Five Minutes Enough As Boilers Ease Past Cardinals
For most of the game, the Good Guys looked like they might add another chapter to the Book of Bad Purdue Sports Today; fortunately, a 19-2 run in the second half was enough to give them the cushion they’d need to see out an early-season win against Ball State in Mackey Saturday night.
Just as in the opener, the Boilers came out of the gate slowly; unlike Fairfield, Ball State managed to play even with the Boilers the entire first half, closing to within a point on a Tahjai Teague dunk. The Cardinals grabbed the lead on a KJ Walton layup and actually had a 3-point lead after a Kyle Mallers three, but after a couple of minutes of even play, a Nojel Eastern and-one put Purdue in front by three, and at the under-12 timeout, Eastern and Evan Boudreaux had combined for 13 points in that 19-2 run, and the Cardinals were all but done. They would make a late run to get the lead into single digits, but at that point it didn’t matter that much with most of the starters out.
It wasn’t the best night from outside the arc - the Boilers were just 7 for 32, .219, while Ball State hit nearly 50% from outside (11 for 23) - but Purdue was money from inside, nearly 50%, and they hit 17 of 24 from the line, including a respectable 5 for 8 from Matt Haarms. C-Boogie filled the scoresheet like he normally does: 23 points despite shooting 8 for 22 and 2 of 10 from distance, 5 boards, 5 assists, 1 block in 38 minutes. Haarms had 16, Boudreaux 14, and Eastern 12, with Ryan Cline just missing the double-digit club at 9. (He hit two shots from inside the arc; I think that leaves him one more this season.)
Eastern did a lot more than just score - 9 boards, including 6 on the offensive glass, 1 assist, 1 block, and 2 steals, plus a number of other things you don’t see in the box score. Purdue’s entire edge in rebounds came at the offensive end (19-8), and Eastern was a big part of that, plus the Boilers’ 44-22 edge in points in the paint. If your threes aren’t falling, the next best thing is to get easy twos, and the Boilers got plenty of those.
Ball State seems like a reasonable team (#102 in kenpom, who predicted a 14-point win for the Good Guys tonight), and a player like Tayler Persons is a good test for the young Boiler defense. It’s fair to say they passed, as Persons had 19 points but needed 17 shot equivalents to get them, adding 5 turnovers against 2 assists and committing 4 fouls. Eastern played a big role in that, and if he’s able to contribute at both ends the way he did tonight, that should get the Boilers more easy points and open things up for Edwards and Cline.
The sleepy part of the schedule is pretty much over, as the actual Charleston Classic kicks off Thursday (this was a non-bracketed game, whatever that means), with the Boilers facing Appalachian State Thursday, then Wichita State or Davidson Friday and potentially Virginia Tech Sunday. The Hokies are #30 right now, so that might be a good neutral-site test before the Boilers visit Florida State and Michigan, then head home to play Maryland and fly to Austin to play Texas. (Yeah, they play Robert Morris the Friday of Thanksgiving week, which is college football’s weekend. The stretch of games starting with FSU is more meaningful.) If Purdue falls short of the NCAA tournament this year, it won’t be because of strength of schedule; Robert Morris and Fairfield are the only 200+ opponents on the schedule, and Ball State is one of just five opponents in the 100s. (Yes, Rutger is in the 100s now. They still can’t shoot, but they can definitely D up.)
Feature image courtesy of @BoilerBall