Mason Gillis had been pushed to the bench after missing a game due to illness but continued to provide a great presence off the bench for Purdue. That hard work, persistence, and great attitude led to a game where Purdue fans will fondly remember as ‘the Mason Gillis game’ where he went 9-12 from behind the arc for 29 points and set the Mackey Arena record for most three pointers hit in a game. The 29 points for Mason Gillis is the most for a player off the bench in a major conference all season.
In the first half Purdue was able to figure out the different looks that Penn State was throwing at Purdue after struggling early on as Penn State ran man-to-man, 2-3 zone, and even a triable-2. Eventually Purdue built a 12 point lead at the 6:35 mark with a score of 30-18 before the end of half demons kicked in again. Behind an 11-5 run in those final 6:35, Penn State was able to pull to 35-29 at the end of the first half led by Michael Henn’s 11 points on 3-6 shoots from behind the arc.
In the second half, it was a totally different story as Purdue pounced on the Nittany Lions in the first 9 minutes of the second half scoring 26 points and grabbing a 61-35 point lead. It was in this run that Mason Gillis really started to heat up. After going 4-7 in the first half from deep, Gillis went 5-5 in the second half and extended the Purdue lead in that time frame before finally heading to the bench with about 3 minutes left in the game and Purdue looking to ride their lead to the end. To set the Mackey Arena Purdue record, Gillis came from the right corner and then used an Ethan Morton screen to get some separation on the right arc to hit his 9th three pointer.
Braden Smith also had a time in the second half where he took control of the game from the point guard position and frequently took a high ball screen from Edey or TKR to get into the paint and find the bigs on a roll or find shooters on the outside. At the 11 minute mark of the second half, Kaufman-Renn set a high ball screen for Smith who then used a re-screen from TKR to get into the lane, dribbled right, then looked off the defense for a pass to a diving TKR for a layup. Smith ended the game with 9 total assists and 9 points but most importantly had 0 turnovers.
It was a big game for Gillis but another incredibly steady game from Zach Edey who finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds on 7-9 shooting from the field. Edey made the right decision all throughout the night when the double teams came to him to get the ball into rotation to find the open shooter. Edey was able to again make Penn State pay off a high ball screen to Smith who found him multiple times for lob dunks coming straight down the lane.
This was a game where Purdue, after a couple of weeks of seeing bits and pieces being put together, started to get all of those pieces working together. Purdue only had 7 turnovers, shot 45.2% from behind the arc, outrebounded their opponent 38-19, and had 19 assists. Purdue is now 22-1 and 11-1 in conference and seemingly hitting their stride in the final 8 games with a 3 game lead. The improvement has happened continually over the course of this season and the fact remains that there is still ceiling to reach for this team as Brandon Newman can still find his offensive game, Caleb Furst has yet to really explode offensively, and David Jenkins is just now looking more like his old self from behind the arc.
Purdue plays at Indiana in what may very well be one of the biggest games in the rivalry in the last 25 years. Purdue, with a victory on Saturday, will maintain at least a 3 game lead with just 7 games left and will cement themselves with another Q1 win on the road.