The Purdue Boilermakers looked the part of a top 3 team in the country after blitzing the Samford Bulldogs 21-1 to start the game en route to a 98-45 victory in the opening game of the 2023-2024 season. Let’s take a look back at the keys to game and what the Boilers did and didn’t do well?
1 | How Does Samford Defend Zach Edey?
Well, Samford did a pretty good job in the first half of denying the 7’4 big man a chance to really get going early on but that didn’t matter much as the Boilers shot 8-11 from behind the arc in the first half. That made the double and triple teams that Samford used to deny Edey’s ability to get to his spots go away in the second half where Edey dominated to the tune of 9 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks in just 8 minutes of play. Samford tried to switch their defensive looks after halftime but the zone and more one on one matchups did not bode well as the Boilers came out sprinting behind Edey dominating inside with two early dunks, one of them being of the ‘and 1’ variety.
Edey finished the game with 16 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks, and 2 assists but the gravitational pull that he requires in the post is going to create shots for his teammates. The key is if those players are going to hit the shots when they are presented to them. Last night was a show of what can happen when those shots do fall as the Boilers went 16-29 (55.2%) from behind the arc. Most notable in that shooting was the 11-15 (73%) combined effort from Loyer, Smith, and Heide. That type of shooting is going to beat most teams no matter the effort they put forth.
Opposing teams are going to have to choose which way to defend Purdue. Are they going to double and triple team Edey and potentially have a barrage of threes from all angles around the court put them into a frantic position to keep up? Will they play one on one in the post and pray it isn’t a death from a thousand Edey hook shots? This season, it may not matter which an opponent chooses if game one is any indication.
Edey missed a couple early chances with a turnover and wasn’t as aggressive as he should have been. Then, for some reason, Samford thought it would be a good idea to get into a shoving match with Edey and that seemed to focus the big man even more. He was lights out after that.
2 | Defending Garrett Hicks and Jermaine Marshall
These two guys are going to be really hard to defend at the mid-major level and it wouldn’t surprise me if they have a game where each of them goes for twenty points a piece. Tonight, it was a different beast for the Bulldogs to try and score on. When you have the best rim protector in college basketball patrolling for 4 blocked shots along with high level perimeter defenders in Smith, Jones, Morton, with Cam Heide showing really good skills as an off ball defender, it doesn’t bode well.
Garrett Hicks went 0-7 and failed to score a point while Jermaine Marshall went just 1-5 for 3 points total. Samford just isn’t going to score a lot of points, let alone win a lot of games, when their two most talented scorers combine for 1-12 for 3 points. That may be more due to Purdue’s ability to defend and the way they communicated in ball screen action more than a lack of ability from those two players.
Not sure you can ask much more from your perimeter defenders than holding an opponent’s two best scorers to 3 total points. Kudos to the entire defense.
3 | Getting Colvin Going
Well, if you can’t see the ceiling that Colvin has in front of him don’t worry, I’m not sure a lot of us know quite where the talented freshman could end up. There is no way to hide the athletic ability that Colvin possess, especially in the opportunities he is going to get in the open court playing alongside guards like Braden Smith and Lance Jones. In fact, had the alley oop Colvin missed from Braden Smith had gone down, I’m convinced Mackey likely would have topped 125dB’s. The disappointed groans likely were a 75dB themselves.
Colvin ended the night with 8 points on 3-5 shooting overall and going 2-5 from behind the arc. He took smart shots within the flow of the offense although one of his catch-and-shoot threes probably would have been better served being passed out of because he caught it near his ankles and threw his rhythm off. The true freshman just oozes potential on the offensive end but his playing time is going to be determined on the defensive end.
Colvin looked engaged on defense against Samford and fought through screens in a manner that he hadn’t shown in Europe or in the two exhibition games. That type of effort is going to translate to his offensive output because he is quick enough to jump passing lanes like Jaden Ivey used to do but he’ll need that level of intensity and effort to see his minutes continue to jump up. Colvin can be a player that plays 12-16 minutes a game but averages nearly 10 points a game because he is that explosive.
And 1 | Where Does Ethan Morton Fit?
This may be the biggest puzzle piece for Matt Painter this season. Morton played only 15 minutes but the important piece was that he was rarely, if ever, used as a primary on ball defender. That is good for the senior because he is a great off ball defender but just seems to struggle as a primary on ball defender. This season, that job can go to Smith, Jones, Heide, and Colvin so Morton will be able to focus on more wings. Where does he fit offensively though?
Morton, no matter who he is on the floor with is going to be the fifth scoring option. I don’t think he has ever truly tried to be anything more but if he can take good shots in spots and keep the ball moving to find open shots for others, that’s going to be a role he can thrive in. Morton took just two shots against Samford, going 1-2 with his lone bucket coming off a three pointer (he seemed to lose track of where he was on a fast break layup and mistimed his jump).
Morton’s leadership and knowledge is going to be needed this season. There is no better way to help guys like Heide and Colvin than to have a program first guy like Morton who has experienced the ups and downs associated with college basketball. Morton may not see more than 15 minutes a game this season but he can be incredibly impactful in those 15 minutes.
Prediction: 86-51 Purdue
Welp, didn’t expect the defense to be that good and for the offense to shoot that well from the jump this season following two exhibitions where neither were very good. Needless to say, Purdue has already shown a penchant for improvement in short amounts of time but now it is about consistency through an entire season to keep improving through March and not peaking in January.