Following their break for Christmas, the Purdue Boilermakers handled their business against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels 80-53. In a game that saw EKU completely outmatched by the number one team in the country, the Boilers didn’t quite look like the incredibly efficient and explosive team they had been prior. Purdue was able to fully control the game and finally pull away mid-way through the second half.
Purdue had six turnovers and shot just 4-9 from the free throw line in the first half while playing solid defense but struggling to ramp up their offensive effectiveness against a very physical EKU squad. That first half allowed the Boilers to work some of those issues out and come out looking more fluid as they got out into transition more quickly and pushed their lead from 19 at halftime to 34 with 9 minutes left in the second half.
The Boilers were led by Fletcher Loyer’s 14 points and the sophomore guard continued to be aggressive on the offensive end as he shot 6-11 from the field and hit 2-4 from behind the arc. Loyer’s improvement on the offensive end has seen him shoot 40.7% from the behind the arc on the season and upping his free throw shooting to 90%. Those big jumps have allowed the Boilers offensive load to be more spread out amongst the big three this season.
Zach Edey had another solid game that saw him grab 13 points but only 7 rebounds but he has now not grabbed a double-double in four consecutive games, stringing the longest stretch of games without such a double-double since his freshman year. Most of that is the way in which many of these past four games have seen him defended with quick double and triple teams while perimeter players are hitting shots around him or getting to the rim and finishing.
Mason Gillis and Trey Kaufman-Renn each added 10 points for the Boilermakers as the power forwards have continued to adjust well to their shared role this season. Gillis also added 9 rebounds and a much needed presence on the floor as Purdue turned the ball over 5 times in the first four minutes of the game.
During that strong opening part of the second half, Braden Smith and Ethan Morton found Cam Heide on back to back dunks off lobs where the sophomore once again flashed his elite athleticism that Purdue has lacked on both ends of the floor. The first was incredibly impressive as the wing caught the ball mid-air for a reverse jam off the lob from Braden Smith while the second showcased Heide’s vertical as he rose high above the rim to throw it down.
Your @HammerAndRails 'Play of the Game' as @3bradensmith finds a slashing @CamdenHeide for the reverse alley-oop slam on the way to @BoilerBall's 35th consecutive non-conference regular season victory. pic.twitter.com/2Jj9LsxUbM— Jed Wilkinson (@PurdueWilkie) December 30, 2023
The Boilermakers have now won 35 consecutive non-conference regular season games, a streak that has only been repeated by the Syracuse Orange from 2008-2012 and the Duke Blue Devils from 1991-1994. That is now another feat the Boilers can claim as being the only B1G program to hold such a distinction along with being the only B1G program to attain a #1 ranking in three consecutive seasons.
Up next for the Boilers is a matchup with the Maryland Terrapins away from Mackey Arena, a game in which Purdue will look to win their first true road game of the season. Maryland currently sits at 9-4 with an impressive victories over UCLA but has struggled finding consistency again this season. With the news of Terrance Shannon, Jr.’s suspension at Illinois, the question of who will challenge Purdue in the B1G race has become much more narrow.