Purdue Boringly Beats Cal State Fullerton 74-48, But Loses Isaac Haas For The Year
Feature image from @BoilerBall
Starters: PJ Thompson, Carsen Edwards, Dakota Mathias, Vince(nt) Edwards, Isaac Haas
Finishers: Tommy Luce (!), Ryan Cline, Nojel Eastern, Grady Eifert, Jacquil Taylor (!)
After a closer-than-necessary first half, Purdue removed all excitement from March Madness’ first round, beating Cal State Fullerton 74-48 in wonderfully boring fashion.
After Cincinnati in 2015, Arkansas-Little Rock in 2016, and a 29-win Vermont in 2017, I was very much ready for an extremely boring first round win. Fandom can be exhausting, and the early exits in 2015 and 2016 soured my favorite sports weekend for Purdue fans everywhere.
In a year like 2018, when Purdue has looked dominant for stretches and shaky after February’s Wisconsin loss, everyone seemed a little nervous as to what we’d see after an unusual two weeks off. It’s all in the eye of the beholder, really: If Purdue came out of the gates firing on all cylinders, the hiatus provided some much-needed rest. If Purdue looked bad, it could be blamed on rust (and Jim Delany).
It unfortunately looked like rust during the first half.
Four straight misses and two turnovers from Haas (2 first-half points). One first-half Boilermaker assist, after settling for tons of iso-jumpers. Multiple 3-minute stretches without scoring a point. During Purdue’s opening half of the 2018 tourney, it certainly looked like the Wisconsin loss wasn’t some sort of anomaly. It looked like Purdue might sneak by with a single-digit first round win, and get blown off the court by either Butler or Arkansas in the second round.
But the two players who were keeping things going for Purdue were Carsen Edwards (13 first half points) and Nojel Eastern, both attacking the rim while Vince/PJ/Dakota were settling for contested jumpers. Khalil Ahmad and Kyle Allman, Fullerton’s dynamic guard duo, got a few threes to go down, but Vince and Mathias’ solid perimeter defense held them to 16 total first half points on 6/17 shooting.
An 8-1 Purdue run to end the first half gave Purdue a 30-21 halftime lead, and (if we’re sticking with the “rust” narrative) 17 minutes of warmups were really all this team needed to hit their stride.
Here’s how the second half went:
PJ Thompson woke up from two months away from the basketball program, forming back into the perfect complementary point guard he was for three and a half years and drilling 3 three-pointers (11 second half points, 2 assists, 1 rebound, no turnovers).
Vince crashed the glass in Swanigan-esque fashion, and the hustle rubbed off on the rest of the team.
Mathias hit a pair of threes, Cline got to the free throw line, JACQUIL TAYLOR SCORED, Purdue had 9 second half assists, and Fullerton’s Ahmad was held to 2 second half points. (Allman finished with 21 points, because he’s a beast, shoutout to CSF for having fun players to watch).
The takeaway? 19-Game Win Streak Purdue was back, at least for one half. If that second half team sticks around, and Eastern is playing at the level he’s been at for the last month? This year might be that different tourney run we were all hoping for.
And now we all get to go back and root for first-weekend upsets again, without worrying about #2 Purdue being a victim. At least, until Sunday.
Bring on Arkansas or a Butler rematch, I think the 19-Game Boilers will be waiting.
I WAS ABOUT TO HIT POST AND THEN THIS CAME ACROSS THE TIMELINE OH NOOOOOO:
Without getting too dramatic, this is pretty much the end of the world.
Big Drago had a rough night from the field (9 points, 3/7 shooting), but he did grab 10 rebounds and was responsible for ripping a jersey in hilarious fashion:
But this was underpinned by a thought Purdue fans (and Purdue's coaching staff) has been trying to emphasize for four years: NCAA referees have no idea how to properly officiate Isaac Haas. When that big of a size advantage is in one player's favor, the way officials react is to allow post defenders to stretch their physicality to more fairly match up.
And then, the nightmare scenario: With 9 minutes left in the game, Haas was dragged to the ground during a box-out, and his entire 300-lb frame seemed to come crashing down on his elbow. The sideline reporter said Haas’ hand went numb, and luckily Haas seemed to be OK after the game (and after coming back in the game for just over 2 minutes).
