Boilers Tame Kittens in Cancun, 96-71
Until right before the tip-off, I had forgotten that Ronnie Johnson played for Auburn, his third and final college basketball stop. I recalled Bruce Pearl coached there, so pretty quickly, it all made me want to see Purdue beat the hell out of Auburn in the Cancun Challenge Championship game.
Pearl started RonJohn, in spite of the fact that Johnson is usually a guy that comes off of the bench for the young, athletic Tigers. I guess he figured that starting Johnson might stoke some of the competitive juices…but after an out of control drive and subsequent pass into the stands, it was clear that the guy who transferred from Purdue hadn’t improved a whole bunch in his journeys throughout the South in the last few years.
RonJohn finished with two points and two turnovers while going one-for-four.
In the first half, Purdue struggled, just as they did yesterday v. Utah State. A ten point lead shrunk down to nothing, and the only thing that was keeping Purdue with a slight margin was sharp shooting from Carsen Edwards and solid point guard play from PJ Thompson.
Edwards had a nifty three pointer to end the half, that gave him 14 points in that half alone. He finished with 21 efficient points on 7/11 shooting; 3/4 from three, along with three steals.
It’s hard to say a guy struggled who had a double double, but I'm going to do it twice in the next few paragraphs. Swanigan’s 14 points and 10 rebounds, while solid, but weren’t dominant at all. He couldn’t really will Purdue into a lead…and struggled to stay in front of the jumping jacks on the Auburn squad while on the defensive end.
Worse still, Vincent Edwards looked listless in the first half before breaking out of a self-imposed funk. In the second half, Edwards hit a few big threes, finished strong around the basket and played more like many thought he’d play this season. His 15 points, while going 3/4 from three were important as Purdue simply poured it on down the stretch. But his five turnovers were costly and kept Purdue from getting into an offensive rhythm in the first half.
Worst of all in Purdue's vaunted frontcourt, Isaac Haas had one of his worst games in memory. He got out-willed by the smaller Auburn PFs in the first half…so much that he looked a bit shell shocked at times. Big Drago scored ten points, and grabbed ten boards…but he turned the ball over a whopping eight times.
Thompson was the best PG, on either team, as his 15pts, 2ast and a steal put pressure on Auburn’s guards. Seeing Thompson on the same court as Johnson reminded me how great of a find PJ has been…and how much more of a good fit he is for this program.
Mathias started slow, but heated up as the game went on. He finished with 12 points, all on three-point shots…but had an eye-popping seven assists to go along with the sharp shooting. Better still, he only turned the ball over once.
Here’s the funny thing- Purdue didn’t really play well. Auburn talked so much that I noticed Thompson chattering back on more than one occurrence in the first half. But as Purdue let their play do the talking, Auburn quieted down quite a bit, and even their sweaty, demonstrative coach turned the volume down.
This was a game that felt lose-able. Auburn is very athletic and quick and looked like they really wanted to make a statement in this game. They did- just not the type of statement that they intended to.
Purdue was clearly more skilled and more disciplined. But shooting 65% was what made this one a laugher for The Forces of Good. They struggled from the free throw line; an on-going problem this season, but it didn’t matter. They got hot with around 12 minutes left in the game, were patient and made Auburn pay for over-collapsing on the middle time and again.
Purdue won one of the lesser-known Thanksgiving week tourneys…but it’s better than the alternative. It doesn’t look like Utah State nor Auburn will be a quality win, but beating a team by 25 points on a neutral court, in a championship seems like a good thing.
This team still has a lot of gelling to do- Cline returned and played a few minutes, Carsen Edwards introduced himself to the college basketball world. Vincent Edwards continues to struggle to find consistency. Purdue’s defense gets back doored once or twice a game as they struggle to rotate and communicate…and clearly miss the defensive prowess of the departed Hammons. I think watching the process might be fun this year; there are clearly glimpses of what this team might become, but outside of some pretty good shooters, I still don’t know what will define this squad; we’ll see.
Next up, Our Boilers play their third game of the week back in the friendly confines as they square off against the offensive juggernaut that is the New Jersey Institute of Technology.