This game wasn’t about trying to hit the Zach Edey 30 or showing anything spectacular against a clearly matched opponent. The way Purdue handles a team has always been over the top, managing their actions to get good shots on offense, with an eye for detail on the defensive end. This is exactly what this game was about and was the reason why Purdue won 61-39.
Purdue started the game with Minnesota holding two points in the first 4:28 seconds, and although they suffered a bit of a scoring drought (it was held at 14 points for about 3 minutes), Purdue didn’t allow that to have an impact on the defensive end as they limited themselves to The Gophers only managed to shoot 5-24 (20.8%) from the field in the first half and forced 10 turnovers. Taurus Samuels led the Gophers in the first half with 6 points, while the other three points scored two points each. The Gophers only scored 12 points, and if it weren’t for a credit on two fouls, they might have only scored 9 (if Loyer hadn’t fouled, I don’t think they would have).
Meanwhile, the Kettlers were running very accurate offensive actions for a consistent open look at the edge that forced Minnesota’s inability to close on shooters outside the arc. Braden Smith was so adept at controlling the ball from the guard position that he was frequently asked to run a high ball screen with Zack Eddy and simply let him read what the defense was giving him and respond. In the first half, he had 9 points on 4-6 shooting, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists while controlling the Purdue game with a level that belied his age.
Eddie also had a great first half scoring 12 points, scoring 3 rebounds, blocking 3 shots and even handing out 2 assists. Minnesota wanted to play Eddie one-on-one in a similar way Michigan State had done Sissoko, and although they were sometimes successful, Eddie eventually got his spots. The way these two dominated the first half was evident with less than 4 minutes left in the first half when Smith got a high screen of the ball from Eddie, cut left, and threw the ball to a diving Eddie who finished the ball off with one huge slam dunk. .
In the second half it was more similar than Braden Smith as he frequently took advantage of a weak Minnesota defense on him on a high catch move. He scored 10 points in the second period while shooting a 3-2 from behind the arc. The bigger picture here is that Purdue, in a game that quickly turned into a blowout, kept running its combos and moves to get good shots while also focusing on defense to not give up on easy shots (until the end of the game).
With 9:40 left in the second half, Purdue showed off the beauty of offense running without many big names. With Edey, Furst, Smith, and Loyer on the bench, Purdue had Newman, Kaufman-Renn, Jenkins, Gillis, and Morton grounded. Purdue worked the ball through multiple runs and counters to finally get Mason Gillis on an open shot from behind the arc to bury three to give Purdue a 52-25 lead.
In the end, Purdue did exactly what it should have done and has a good schedule to finish the B1G season. Purdue will play seven home games in its last twelve with road games against Wisconsin (4-3), Michigan (4-3), Northwestern (3-3), Maryland (3-4) and Indiana (3-4). . With tonight’s win, Purdue moved itself to 7-1 in conference and a two-game lead over Rutgers and Michigan State. After letting the B1G title slip away last season, Purdue appears to have once again positioned itself for another shot at the 25th B1G Conference Championship.
Purdue will play again on Sunday, January 22nd at 1:00 PM at Mackey Arena against a Maryland team that struggled away from home (1-4) but desperately needs a big win to get into the debate of existence. Safely in the NCAAAT.