There are some games where you go in and just hope to walk out without injuries. Not because you know you’re going to lose, no, in fact, it’s the exact opposite. Purdue is the #1 ranked team in the nation and was facing a Texas Southern team that likely wouldn’t even crack the top 100. So, the key for Purdue was to win the game and stay healthy. There was only one point in the first half that had me worried and that was when Myles Colvin went up for the dunk and wound up flipping over the Texas Southern player and landing hard on his back. After staying on the ground for a few minutes he would make his way back to the bench. He would come back in and play additional minutes in the second half. Crisis averted.
You could get an idea about how serious Matt Painter was taking this game when at one point in the first half the lineup on the floor was Caleb Furst, Mason Gillis, Ethan Morton, Camden Heide, and Lance Jones. That’s not a lineup I would imagine you will see very often this year. But at that point, the game was basically over anywhere so Painter decided to tinker. By that point Purdue had already gotten off to a 13-0 lead, had hit their first five three pointers, and was completely in control of the game. There are no style points in college basketball. This isn’t the BCS. Instead, teams in Purdue’s position, who are expected to do so much during the regular and post-seasons, need to use these games to find things out about themselves as well as find places to rest their starters.
Texas Southern was a perfect matchup at the perfect time for Purdue. They are reminiscent of Fairleigh Dickinson and they were facing Purdue right after a trip to Hawaii and three tough games in three days. I’m sure the coaching staff was worried about jet lag and tired lags after that trip, but there was no such issue on this day. Texas Southern shot a rather impressive 6/13 from three in the first half which, if you only looked at the box score, might trouble you. However, having watched the game I know that a lot of those Texas Southern shots were just wild prayers that happened to go in. Purdue did have struggles of their own in the first half as they finished the half hitting just 2-10 shots. Free throw shooting was again an issue with Purdue going 16-22 as a team in the first half. Just something to keep an eye on. Braden Smith had another brilliant first half for the Boilermakers and continues to show his maturation. He had 15-4-4 in the first half.
In the second half Purdue was able to assert their dominance with Lance Jones continuing to be dominant in transition and Purdue continuing to rebound the ball extremely well. Back to back threes by Lance Jones essentially put the game completely out of reach and at that point I was just stat watching for Braden Smith. With over 15 minutes left in the second half Smith sat with 17 point, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists. In Purdue’s history, they only have had one triple-double by, who else, Joe Barry Carroll with 16 points, 16 rebounds, and an absolutely nuts 11 blocks. Could Smith be the next to add his name to that list? Unfortunately for everyone who wanted to see history Coach Painter did the smart thing long-term and brought in Lance Jones as Smith had 19 points, 8 rebounds, and 10 assists. Does it stink to be so close to history and not get to see it? Sure, but Matt Painter is trying to manage the loads of his star players and as I said above, when you can rest guys you should.
Editor’s note: After this story was published the stats were corrected and Smith was actually credited with another rebound. Made this so much worse.
We missed a Braden Smith rebound at 16:02 in the 2nd half (credited to Loyer after back-to-back blocks).— Purdue Men's Basketball (@BoilerBall) November 29, 2023
Finished with 19 points, 10 assists and 9 rebounds. pic.twitter.com/7PE5ZuocNC
To that end, Zach Edey played just 21 minutes, Braden Smith just 26. Other players are important for Purdue but no one is as important as those two guys. So ultimately, a smart decision by the guy who makes millions of dollars. Sometimes upsetting the fans is fine if it means more success down the road. As everyone in our comments, on Twitter, and on Facebook reminds us, nothing that happens in November matters. It’s all about March. This was a play for March.