35, 12, and 16. Now, if I put a % behind that 35, many of you would probably immediately know what I was referencing since I have spoken about it’s importance throughout the season but the other two numbers might be a bit of a shot in the dark for many. There are a lot of strong indicators for Purdue’s success and their struggles this year that many say would make a bigger case. How many post touches does Zach Edey get in a game? How many shot attempts does Edey get? How many free throws does Purdue generate for themselves? All good indicators but not as strong as 35, 12, and 16.
For Purdue this season, the 35, 12, and 16 represents 35% shooting from behind the three point arc, 12 or less turnovers and 16 or more assists in a game. These three aspects give a lot of insight to the success Purdue has enjoyed this season and gives an indication of what Purdue needs to continue doing as they enter March. When Purdue has hit these three benchmarks, their success is hard to overcome for any opponent given the incredible amount of focus that Zach Edey requires on a possession by possession basis.
Let’s take a look at these three aspects individually and then bring them together to see how reaching those impacts the game for Purdue.
35% or Better from Behind the Arc
Coming into the season, Purdue had a few known commodities from behind the arc but definitely not as many as they had in the previous few seasons where they had shooters like Sasha Stefanovic, Ryan Cline, and Carsen Edwards. Coming back this season, Purdue had Ethan Morton (44.1%), Caleb Furst (42.3%), Mason Gillis (41.4%), and Brandon Newman (32.1%) but none of those players would be considered a high volume shooter when Gillis took the most attempts at 87. It should be no surprise that Gillis is currently 2nd on the team shooting 39.5% (Smith, 41.6%) but has taken 81 attempts.
Purdue’s total team percentage from behind the arc this season is just 33.5% and they have seen their fair share of very poor shooting nights. In 12 games this season, Purdue has shot below the 35% with the low point being just 10.5% against Austin Peay. In all four of Purdue’s losses this season, Purdue has shot less than 35% from behind the arc (@ Maryland: 15.4%, @ Northwestern: 22.7%, Rutgers: 30.4%, @ IU: 33.3%) and their record stands at just 4-4 against major conference opponents and those in the Kenpom top 100.
In the instances where Purdue has shot 35% or better, Purdue’s record overall is 16-0 (15-0 against Kenpom top 100 teams/major conference opponents). What is even more eye opening is that the margin of victory between those two marks is very stark. When Purdue shoots 35% or better, their margin of victory is 15 points while just 5.25 when they shoot below that mark.
12 Total Turnovers in a Game
The issues with turnovers have long been a point of emphasis by fans who take a single game issue and expand it to other areas of frustration. With recent Purdue teams, there has been a well documented issue with handling full court pressure being applied and many make a connection between the two factors but the reality is Purdue’s turnover issues don’t typically come from that full court pressure. Rather, most of the issues come from poor passes and decisions in the half-court.
The mark this season for success seems to be at the 12 turnover mark as Purdue is 15-1 on the season when turning the ball over 12 times or less. That one loss, at Maryland, is somewhat of a outlier for Purdue on the season and will be brought up later. When Purdue turns the ball over 13 times or more, they are just 4-3 with victories over West Virginia (17, most this season), Iowa (15), @ Ohio State (14), and Maryland (13) but in those victories Purdue also shot above 35% from behind the arc except for, you guessed, it, Maryland.
The main issue with turnovers this season so far has been Zach being pressured into mistakes on double teams brought against him. He leads Purdue with 21% of the turnovers committed so far this season but that is expected a bit when the big man is the focus the offense and the gravitational pull he requires to stop. The other culprit, at times, has been Braden Smith but with just a 16.8% share of the turnovers as a true freshman point guard playing 30 minutes per game, you are happy with that relatively low number of just 1.9 per game.
Purdue just doesn’t turn the ball over as much as they have in the past this season and when a game is impacted so heavily by this one factor, the games where they struggle are highlighted more so than others. Keep in mind, Purdue also has 11 games of less than 10 turnovers and average just 11.2 per game all season.
16 Total Assists in a Game
Purdue’s offense is a thing of beauty when compared to a lot of program’s but really stands out when Purdue is sharing the basketball. Purdue’s ability to share the basketball this season is at the highest levels across the country as the Boilers average 15.5 assists per game, good for 38th in the country (and 2nd in the B1G). Led by Braden Smith’s 4.3 per game, Purdue’s offensive sets puts players in good positions to pass up shots many other programs expect their players to take for great shots. Those types of extra passes lead to more chances at finishing and higher amounts of assists.
This season, Purdue is 11-0 against major conference opponents and other top 100 KenPom teams when they hit that mark of 16 assists or more but are just 8-4 when they don’t. Even more than that, Purdue’s average victory when they hit that 16 assist mark is 14.5 while being under is just 7.6. Of all three stats, the number of assists may be the most indicative for Purdue’s success given it naturally tends to reflect offense that is being efficient and multiple people are touching the ball each possession, which typically means a defense is having a hard time defending.
Putting Them All Together
When you combine all three of those stats together to see how Purdue fares is games when they achieve all three marks, two of them, just one, or even none of them, it paints a very clear picture of who Purdue is and who they aren’t this season. When Purdue attains those three points, Purdue is currently 10-0, while they are also 5-0 when attaining 2 of the 3.
What is most telling is that even when hitting just one of those three marks within a game, Purdue stands at 3-4 and when not getting to any of them, Purdue is 1-0. What was that one game where Purdue didn’t any of those marks on the season? Maryland at home where Purdue struggled to a 3 point win after shooting just 15.4% from behind the arc, handed out 13 assists, and had 13 turnovers.
As the season nears the conclusion and Purdue works to capture their 25th conference title, their ability to hit these marks will delegate whether they can move past the roadblock that the Elite 8 has served to prevent Purdue from getting to the Final Four the program and fanbase have longed for since 1980.