The Purdue Boilermakers, led by 35 points and 7 rebounds from Zach Edey and 27 points and 8 assists from Braden Smith, dispatched the Crimson Tide this afternoon in Toronto.
The first half was a master class in holding on and waiting for the other team to cool off. Alabama started the game on an 8-3 run, using their prolific 3-point shooting to put Purdue in a hole early. The Crimson Tide would go on to hit an astonishing 13 3’s in the first half. That would end the night for most teams, but the Boilermakers held tough and never let Bama put one of their patented runs together. They hit Purdue with their best shot, and the Boilermakers took it on the chin and kept coming forward. That’s never a good sign for Alabama, who want to knock teams out with a 3-point barrage.
The Crimson Tide took a 49-47 lead into half.
Alabama reprised their first-half performance and came out hot in the second half, hitting 3 layups and forcing Matt Painter into an early timeout. Another Bama 3 would push the lead to 55-47 before Purdue woke up from their second-half slumber and started walking the Crimson Tide down.
The second half was a back-and-forth affair. Mark Sears went nuclear for Alabama. Purdue couldn’t stay with him on some basic flare and pin-down screens, and Sears couldn’t miss. At the same time, Nate Oates had no answer for Braden Smith or Zach Edey. Smith terrorized the Tide by getting into the lane at will and either scoring with an array of floaters, pull-up jumpers, and layups or dishing it off to the big man for an easy deuce. It felt like the team with the ball last was going to win this thing.
Then Purdue kept grinding.
Sears dropped a 3 to give ‘Bama a 76-74 lead with 4:49 remaining, but Edey responded with a dunk off a Smith assist on the next possession to give the Boilermakers a permanent lead with 4:30 left in the game. The Smith/Edey connection scored 16 of Purdue’s 17 points in the last 5 minutes, including a couple of Smith-to-Edey assists, and Alabama couldn’t keep up. They missed a couple of tired leg 3’s that were dropping early in the game, and Purdue held a 5-point lead with a minute remaining.
Then the Boilermakers attempted to implode.
Fletcher Loyer had a pass bounce off his hands stepping in for a return pass after inbounding the ball against the press, and Bama cashed in an easy layup to cut the lead to 3. They fouled Lance Jones, and after bricking the first free throw off the side of the rim, the graduate transfer managed to rattle home the second on a shot that looked destined to jump out. Sears took the ball down and attempted to get a quick 2 to extend the game, but Ethan Morton managed to do just enough to prevent that from happening as Sears drove the ball looking for an and-1 but instead came away with a missed layup.
Two Braden Smith free-throws sealed the victory for Matt Painter’s crew in Zach Edey’s homecoming game.
Player of the Game
Braden turned Alabama guards into crimson traffic cones. Edey fouled out every player over 6’8” from the entire state of Alabama. It looks more and more like Smith has claimed the second scorer role on this team. That’s something Purdue couldn’t quite figure out last season.
Having a perimeter player capable of hitting pull-up jumpers instead of driving the ball directly into the chest of our 7’4” Canadian alien is a welcome sight. Braden’s ability to hit the brakes and elevate is something we haven’t seen from a Purdue guard since Carsen Edwards was terrorizing the Big 10.
Yes, Jaden Ivey is the more talented player, but Smith’s game meshes incredibly well with what Zach likes to do. Jaden needed to use the same space as Edey and Tre to score. Smith can score at the basket but is also adept at hitting 10-12 footers. That’s key when you’ve got an immovable object in the paint.
Braden having the confidence and green light to take shots that are good but don’t follow the strict 3 or a layup analytic basketball Painter has favored in recent years makes Purdue all the much harder to defend.
Purdue gets to enjoy their time in Canada, eat some poutine, check out a Tim Hortons, and head back home where a showdown with the top-ranked Arizona Wildcats in Indianapolis is next on the docket.