Boilers Beat Belmont 73-62
It hasn’t been a great season for Purdue’s men’s basketball team. After squandering a couple good chances early in the season they have settled into a bubble team on the wrong side of the curve with way more questions than answers. Not a great place to be as December winds to an end!
The Belmont game was a bit of a trap game. The Bruins don’t typically strike a lot of fear in the hearts of their opponents, but they’re a sneaky good team this year. They score well at the basket (well enough for a team with their size, that is) and fire very freely from distance. They took a staggering 38 (!!!) attempts from behind the three point line today. That’s crazy! Who does that?!? Well for one, Belmont I guess. They will fire contested looks from deep early in the shot clock and think nothing of it. I bet Matt Painter gets stress headaches just from watching their film and imagining having to coach that team…
But they weren’t hitting on Saturday, not even a little. They only hit 11 of their 38 attempts (just under 29%, oof) and couldn’t really get anything else going enough to make up for it. And when you’re not hitting your shots, and you can’t stop your opponent’s best player…well I’m no basketball smart person but that doesn’t seem like it would yield great results.
And to Purdue’s credit, they took advantage. Well, by “they” I mean “Carsen Edwards and Matt Haarms.” Carsen had his 24 on 21 shots, five rebounds and three steals (hilariously, zero assists. I don’t care but that’s still funny.) Haarms seemed more alive than normal and had 12 points, eight rebounds, and three blocks off the bench. That’s the good! Well most of it. Nojel Eastern getting eight points, mostly from the line as he went 6-7, was also good. And, umm, let’s see. Eric Hunter had seven points, that’s good. Ok what else…only 10 turnovers, ok that’s good. Sefanovic hit two threes that’s good for when Ryan Cline is 0-5 from distance.
If I don’t sound too positive, I apologize. Even though they gave up 12 straight points in little over a minute midway through the second half, they were in control for most of the game and do deserve credit for that. But Haarms and Edwards were the only two players to hit more than two baskets. No starter other than Edwards made more than one basket. Grady Eifert had nine rebounds and that’s great but he’s not that good on defense and he didn’t score at all. Evan Boudreaux managed to score on one of his three attempted shots but had zeros in every other column. Both of those guys started, neither of them being much of a threat on offense, and neither a steel curtain on defense. This isn’t new for those guys, both of whom could be really great change-of-pace guys coming off the bench but when they’re out on the court at the same time they essentially make Purdue play 3-on-5 on offense. Add in the fact that Cline is 9-37 from distance in his last five games and Nojel is really only a threat to drive and you’re starting the game with Carsen bearing 90% of the offensive responsibility. This isn’t new. The time to get someone like Wheeler acclimated to the starting lineup, or Haarms to work through his problems, was now, against the Belmonts of the world. Conference play begins in earnest on 1/3; do you really want to be tinkering with the lineup then, with an NCAA Tournament bid so precariously held? Far be it for Matt Painter to make a move like that sooner than “too late.”
I have some serious concerns about this team, and I’m nervous that we are witnessing the wasting of a phenomenal and unique talent in Carsen Edwards, as dynamic a player as Purdue University has ever seen. He is magnificent to watch, and he continues to surprise and impress every game. It is an absolute joy to watch him play. Please appreciate him, Purdue fans. Players like him don’t come along every day.
Next up is Iowa at home. Iowa is ranked (yeah I was surprised too) but not that scary. But things are getting pretty real for this Purdue team. Only a pretty strong conference season will save this team’s NCAA Tournament hopes. They have the talent, but the question remains as to whether it’ll all come together in time or not.