Right before I hit "Publish", Purdue releases that statement. What a gut-punch.
Selfishly, I instantly think of Glenn Robinson's back and Robbie Hummel's knee. But earlier in the broadcast, TruTV replayed clips of Haas' senior night speech. You know the one:
BS came into the season with high expectations for Haas, and I thought that he got a little bit of a free pass for his shortcomings during his first three years (especially compared to the criticisms piled on AJ Hammons and Caleb Swanigan).
And Haas' play this year shut me right up.
15 points per game on 62% shooting, 5.6 rebounds per game, a usage rate that only trailed Carsen Edwards, and a game-to-game consistency (particularly when Purdue's gameplan leaned heavily on his post presence) that couldn't be denied.
But more than that - Haas happily took on the role as AJ Hammons Motivator for his freshman and sophomore years, Swanigan at center limited his minutes last year, and we never heard a single complaint. Haas' smile lit up arenas every time one of his teammates did something highlight-worthy, and there are a million GIFs to prove that.
Isaac Haas is the exact kind of Boilermaker fans think of when we list reasons for our Purdue fandom, and he didn't deserve to have his collegiate career end like this. But Purdue got lucky to wind up with him in the first place (it took a firing at Wake Forest, and Coach Painter's relentless recruiting to get him in West Lafayette). And Purdue fans (especially ones who tweet out daily Purdue GIFs) will fondly remember Haas' unbridled joy for his teammates, and his love for Purdue.
And don't worry, we'll be seeing Isaac in the NBA next year.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have a year's supply of Peptowhiskey to down.
The game was over when…
…with 15 minutes left to play, Fullerton sprung a halfcourt trap on PJ. He kept his head up, launched a perfectly-placed lob to Haarms in post position. Instead of coming down in traffic, Haarms made a two-handed Nikola Jokic-esque touch pass in the air to Vince right under the basket. Vince sunk the and-one layup, Purdue went up by 17, and the game was out-of-hand from there.
Player of the Game:
A well-rested Carsen Edwards finished with 15 points (13 in the first half), and though he didn’t have an efficient game (4/12 from the field) he was Purdue’s engine during that anemic first half. Carsen sank all six FT attempts, pulled in four rebounds, and one highlight-worthy steal:
Second half player of the game was Vince Edwards, who shook the rust off after a lackluster first half. Vince finished with a very Vince line: 15 points on 6/12 shooting, 2/4 from three, 7 rebounds in 31 minutes. Honorable mention to PJ Thompson, who was a joy to watch again.
- Carsen Edwards getting buckets (surpassing the 1,000 career points mark) , especially when others are settling for jumpers. My feelings can be summed up here:
- I really enjoy Ian Eagle announcing games.
- GRADY EIFERT ALMOST DUNKED IN A REAL LIFE NCAA TOURNAMENT GAME and was fouled hard but who cares that was incredible. Isaac’s reaction wasn’t nice:
- Jacquil Taylor and Tommy Luce getting 7 combined minutes during a tourney game.
- Second half PJ. When Purdue has PJ and Dakota going, they do things like win 19 games in a row. I would suggest PJ and Dakota to not miss any more shots for the rest of their collegiate career.
- Nojel Eastern and Matt Haarms were great in their first tourney games. Nojel was the exact same defensive menace he’s been for the second half of Big Ten play, and relentlessly attacked the glass as the rest of the team settled for contested isolation jumpers. Haarms was working really well in the pick-and-roll with Carsen, and got a little bit of his December/January defensive swagger back. Both freshmen still have a lot to refine on the offensive side of the ball, but they’ll be the anchors of a very good defense going forward.
- First half Purdue, settling for jumpers as Haas kept missing. Only Nojel and Carsen were attacking, and even Carsen had a handful of really bad heaves. Vince needs to start attacking the rim earlier, a lot of Purdue’s off-ball movement is driven by his passing vision in traffic.
- The U2 song they keep playing during tourney commercial breaks.
- Purdue’s multiple 3+ minute stretches without points. They can recover against teams like Fullerton, but they won’t be able to against teams like Butler, Arkansas, or Texas Tech.
- Post-Haas injury addition: Everything. Everything is bad.
Moving Picture Thingy of the Night:
A late game Vince chase-down block, with the game well in hand? Yes, please.
Tweet of the night: