This game wasn’t going to be about getting Zach Edey 30 shot attempts or showing anything spectacular against a clearly over matched opponent. It was always going to be how Purdue handles a team that is overmatched, running their actions to get good shots on offense, and paying attention to details on the defensive end. That is exactly what this game turned out to be and was the reason why Purdue won 61-39.
Purdue started the game holding Minnesota to 2 points in the first 4:28 seconds and although they experience a bit of a scoring drought themselves (held at 14 points for roughly 3 minutes), Purdue didn’t allow that to have an effect on the defensive end as they limited the Gophers to shooting just 5-24 (20.8%) from the field in the first half and forced them in to 10 turnovers. Taurus Samuels led the Gophers in the first half with 6 points while three other Gophers each had 2 points. The Gophers only scored 12 total points and had it not been for a banked in two point shot off a foul, they may have only scored 9 total points (had Loyer not fouled I don’t think it would have went in).
Meanwhile, the Boilers were running very precise offensive actions to get consistent open looks at the rim that forced Minnesota from being able to closeout on shooters beyond the arc. Braden Smith was masterful controlling the ball from the point guard position where he was frequently asked to run a high ball screen with Zach Edey and allowed to simply read and react to what the defense was giving him. In the first half, he had 9 points on 4-6 shooting, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists while just controlling the game for Purdue at a level the belies his age.
Edey also had a great first half where he scored 12 points, had 3 rebounds, blocked 3 shots, and even handed out 2 assists. Minnesota wanted to just play Edey one-on-one in a similar fashion to what Michigan State did with Sisoko and although they were successful at times, Edey was able to eventually get to his spots. The way those two dominated the first half was clear with just under 4 minutes left in the first half when Smith got a high ball screen from Edey, cut left, and threw a lob to a diving Edey who finished with a massive And-1 dunk.
In the second half it was more of the same from Braden Smith as he frequently took advantage of Minnesota’s poor defense on him in the high pick and roll action. He scored 10 points in the second half while shooting 2-3 from behind the arc. The bigger picture here is that Purdue, in a game that quickly turned into a blowout, continued to run their sets and actions to get good shots while also focused defensively to not give up easy shots (until the end of the game).
With 9:40 left in the second half, Purdue showed the beauty of the offense that it runs without many of their big names. With Edey, Furst, Smith, and Loyer all on the bench, Purdue had Newman, Kaufman-Renn, Jenkins, Gillis, and Morton on the floor. Purdue worked the ball through multiple actions and counters to finally get Mason Gillis an open shot from behind the arc to bury a three to give Purdue a 52-25 lead.
In the end, Purdue did exactly what they should have done and have a good schedule to finish the B1G season. Purdue will play seven home games in their final twelve games with road games against Wisconsin (4-3), Michigan (4-3), Northwestern (3-3), Maryland (3-4), and Indiana (3-4). With the victory tonight, Purdue pushed themselves to 7-1 in the conference and took a two game lead over Rutgers and Michigan State. After letting a B1G title slip away last season, Purdue seems to have again positioned themselves for another chance at their 25th B1G Conference Championship.
Purdue will play again on Sunday, January 22nd at 1:00pm at Mackey Arena against a Maryland team that has struggled away from their home court (1-4) but are desperately in need of a major win to get themselves into the discussion of being safely into the NCAAT.