Carsen Devours All
9-16 from behind the three-point line. 12-21 in total from the field. 9-9 from the free throw line. 42 points, six rebounds, and a game played with the utter confidence of a man who knew that there was nothing that his opponents could do to stop him. Ain’t nothing in this world quite like being right.
Carsen has always been a bit of what has been missing from Purdue in the Matt Painter era. Yeah, there have been some incredible talent that has made its way through West Lafayette, but has he had a player so ball dominant, so aggressive, and yet so trusted in that role? The Baby Boilers, as good as they were, were best as a unit. Caleb was an unique talent who relied on someone else to get him the ball. Carl Landry was methodological on the block but not a “take over the game” type of a guy…anyone else who played with any resemblance of the aggressiveness that Carsen displays hasn’t quite been as good. Slump or not, Edwards represented Purdue’s best chance at winning any particular game. There aren’t many players that automatically give you the confidence that you can win any game, but that is exactly what you get with him.
But despite a scoring average in the mid-20s, the concern had centered around Carsen’s efficiency. You knew that he was going to get his buckets, but worry became how big of a house was he going to build before he got there? Heading in the Villanova game, a “break-out” game for Purdue’s star may have looked like the Ohio State game. A fantastic performance, and one that would be enough to beat the defending champions.
But there is a unique type of start who derives his power from the spotlight like Superman and the Sun. And Carsen has always seemed to indulge in the bright lights, and in words and demeanor, seemed ready as ready can be for the game Saturday night. And thus break-out he did, setting a personal record for points scored and backs broken. He was born for this moment, and lived in that moment like it as especially crafted for him.
Normally, if the bench only scores six points, it’s a cause for concern. But Saturday night, the bench only scored six points because the starters took up all the points. Matt Haarms was absolutely dominant, stamping him name alongside Carsen with an 18 point, nine rebound performance, perhaps the best of his career. And Ryan Cline went 4-8 from distance, breaking a bad run of late to deliver daggers. How did I know that this team was ready for this moment? My first clue was when Cline drove to the basket, like he did some Freaky Friday act with Carsen. My second was when his Carsen impersonation continued and he pulled up from the sticker for a deep three. Those two plays resulted in a grand total of zero points but focusing on that misses the mark. This team didn’t come to play they came to win. They were going to burn the whole damn place down if they had to but they would not shrink from the moment. I absolutely LOVE that attitude. Do not go meekly; furrow your brow, puff out your chest, and shoot your shot.
This team is still reinventing themselves in my eyes. A week is an eternity and a lot can happen in an eternity. But anything can happen with this team. Carsen scoring 42 tonight doesn’t mean he won’t score 50 next week. Iowa or Tennessee, this team has a chance. Tonight was fun; “Purdue football in the Jeff Brohm era” fun, and I couldn’t ask for anything. What a performance, what a team.