Purdue wrapped up the 2020-21 regular season with a win over arch-rival Indiana and complete a season sweep for the 5th consecutive season by a score of 67-58.
I said this last week, Indiana was a trap game for the Boilermakers sandwiched between a big win against a ranked Wisconsin team and the Big Ten Tournament down in Indianapolis. That ended up not being the case as Purdue handled business at home staying in control for a large part of the contest, but hats off to Indiana for playing hard at the very least.
Things got a little shaky at the beginning for the Boilers as Indiana jumped out to a 7-0 lead early, taking advantage of sloppy play offensively. Aaron Wheeler scored first, hitting a three-pointer a little over 4 minutes into the ball game. That started an 18-4 run for the Boilermakers in which they showed just how lethal they can be when things are clicking offensively.
Indiana was never really able to get very close to the Boilermakers from that point forward, as the lead stretched to as much as 12 in that first half. It was a team effort throughout the game, but all four of Aaron Wheeler, Zach Edey, Sasha Stefanovic, and Jaden Ivey had 6 points apiece heading into the break with a 29-20 lead.
The game for both squads as a whole picked up much more in the second half with 76 total points scored as compared to just 49 in the first half. Indiana was making things interesting to begin the second half as they cut the lead to just four with 14:14 left in the game. Purdue found their footing a bit thanks to a huge Brandon Newman three-ball that led to a quick 8-0 run and allowed Purdue to get out to another double-digit lead.
It was basically a done deal after that, with Purdue cruising to a comfortable 9 point win down the stretch. The younger Boilermakers were able to hit their free throws and send Indiana packing with a loss.
Jaden Ivey and Zach Edey were the real catalysts for the win tonight as the freshmen duo combined for 25 points in the second half on a blistering 75% clip from the field. Edey led the team in scoring for a second consecutive game with another 20 point outing on 8-10 shooting and grabbed 9 rebounds. He is averaging 20.5 and 8 rebounds over his last two games. That is a huge sign with Trevion Williams not having his best performances as of late.
While another freshman, Jaden Ivey had an extremely efficient game as well. He posted a line of 17 points on 6-9 shooting from the field. You can see the game slowing down for him more and more, each time he steps on the court. This guy is going to be scary in the postseason if he gets in a groove.
This team’s group of young guys have been all the rave recently, but some upperclassmen are stepping up in ways that may not be noticed as much. Sasha Stefanovic has found his groove offensively after missing time due to covid, but in the last three games, he is averaging 5.6 assists a night. He is the veteran guard that knows exactly where the ball needs to go and puts it there.
Aaron Wheeler has also gotten going of late, averaging 7.7 points and 6.5 rebounds over his last 4 games coming off the bench. Matt Painter does not need him to come out and put up 15 & 10 a night, but playing solid defense, rebounding, and hitting his open shots are what could push this team to another level.
Obviously, this was not the most aesthetic basketball to watch, as Purdue went through sloppy stretches, but they found a way to win and the rest just falls into place. Turnovers were a bit of an issue today, which will need to be sure up by the time next Friday rolls around. You can get away with it against these Hoosiers, but Iowa, Illinois, Ohio State, and Michigan would all be different stories.
Defensively, this group played phenomenal basketball aside from late when the game was largely out of hand anyway. They did not let any of the Hoosier’s main contributors get going, most importantly Trayce Jackson-Davis. Should be Big Ten Defensive POY, Eric Hunter Jr was able to kind of bounce around, not having to stick to one man with Armaan Franklin out today.
You always want a big win to end the regular season to get some confidence heading into the Big Ten Tournament, but Purdue has caught fire at the right time. Winners of 5 straight, will have a double-bye next week in Indianapolis and could move up to the 3rd seed if Wisconsin can upset Iowa tomorrow afternoon. The full bracket will be finalized tomorrow evening following the Maryland vs. Penn State game at 7:00 pm.