consistently throughout the ball game. In the see saw battle between him and Thompson, this was as impressive as anything Thompson did against Pittsburgh. P. J. was occasionally sloppy today and doesn't have the length and supreme quickness to disrupt bigger guards the way Hill did today against Neal.
We saw the true freshman take some minutes from Stephens today, but Kendall also knocked down a huge corner three when the Boilers were dying for a basket. Haas continues to be our most consistent player, getting us back in the lead before Hammons comes in to close out the ball game.
In a game where so many of our players struggled, it was our depth that was on display. We have options when anyone is struggling; Hill, Cline, and Hammons all came off the bench to pick up for Edwards, Thompson, and Swanigan's struggles. Purdue only made three 3 pointers, but we also only allowed 3 offensive rebounds - two of those late when the game was mostly at hand.
A slight wrinkle to notice, Brown and Neal were the two best offensive guards we've play this year, and instead of switching on pick and rolls against them, we used both defenders to trap the ball handler while the rotation behind them rotated to cover easy passing lanes. It's a nice wrinkle, and leverages our length to cover up for some of our lack of quickness without Rapheal Davis out there for the third straight game. Look for this in weeks to come as we start to play some better opponents.
In the end, it wasn't pretty, but the Boilers have won again and stay perfect. They're still not afraid to win ugly.