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#1 Purdue Handles the Terrapins in 67-53 Road Victory

Purdue avenges last season’s loss.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Just under a year ago Purdue, then ranked #3, heading to College Park to take on the Terrapins. Purdue was coming off of a road loss to Northwestern and people were starting to wonder if there were cracks in this Purdue team. Surely though a trip to Maryland would result in righting the ship and keeping Purdue on the path to their next Big Ten championship right? Wrong. Purdue got absolutely taken to the woodshed by a long and athletic Maryland squad. As the Purdue team made their way off the court they were met by the storming Maryland students who had every right to head to the court after a huge win. After the game I was able to listen to the players talk and what I’ll remember is the anger. This team had been stormed on after nearly every loss over the last season and a half. It had to be tough on them. It was with those memories fresh in their minds, plus the deja vu loss on the road at Northwestern, that Purdue came into the Xfinity Center looking for a win in the resumed Big Ten play.

John Wooden Memorial Player of the Game (JWMPOTG): Lance Jones gets this one just for the start of the second half. His first half from a shooting perspective was forgettable going 0-5. He tried to make up for the poor shooting by chipping in three assists. He also gave plenty of effort and hustle on defense as he always does. To start the second half though he came out like a man on fire. He made three threes in quick succession and then one more bucket to put up a very quick 11 points. By that point, Purdue had pushed the lead to nearly 20 points and it was all but over. Lance Jones was a huge reason for that breathing room that Purdue got to start the second half.

This wasn’t a game that Purdue had to have in order to either keep pace in the Big Ten or to lock up a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament, it’s too early for any of that. What Purdue did need this win for was something much more simple. Revenge. Piece of mind. Sure, maybe the players and the coaching staff don’t think like that but I know us fans do. We remember the beating from last year and the flaws that were exposed down the stretch for that Purdue team. This Purdue team is not that Purdue team and nowhere was that more clear than tonight.

Purdue absolutely took care of business tonight in nearly every aspect of the game. They were active on defense, tipping balls, getting in passing lanes, forcing Maryland into bad shots, and following the game plan that Painter and staff drew up. Painter and company were content with Maryland taking threes because that’s what the numbers said. With just under 8:00 minutes to go in the second half Maryland was a paltry 2-16 from three. The analytics on that worked. Something seems to be wrong with this Maryland offense, but I can’t understand what is that different from last year’s Terps. Painter and company saw the tendencies and let Maryland play into them and it resulted in a relatively easy win for the Boilermakers. Sure, they hit some down the stretch to finish 5-21 but you’ll take that every time.

The one issue for most of the game was rebounding as Purdue allowed Maryland to get offensive rebound after offensive rebound. As the game wore on though Purdue was able to not just even things out in that department but take the lead. Ultimately, Purdue won the rebounding battle 39-34.

It wouldn’t have been a Purdue basketball game if Purdue didn’t allow the opponent to claw their way back for just a bit. As the game ticked under five minutes to go the lead for Purdue that had been over 20 had ticked down to just 13. I, like many of you, started to sweat just a bit. But then, Maryland started to shoot the ball and I felt better. So much better in fact that when Purdue took the score to 61-43 you saw a lot of Maryland fans head to the exits. There was just under four minutes left in the game but they had seen enough.

Purdue was led in this one by the ever reliable Zach Edey who had 23 points and 12 rebounds to grab yet another double double. Braden Smith continued to show his improvement as a player as he hit from all over the court to include that impeccable pull-up that he’s perfected this season. His 14 points seemed like it should’ve been more simply because he made such an impact on the game. He also chipped in 6 assists and 7 rebounds as he flirted with yet another triple double. The offensive resurgence of Fletcher Loyer continued as he helped Purdue get out to their early first half lead with a couple of really threes.

As the seconds ticked away I couldn’t help but think that this Purdue team truly is different than last season. Sure, they lost at Northwestern again, I get it, but they’ve got more pieces this year and the importance of the addition of Lance Jones cannot be overstated. When you’ve got the reigning national player of the year and some much improved pieces in Loyer and Smith the sky might very well be the limit for this squad. Last year Purdue left College Park losers of two in a row with questions abound. Tonight, they left College Park with their heads held high and one more loss avenged.

Purdue improved to 2-1 in conference play and will next be in action on January 5th at home against the 9th ranked Fighting Illini.