In only the second game this season that saw Purdue have full availability of its arsenal the Boilermakers looked sharp on offense, a bit iffy at times on defense, and did a good job in the closing minutes to put Notre Dame away and win in Indianapolis at what may be the last Crossroads Classic (take it up with IU).
John Wooden Memorial Player of the Game (JWMPOTG): This is a tough one because both Eric Hunter Jr. and Sasha Stefanovic but I’m gonna give the edge to Hunter on this one. Both would be admirable choices and you could convince me of either. I’m giving it to Hunter because he is still working his way back into form and today was the first game that he truly looked like his best self. The guy just took control of the game at times and when Purdue needed a bucket he wanted the ball. He finished the game with an impressive line of 18 points, 5 rebounds, 8 assists, and 3 steals to go against zero turnovers. As I said, honorable mention goes to Stefanovic who hit his first three out of the gate, always a good sign away from Mackey, and finished 5-7 from three. Damn impressive.
Following that Stefanovic three to start the game Purdue really never looked back. Oh sure, it got tight at times and Purdue lost their focus on defense but the outcome was never truly in doubt. Purdue looked and played like the better team for the entire game. It helps that Notre Dame has basically no depth and they just chuck up threes. I mean seriously, they shot 16-41 from three. That’s too many threes.
In a first half that saw Trevion Williams play just eight minutes Purdue put in the 7’4 Canadian Zach Edey who played admirably in his stead. There were two alley-oops sent his way that he connected on and numerous other great post passes that resulted in easy shots for the big man. What an asset it is to have someone of Edey’s size and talent to come in when Williams gets in foul trouble. Whenever Purdue needed a bucket someone always stepped up. That included nearly everyone on the court. The JWMPOTG stepped up on numerous occasions including a very fortuitously timed basket after a Notre Dame run cut the lead from 12 to just five. In other instance Newman was open in the corner for a wide open three on a kickout. It’s those type of shots that can be killers for defenders.
Purdue responded each and every time Notre Dame threatened to make this a close game. That includes the start of the second half when Purdue went just 3-9. Despite that they were able to get some offensive boards and put two of those misses back in. The hustle was there on the offensive end the entire game. This game showed just how much this team has already grown and matured since that Miami meltdown. I remember back in 2007 in a winter break game when Purdue lost to Wofford and the sky was falling, much as it did against Miami this season, but that Purdue team learned from that loss and got better and better. I don’t doubt that the same thing will happen with this team. The mental toughness has already improved and the offense is beginning to gel with Ivey and Hunter Jr. back with the team.
- Mason Gillis continues his hot shooting. He went 4-4 today. This is the third straight game he hasn’t missed a shot. The last time he missed a shot was against Miami.
- Aaron Wheeler continues to struggle shooting the ball but manages to make up for that with some great rebounding. The athletic wing grabbed seven rebounds and dished out two assists.
- Purdue had four players in double figures. Hunter and Stefanovic with 18 a piece, Williams with 14, and Gillis with 12. We need that type of balance.
- The amount of open looks that Notre Dame got from deep was disturbing. Luckily, they missed a lot of those.
- After turnovers being a bugaboo the entire season Purdue committed just six today. Huge improvement there that could make the difference in games going forward.
Purdue improves to 6-2 on the season and now faces one of the most brutal stretches of games in recent memory. In their next six games Purdue faces the #3, #4, #13, and #19 teams in the nation. The two teams that aren’t ranked are certainly no pushovers as Maryland and Nebraska are certainly dangerous teams. These next six games will set the tone for what type of season Purdue will have. It should make for an interesting batch of games. Purdue is next in action against #3 Iowa on Tuesday at 9:00 PM.