Despite a lackluster first half, poor rebounding, and some less than fabulous shooting, Purdue still managed to walk out of Mackey Arena with a 27 point win. Oh, and did I mention that Ray Davis wasn't playing yet again? This team hasn't even begun to scratch the surface of what they are capable of but tonight in the second half you got a good idea of how good they could be.
John Wooden Memorial Player of the Game (JWMPOTG) - A.J. Hammons gets the honor tonight. I know this is the obvious and easy choice but that doesn't mean it's wrong does it? Hammons went a fantastic 6-6 from the floor to go along with 4 rebounds, two blocks and a steal while only committing one turnover. He comes off the bench. Yes, I know that's mostly until he gets out of Painter's doghouse for whatever happened to start the year but it's pretty amazing Purdue has the luxury of doing that. Honorable mentions go to Kendall Stephens for his stellar defense and Caleb Swanigan for recording another double double.
The first half was similar to other first halves we have seen from Purdue basketball this year. Purdue jumped out to an early lead, mostly in the 5-8 point range, and then saw the opponent chip away as the shots stopped falling. Purdue started 3-4 from three point land but finished the first half just 5-13. Not a terrible percentage in all honesty but you'd like to see that number go up. IUPUI used some very solid rebounding in order to get second chance points, and prevent Purdue from doing the same, in order to stay in the game. They actually outrebounded Purdue 20-16 in the first half. Swanigan was the leader on offense in the first half with nine points including 1-2 from deep. He also added 8 rebounds to make getting that double double pretty easy in the second half.
Just like nearly every other game this season Purdue allowed the opponent to claw back into the game, but they then found another level. After IUPUI tied the game at 22 Purdue used a 12-0 run to bring the crowd back into it and get some distance from a pesky IUPUI team. IUPUI took advantage of Swanigan's inexperience on defense by using a variety of screens and crisp ball movement to put him in awkward positions defensively. That allowed IUPUI to get a lot of easy buckets that kept them in the game including an 8-0 run immediately following Purdue's aforementioned 12-0 run. Luckily, guys like Kendall Stephens were there to slow down IUPUI in the first half. Stephens used his length to poke the ball away on back to back possessions and help Purdue get the game back under control. Purdue went into half up 38-30. Then the fun really started.
The second half for Purdue has been a lot like the later rounds in a fight involving Butterbean. Purdue takes the opponents best punches and looks stronger for it at the end of the game while the opponent, Butterbean, looks exhausted and simply can't keep up with the deep Purdue squad. Having two seven footers to beat up on the interior certainly helps. As mentioned above, the JWMPOTG was a remarkable 6-6 from the floor tonight. Not all of those were easy shots either as Hammons had some tough turnarounds and hooks go in with ease. He's continuing to grow on offense. He's gotten particularly good at anticipating the help coming over and making that guy miss thus getting a much easier look. Purdue used a 24-1 run to just completely run away with the second half. On one particular fast break Purdue passed the ball FOUR TIMES before finding the perfect shot for an easy bucket. This team is so unselfish. There was a little bit of everything involved in the second half. Ryan Cline hit a three. Edwards with a fantastic steal and breakaway dunk. BLOCKS ON BLOCKS ON BLOCKS ON BLOCKS.
Everyone was getting in on the action. It was just a beautiful piece of basketball. This team can still be better. At times they forced shots, they allowed far too many rebounds and second chance points, and made some silly passes but these are all me trying to find something to pick at. This team is good. They looked great in the second half without their emotional leader. They now sit at 9-0 and #11 in the country. This week Davis returns and the team should continue to grow. That's a scary thought for anyone on this team's schedule.