New Look Boilers Grind out a Big W
Vincent Edwards sprained his ankle in practice...and came out of the tunnel in street clothes and a walking cast. That's kind of a big deal. Nearly 15 points and 8 boards on the bench for a team that seemed to have lost its offensive mojo a few games ago matters...especially on the heels of three straight losses.
All of that said, Edwards seemed a bit passionless after the shocking loss in Madison...His understudies, Eifert and Haarms aren't that. So a starting five without a four year starter, felt odd, but Grady Eifert soothed the wound with a harder-nosed attitude and a bit of a shot in the arm, at least initially, in the team's effort.
Eifert, Eastern and Haarms all provided a needed boost of energy, early in the first half, before Purdue regressed into the malaise that we've all grown to hate in the last three games. Penn State started knocking down shots from the perimeter, and outside of Boogie, Purdue had no answer. Haas wasn't terribly effective on the blocks and PJ was still missing in action. If it wasn't for Mathias finding some of his rhythm again, Purdue might have been down by 20 before the first half was over.
Instead, The Forces of Good cut a nine point deficit down to just four points before the break. If you missed this one, it felt like Purdue would get blown out in the first half at times, in the second half, it felt like Purdue might blow out PSU, then, it felt eerily similar to the aOSU and Wisconsin games as PSU erased a double-digit deficit. Finally, Purdue closed out an imperative home stretch victory 76-73. PSU was on a four game winning streak as Purdue was headed the other way...Purdue earned its 24th victory on the season and kept PSU from getting their 20th and getting one step closer to the dance.
Carsen Edwards was a one-man show for big chunks of this one. He drove on whomever PSU put in front of him and finished over one, two and sometimes three PSU defenders near the basket. When he wasn't showing us why he's the best finisher in the league, he was doing the little things- finding the open man on offense, and picking pockets on the other end of the floor. 27 points, 4 boards, 3 steals and 2 assists. Oh yeah, Boogie absolutely soared on a lightning-fast drive before flushing an emphatic dunk in the second half. This game not only foreshadowed what we might see from Boogie when it's his team next season, but also what might happen when this Senior class graduates.
Nojel Eastern played a ton of minutes as PJ struggled, once again, to make any noise (0 points, 0 assists). Eastern didn't pack the stat sheet either, but frustrated PSU's Carr on defense, was a physical presence on the boards and, once again, played with a high level of energy. I'm not sure if Eastern hasn't earned a starting role...but with Vincent in a boot, it might not be the time Paint experiments with another new starter.
Cline started off slowly, but hit two MASSIVE three pointers in the second half that helped catapult Purdue to a home win. He only had 7 points...but he hit his first free thrown in OVER A YEAR, which is a stat that really makes no sense, when you think about how many minutes he plays.
MWC was back, for the first time in a few games. Mathias' curl was setting him up again to score. He finished with 18 points, 3 assists and a pair of steals. Maybe the most important part of this game was that Mathias potentially gaining confidence on the offensive end...something we haven't seen for weeks.
Haas added 12 points, 6 boards and 3 assists (I know, right?)...but turned the ball over three times, and missed a few bunnies. He did what he always does; got PSU bigs in foul trouble and changed the way they had to play Purdue defensively.
Purdue left ten points on the floor as they went 17-27 from the FT line. The game shouldn't have been as close as it was, but 1-for2 U (that's what my bro called the old Boilers) struggled from the stripe in the second half.
Purdue shot 35% from three...still hasn't found their range in a few games from deep.
Purdue was manhandled on the glass, again. Purdue had 28 rebounds, while PSU grabbed 35. Purdue's defense was generally good, they gave PSU too many second...third..and even FOURTH looks. It's not only frustrating to watch, it's an absolute killer, as we saw versus aOSU.
It doesn't feel like beating PSU in Mackey should be that big of a deal, but any win right now is big. Plus, the PSU team is in the top third/half of the conference and has proven that they can beat anyone. This win, with the odd line-ups and Purdue struggling to find a new identity, was important for the Good Guys' mental state.
Next up, another four day break, before our Boilers traveling to Illinois on the 22nd.