In a story that is all too familiar to Purdue fans a poor shooting first half caused Purdue to really struggle. After going 11-17 from distance against IU in their last game Purdue went 2-19 in the first half against a mixture of Penn State defenses. Luckily, Purdue finished the half with an amazing three pointer from Mason Gillis to head into the half with momentum and a one point lead. They finished the game going 6-32 from distance. Yuck.
John Wooden Memorial Player of the Game (JWMPOTG): Trevion Williams could almost get this award any time he’s on the floor for the Boilermakers. When Williams plays well the team plays well. At one point in the game the +/- for Purdue was +12 with Williams on the floor and an even 0 without him. However, he did miss some rather important free throws and it’s not fun if the same guy wins each game so I’m going to have to go off book a bit and give it to Eric Hunter Jr. Hunter hit four important free throws at the end of the game to push the lead back to both eight and six after Penn State had caused numerous turnovers and hit some tough threes. Hunter finished the game with 14 points and 5 assists including 4 in the second half alone. He was also clutch at the line going 6-6. Can’t beat that.
With a team as young as Purdue is it’s natural to have ups and downs from game to game. With this particular team though it’s been ups and downs from half to half. Think about the disparity between the first and second half against Michigan State. In the second half Trevion Williams took over and Purdue was able to pull out a squeaker. Today Purdue’s offense looked very bad in the first half but stayed alive thanks to Penn State’s offense looking nearly as bad as well as 10 offensive rebounds. That led to 14 second chance for the Boilers and the only way they stayed in this game. As the teams went into the half it was only due to the shot off of the near turnover from Gillis that Purdue took a lead into the locker room.
This also happened in the first half and I’d be remiss if I didn’t just show it to you. It shows what the young man is capable of as he grows into his role.
The second half was quite a bit different from the jump. Purdue started 5-7 from the floor to begin the half and the one point lead quickly grew and continued to do so. Purdue looked like a different team on offense as the team made the extra pass, took the smarter shot, and moved off the ball with purpose. These are the hallmarks of a good Purdue offense. These three things can separate a good Purdue team from a great one.
Despite building the lead up to a steady 12-15 points for the majority of the second half Purdue, as is their wont, found a way to make a blowout close. Purdue’s offense stalled scoring just four points in a six minute period. Purdue went up 64-48 after a Jaden Ivey layup with 8:43 left in the game. And then the stall began. With 2:37 left in the game the score was suddenly 68-61 Purdue. That’s a 13-4 run.
As the seconds ticked away Penn State threw up a rather stout press which Purdue just couldn’t seem to figure out. Purdue committed numerous turnovers in the last few minutes of the game and Penn State took great advantage including hitting a couple deep threes. Luckily, after some shaky free throw shooting from Williams a combination of Hunter and Gillis took over to finish the game with 10 straight makes for the two of them. That was enough to put the game away. It wasn’t pretty but I’ll take a 5-3 conference record in this brutal Big Ten. Purdue is next in action on Tuesday against Oho State at 6:30 PM.