The Purdue Boilermakers defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide 92-86 in Toronto to make another major case as the best team in the country and building a resume that will place them squarely in the discussion for the #1 overall seed.
Let’s get into ‘The Rebound’ to see how Purdue fared in the points of emphasis!
1 | Leverage Your Rebounding Advantage
Well, it wasn’t pretty but Purdue did gain the overall rebounding advantage thanks to a great second half. There wasn’t a real advantage as both the Boilers and Bama each had 14 second chance points but the two extra possessions they were able to grab thanks to a 13-11 offensive rebounding advantage proved to be big. This was a pretty even matchup but Purdue did leverage it to their advantage and sometimes in close games like this even the smallest positive margin can be the difference.
Sometimes the slimmest of margins make all of the difference. Winning the rebounding advantage against one of the better rebounding teams Purdue will face is a big deal. In a facet where Purdue had seemed to struggle some this season, they matched the intensity Alabama had on the glass with their own.
2 | Let Edey Feast!
Beyond what some supposed pundit might be saying about how unfairly Zach Edey is officiated because he is tall and there is no way he can’t be fouling more, Edey showed everyone else the dominate force that he is. Mark Sears was absolutely incredibly in going for 35 points as he hit 8 threes but he is overshadowed by Edey’s 35 points (12/20) with 7 rebounds and 2 assists. He chipped in an 11 for 11 effort at the foul line as well. It was pretty clear that Alabama wanted to limit Zach’s effectiveness on the glass and they really ran bodies at him any time a shot went up, literally grabbing and pulling his arms down to prevent him in his efforts.
Edey’s domination inside during the first half forced Alabama into altering their defense and Braden Smith took advantage by going for 19 points in the second half on 6-14 shooting with 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 0 turnovers.
What more can you say about the Boilermaker big man? National pundits are already laying the groundwork for another NPOY type season for Edey and it is easy to see why. Zach has increased his scoring by 2.5 points per game to 24.8, increased his blocks per game by .5, dropped his turnovers per game .7 per game, and is shooting 75.9% from the foul line. Appreciate this type of dominance because it doesn’t come along very often in the college game.
3 | Limit Mark Sears as Much as Possible
Like was said in the ‘The Three Pointer,’ Sears is going to get his because he is that darn good. His 35 point performance on 8-11 from behind the arc clearly showed the type of talent that he is. Purdue struggled for most of the game to guard him and keep him in front of them, specifically in a flare action off a high screen. That kind of talent is likely only going to get stopped by themselves and you hope you make it hard enough on them that they miss some shots. Purdue did a little bit better of a job in the second half of limiting the guys around Sears and forcing Sears to do it on his own as he scored 20 of Bama’s 37 in the second half.
Sometimes you have to just admit a guy is going to get his but the key is to limit those around him from hurting you to the point you lose control of the game. After guys not named Sears went 9-19 from behind the arc in the first half, they went just 3-11 in the second half while limiting Sears to 4-11 in that same time frame. Sometimes good enough is good enough.
And 1 | Get That Second Group Going
Nobody in that second group really got going but it was more of a collective effort as guys off the bench accounted for only 14 points. When Purdue gets a game like it did from Smith and Edey, there isn’t much left on the bone for everyone else so what did they do other than score points? Well, the bench accounted for only 1 turnover with 3 steals, 7 assists, and 13 rebounds. A collective effort like that with Edey, Smith, Jones, and Loyer eating up most of the other opportunities is going to win Purdue a lot of games and can be the difference in March.
Purdue isn’t asking those guys to be primary scorers and may not at any time this season unless someone gets on a heater like Gillis did last season where he hit 9 threes at Mackey. What those guys can do is exactly what they did against Bama. Play solid defense, don’t turn the ball over, and get the guys who are scoring into positions to make plays. This was a textbook example of playing to your role and knowing where the ball needs to be.
Well, these were two of the best offenses in college basketball and it was showcased in what many are calling one of the best halves of college basketball in the last few seasons. At times it looked like Alabama was going to run away with the game as they hit 13 threes in the first half but Purdue just kept to their strengths and were able to get into halftime down just two points at 49-47. What was so impressive was Purdue’s ability to maintain that efficiency and effectiveness throughout the entire second half as they outscored Alabama 45-37 in the second half. What a showing by the Boilers on a big time stage.
Overall Grade: A
Player of the Game:
This is going to be a two man award for the game against the Crimson Tide as Zach Edey and Braden Smith combined for 62 total points. That’s the most for a Boilermaker duo since Cuonzo Martin and Glenn Robinson combined for 73 in an NCAA Tourney game against Kansas in 1994. The two were just magnificent and if that’s the level of play Purdue can expect at times from their two best players, there may not be a lot of teams in the country that can say they have two players of that ability with the capability to play 34 minutes a game.
How about this note from Purdue: The 62 combined points by Zach Edey (35) and Braden Smith (27) in yesterday's win over Alabama marked the most for a Purdue duo since Glenn Robinson (44) and Cuonzo Martin (29) combined for 73 points against Kansas in the 1994 NCAA Tournament.— John Fanta (@John_Fanta) December 10, 2023
Play of the Game:
It probably wouldn’t be much more than a footnote for most other programs but when Purdue has built itself on doing the little things right and playing to your role as best as you can, this play personifies that ideology. With 8:06 left in the second half, Braden Smith’s 3pt attempt bounced high off the rim and Zach Edey swatted at the ball when his other arm was being held. Mason Gillis would sprint toward the ball to beat two Alabama defenders and wrap a pass around the back of his head to a waiting Myles Colvin. Colvin would bury the three and push the Boiler lead to 9, its highest of the game.