It’s gonna be a strange, strange year.
Purdue wins against in-state foe Valparaiso, 68-61, in an empty Mackey Arena after a double-digit deficit to start the second half.
There was no magic. There was no sound unless you count the fake crowd noise pumped in. Instead, the squeaks of sneakers and the bounce of dribbles - oh, and the blow of whistles. A lot of whistles. A total of 53 fouls between both teams, with Valp struggling to keep players on the floor after their 32 foul put Purdue to the line for their 36th and 37th free throw.
Purdue was in the double bonus even earlier in the first half with more than ten minutes left in the game when they were shooting two with every foul. Then again, Purdue failed to capitalize on their free throws much the same way they missed their open threes and bunnies at the bask.
Purdue shot 35% from the field for the game, 26% from three after coming in shooting over 40% in their first three games, and made just 24 of their 37 free throw shots.
Valpo’s 41% from the floor wasn’t much better but it was their 17 turnovers that was their undoing. While Purdue struggled at times, looking like the young team they are, Valpo struggled to take full advantage of a Boilermaker squad that went just 1-11 in the first half from three.
It wasn’t until Sasha Stefanovic started getting hot in the second half that the Boilers offense came alive. The junior continues to lead the Purdue offense, scoring 19 points, and adding 4 more three-pointers to his stat sheet for the year. Trevion Williams helped out with an inefficient 17 points on 15 shots, but continues to be Painter’s best play maker with his starting point guards out, the big man only racked up 2 assists but was consistently setting up his teammates while holding down the boards by grabbing 11 of them.
Jaden Ivey and Eric Hunter Jr. remain watching from the sidelines as the Boilers struggle without a natural point guard to lead the offense. Their size and defense would be as welcomed as their dribbling.
Isaiah Thompson did have a nice second half after struggling in the first. He ended up with 14 points and went to the line a career-high 12 times.
Hot shooting Brandon Newman had his first off-night, scoring just 2 points at the line, and missing all 5 of his shots from the field. He was in foul trouble early and never got into a rhythm.
Big man sensation Zach Edey also struggled, failing for the first time to score in double-digits. His 6 points and 1 rebound are both season lows, and he also fell victim to an early onslaught of whistles. The true freshman is still learning the game, but his emphatic dunk and foul in the second half was as electric a moment as the Boilers had all game.
This will be a season of adjusting. Purdue hopes to get healthy and learn to not count on the energy of a normally filled Mackey. But before they get another chance at that, they’ll have to go back to Florida to take on Miami (Fla.) next Tuesday.