Va Tech's Guards Surge Past No. 23 Purdue, 89-83
Photo Credit: AP
Each game this Purdue squad plays has some novelty to it, at this point. Tonight, Purdue got its first real test of the young season in the form of the guard-heavy, No. 16 VaTech Hokies. For a half, Purdue was in absolute control of this one fueled by Evan Boudreaux’s introduction to a national audience. The Dartmouth transfer crashed the boards, hit shots from distance, distributed out of double teams and played solid defense. His 18pt, 7reb, 3ast and 2stl night gave us a foretaste of why we’ll love this new Boilermaker for the next two seasons…and why opposing fans will not.
I can imagine it’s a shot to the ego to get beaten off of the dribble by a guy that looks like he should be playing in a church league for some D1 players…but Boudreaux is sneaky quick and is versatile. He needed to be tonight. As Haarms struggled, and VaTech’s speed created problems, Boudreaux played the five most of the night.
It was really the case of two halves. Purdue controlled one half, but as fouls mounted, the new-look Boilermakers struggled to find answers. Specifically, Eastern’s foul trouble forced Boogie into the point guard role, and he simply struggled against VT’s pressure. Edwards has a tendency to force the issue at times, and doesn’t let the game come to him, especially if he’s leading the offense in half court sets. The Hokie’s double teaming defense leaves players open, but forces a bit of a frenetic pace, if it’s not handled…and Purdue simply couldn’t handle it in the second half.
Edwards finished with another sizeable game…26 points with 7 assists. None of his buckets were bigger than a dunk over tonight’s nemesis, Alexander-Walker. After splitting a double-team, Boogie flushed over the Va Tech defender, who quickly learned that Edwards ain’t playin’ yet again in 2018. But, Boogie’s 6 turnovers were costly…a couple of them down the stretch led to easy layups.
Purdue shot 42% from deep…50% from the floor…outrebounded VT 33-28. The Boilers even had three more assists. But, the offense accepted shots from deep instead of driving. That coupled with some uneven officiating led to Va Tech shooting 26 FTs, while Purdue only got to the line 11 times. Charleston is closer to Blacksburg, but it shouldn’t have been officiated as if they were in their own backyard.
In spite of VT’s aggressive, trapping style of defense, Purdue was whistled for 6 more fouls than the Hokies in the second half. It mattered, a lot. It changed the rhythm of the game, a lot. With the game in a back-and-fourth struggle at around the 4:00 mark, Stefanovich rotated and set up for a charge. His feet were set, his shoulders were square…the whistle blew.
What should have been Purdue ball turned into a three point play for Va Tech, much to the delight of the demonstrative baseline official. Tons of fun…for the other guys. This seemed like the pivotal play of the second half that led to Purdue’s first loss of the young season.
Painter has done a masterful job in getting this team to look respectable in relatively quick order. In my opinion, they’re a bit ahead of schedule, thanks to Coach Paint’s system that is allowing guys to make plays, and a team that seems to be buying into the “Play Hard” mantra. The defense of guys like Eastern, Eifert and Cline, who all have an increased role, looks drastically improved. Completely new combinations on the court and a four man bench (all of them newcomers, at this point) means there is room for growth, especially after just five games.
Purdue is 4-1, with one loss to a ranked team. Hopefully, they won’t drop out of the top-25 tomorrow, but the margin for error is pretty thin. They’ll get better as the season goes along, they’ll have games in which they will put together two halves of basketball like the first half of tonight’s game, but not yet. As fans, we learned a bit from this 2-1 road trip; my guess is the team learned more.
Purdue loses 89-83. Purdue welcomes Robert Morris to Mackey on Friday at 2:00, before heading to Tallahassee five days later to play another ranked ACC foe. This one is a real roadie.