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#23 Purdue 81, North Carolina A&T 40

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It was good to be back in Mackey tonight.

Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

I had been itching for some Purdue basketball this year, thanks to the offseason hype and the lack of a football program at Purdue. I even got to the game earlier than I usually do because I was excited like a little kid on Christmas morning. And boy, did Christmas come early.

To be honest with you, this article is a mess, as I'm trying to recall what happened throughout the game as it happened, so pardon me as I do a brain dump:

In the past, Purdue kept the lights on for the pregame team entrance and starting line-ups, but with new LED court lights (that are very bright btw), they could finally add some flair to the pregame activities by turning off/on the lights instantly and add in some spotlights as well. Words can't describe it well, but it's similar to what most programs have been doing for the past decade, and I'll make sure to record it when I go to Sunday's game (which will probably be quieter than tonight).

Though the pregame activities were flashy, Purdue was not for the first 7-8 minutes of the game. North Carolina A&T did a great job shutting down the paint, and therefore Haas and Swanigan, in the first half (more on Hammons in a moment). Purdue kept trying to feed the big men, but A&T stole any chances and forced Purdue beyond the paint. To me, this was a little concerning as the front court is supposed to be Purdue's forte this season, and if they're already getting shut down in the first game, it may not bode well the rest of the season unless the passing game improves. Thankfully, Purdue was able to hammer down on defense on the other end of the court and prevent A&T extending their lead beyond 4 points throughout this period.

It took until there was 12:48 left in the first half for Purdue to finally break away from the Aggies with a 3-pointer from P.J. Thompson. Though it wasn't immediate, the shots started falling for Purdue, as they outscored A&T 36-8 the rest of the half. Kendall Stephens led the way in the first half with 4 made 3-pointers in the first half, which kept Purdue's run alive. Ryan Cline's woos continued at first from the exhibition as he missed his first 2 3-pointers. I was getting a little worried, as Cline went 0-6 beyond the arc in the exhibition, but I knew as soon as one went in, his shot would come back naturally. And I was right.

Ryan Cline attempted his third three pointer with just over 3 minutes left in the first half, and as it hit the rim, it looked like it was about to bounce right out just like his previous attempts. However, the ghost of John Wooden must have come down a smacked the ball back into the hoops to give Cline his first collegiate 3 pointer. Cline wouldn't miss another 3 pointer the rest of the game, finishing the night with 4 3s and 13 points.

One of the biggest take-aways from the night was Vince Edwards. He may have shot 3/8 tonight, but I am always amazed at his on-court awareness. He has the amazing ability to pull away defenders and find an open man for a big shot. For awhile there in the 2nd half, it was obvious the team was struggling without his presence on the court...

In the former part of the 2nd half, Purdue looked dead and A&T was able to cut into the lead. It wasn't much, but it was a bit concerning when the team was struggling to shoot the ball and defend (granted, the refs were blowing out of their whistles too, but more on that later). I hadn't seen this team looked so lost since 2 season ago...However, during this time, Hill, Davis, and Edwards were all sitting on the bench. This team needs these players on the court if it wants to be effective and successful throughout this season. If all 3 of those players are on the bench, expect Purdue to struggle. That's just my hot take for this evening.

Johnny Hill was wonderful tonight for Purdue. Though he may not have produced any offensive numbers with 0 attempts, he was a pain in A&T's ass on defense, forcing at least 3 turnovers in a 5 minute span in the 2nd half, and officially recording 2 steals, 1 block, along with 5 assists. I don't think we'll need Hill to be a big scorer for Purdue, but just like Edwards, he has great on-court awareness and he plays defense like a true Boilermaker.

Though Swanigan and Haas were shut out of the paint early on, there were still giving the Aggies trouble on defense and combined for 12 made free throws on 13 attempts (no, that's not a type, they combined for a 92% made free throws), and both finished with double-doubles. Swanigan even made a 3-pointer! One of the highlights of the game was when Swanigan forced a turnover, took the ball, acted like a point guard, broke a few ankles along the way, and found Rapheal Davis for the open 3.

And people said Purdue had a point guard issue.

Ray D contributed throughout the game with a 3 pointer here and a lay up over there. It wasn't exactly flashy, but it got the job done with a semi-quiet 14 points. P.J. Thompson, as mentioned earlier, had a big 3 pointer to get the game going, but also seemed to have a quiet night. Seems like he is still developing a bit, but Hill should be the main point guard for Purdue this season.

Overall, Purdue looked great tonight outside of a few dead minutes. Though the stat sheet says Purdue finished with a 65.6% free throw average, many of those misses came in garbage time, as Purdue only missed 1 free throw in the first half. For the first time since the Baby Boiler era, I'm not too concerned about free throws, but we all know that could easily change.

I think a big reason why Purdue struggled at the start of this game was the new 30 second shot clock. Though it helps on defense (at least 2 shot clock violations), Purdue's slower-tempo offense is still adjusting. Players were rushing the ball up the court, not allowing time for the offense to get set, and would force unnecessary turnovers with ill-advised passes or forced shots that weren't needed. I expect Purdue to still tune up their offense in these first couple of games, but they need to tune up quickly as their future opponents and conference rivals could thrive with the new shot clock.

There were also 51 total fouls called in today's game. I know these early games tend to have more fouls then most games, but when a team enters the double bonus with more than 5 minutes left in the half, it's a little annoying. There have yet again been rule changes regarding defense and fouls, and it seems like every year the refs are getting closer to just breathing out of their whistles the whole game. The NCAA wants the game to be at a faster pace, and that's why they introduced in the 30-second shot clock, but that means nothing if refs are calling fouls every time someone plays defense.

Though AJ Hammons remains at the end of the bench, he seemed like he was ready to go. I have no idea why Painter has him in the dog house, but it seems like he is actually taking it better than I thought. He was still cheering on his teammates and joking with them on the bench. He's not being a downer and bringing the rest of the team down with him because he is in the doghouse, which is good. This team has developed a better chemistry, and I think Hammons understands why he isn't playing at the moment. Until Painter tells us why or lets AJ speak to the media, we won't know why he stayed on the bench. Here's hoping we get to see some action from him on Sunday.

That's all for now. I was originally going to call this my "quick takes" on the game, but 1400 words later, you can't really call this a "quick take." I'll be at the game on Sunday, but I'll also be at Ryan Field on Saturday for the football game. At least I can expect another win out of the basketball team.