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Purdue Tunes Itself in Scrimmage Ahead of Charity Exhibition Opener

Purdue showcased itself ahead of the most anticipated season in program history.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 22 Wisconsin at Purdue Photo by Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Boilers took to the floor one more time for the public prior to the start of the season. An anticipated fanbase filled the lower bowl of Mackey Arena to watch a three session scrimmage that would allow all of Purdue’s scholarship players ample playing time ahead of their charity exhibition against Arkansas in just one week. A lot can be learned by these types of open scrimmages but Coach Matt Painter likely already has an idea of what he wants to see in the early part of the season, but what did we learn?

One of the first things that popped out for Purdue, other than how Zach Edey continues to just be an abnormally large person when I get a chance to sit courtside, is how much improved Ethan Morton seemed to be. Morton was likely always going to be a guy that was more of a glue guy than a primary scorer, spotlight type of guy. Going from a high school career that saw him as that primary type of guy to a definite role player can be a hard transition for anyone and Morton seemed to take that quite well his first two seasons. Last year though, he seemed to struggle a bit as the spotlight came back onto him more jumping into a starting role (29 games in 2022/2023).

Today, Morton looked extremely confident with the ball in his hands against two of the better on ball defenders he will have to play against all season in Lance Jones and Braden Smith. Morton scored 8 points on 3 of 5 shooting and combined that with 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 steals, and 1 block. Morton showed an increased confidence with the ball in his hands and looked confident when shooting the ball. That type of performance will open the floor on the offensive end as teams can’t ignore him and double every play against Edey inside.

Zach Edey was again a dominate force inside but struggled early on as he went just 1-6 to start the scrimmage. He finished strong by going 8-13 for 16 points with 13 rebounds, 3 assists, and 0 turnovers. Edey was visibly frustrated with his start and seemed to ratchet up his effort and intensity to become really difficult to defend. Edey was also much more confident in his defensive stance when being drawn out to defend in high ball screen action. He dropped deep again but looked more confident in how to position himself to give the whole defense better positioning to rotate.

In a post game interview, Edey mentioned his summer spent with Team Canada at the FIBA World Championships and how much he learned from playing at the speed they played with given many of those players are in the NBA or other high caliber international leagues. He said being able to practice against those NBA level guys helped him learn a lot. He also made mention of the game slowing down more and more for him, something he attributed to being able to just being older.

Braden Smith also had an outstanding scrimmage, scoring in a multitude of ways and showcasing a more confident approach with the ball in his hand. Assistant Coach Terry Johnson, who was in charge of Smith for most of the scrimmage, continued to tell Smith to look for his shot more. That sentiment was echoed by Edey in his post game interview, saying ‘the big step that he has taken is looking for his own shot. That was something we pushed to get him to do last season a lot, but that’s something that is hard to make an adjustment to mid-season. I think he spent a lot of time this off-season to stick with it and he can be really dangerous,’

Loyer led all Boilermakers with 17 points and appeared to have bulked up quite a bit in the off season which should bode well for his need to improve on the defensive end. Having a player like Morton and Lance Jones taking more prominent roles as primary ball handlers after Smith allows Loyer to focus more on where he can most put opposing teams in bad positions: as a catch and shoot three point shooter.

Trey Kaufman-Renn scored 14 points himself and looked extremely confident in his overall ability but looked much better with the ball in his hands away from the bucket. Catching the ball and dribbling out at the three point line as a power forward alongside Edey opens up the lane much more and that flashed a few different times when he played alongside Edey. When the double team came to Edey, TKR dove toward the hoop and scored multiple times and on one occurrence getting an ‘and 1’ bucket off a dump pass from Edey.

The two new additions to the Boilers had up and down days but will help solidify the Boilers at their most important deficits from last season. Lance Jones may end up being as good of an on-ball defender that Purdue has had since Rapheal Davis. Jones showcased a high level understanding of how to defend on ball screens along with fighting through screens to deny passes to his man. Jones also showed a lot of confidence in his three point shot going 4-10 and getting 12 points. Jones will be the reason Purdue wins multiple games this season, whether that be because of his offense, his defense, or a game in which he puts it all together.

Colvin struggled again in a scrimmage setting for Purdue as he tries to adjust to the speed and physicality of B1G basketball. Colvin failed to score a point and went 0-5 from behind the arc. Coaches spoke to Colvin about not living through his jump shot and attacking the rim more. That is something that Colvin provides to Purdue that no many others can. As his confidence continues to grow, Colvin’s game will continue to round into form.

One more highlight was how much growth William Berg appeared to make from one season to the next. Berg looked exponentially more confident on the floor and even flashed a score against Edey in a one on one situation. Berg rebounded the ball well grabbing 6 boards and played very good defensively throughout the scrimmages.

Prognosticating the Starting Five:

With Purdue’s exhibition game in just a week, let’s try to take a look at what the starting lineup will look like for Purdue. Some are easy to determine while others may be more difficult. I think the scrimmage today may have cleared some things up for fans, if not also for the coaches.

G: Braden Smith (Sophomore)
G: Fletcher Loyer (Sophomore)
G: Ethan Morton (Senior)
F: Trey Kaufman-Renn (Junior)
C: Zach Edey (Senior)

I know that isn’t going to get a lot of people excited considering this was a primary lineup used last year but there is something to be said about guys getting a year older, even ones who have been in the program for three or four years. Big leaps in improvement can happen and it appears as though Morton and TKR have had that exact thing happen.

Purdue is as deep of a program as there is in the B1G this upcoming season. I would say with confidence that Purdue’s second line of Lance Jones, Myles Colvin, Cam Heide, Mason Gillis, and Caleb Furst could probably win 9 to 10 games in the B1G and be a fringe NCAAT team in their own right.

Stats from the Scrimmage: