Wednesday night the Purdue Boilermakers and Iowa Hawkeyes took the court at Mackey Arena to open their conference schedules. It appeared early on that nobody had informed the Iowa Hawkeyes that Big Ten play has started and the competition is far more stout now. The Boilermakers jumped on top of the opposition the way you might expect a Big Ten title contender to do at home against a young, up and down team.
Following a conference opening win, here are some of the takeaways going forward.
What We Learned
1. When Purdue plays the game naturally, they’re extremely tough.
Playing the game naturally is a really simple concept. Play the game with purpose, play the game the way you’ve always played the game and take opportunities when they present themselves. So many times, Purdue fans have seen their team play extremely tentatively and it comes back to haunt them nearly every time.
There was very little tentative play on Wednesday night as the Boilermakers played with an incredible flow and rhythm, stepping into open jump shots and taking anything the defense gave them (which most of the time was an open jump shot).
2. Purdue is an impressively versatile defensive team.
When Purdue lost Raphael Davis and A.J. Hammons both from last years team, there was a lot of worry that the defensive side of the ball might actually be a big issue for the Boilermakers without a true perimeter defender or a legitimate shot blocker inside.
This Purdue has morphed itself from having one shutdown perimeter defender in Davis to now having multiple guys who are all probably a rung below Davis, but are all extremely competitive and versatile on the defensive end. They have multiple guys that they can throw at a player like Peter Jok last night, who finished with 13 points on only 4-15 shooting. Dakota Matthias, Vince Edwards, Basil Smotherman and even freshman sensation Carsen Edwards are guys that can be tasked with guarding the other teams best perimeter player.
3. Isaac Haas has returned to his efficient self
This year hasn’t been easy at every turn for the 7’2” giant Isaac Haas. From struggling with foul trouble against Villanova (though he finished with 22 points in 20 minutes) to finishing with only 8 points on 2-9 shooting against Louisville. Haas has built a reputation for himself around the conference and country as one of the most efficient players on a per minute basis, and that reputation had begun to take a dip early in the year.
Lately, however, all the doubts have begun to fade away for Haas. In the last three games, Haas has averaged 16 points, 6.7 rebounds and shot 17-24 from the floor, which is just under 71%. He’s done all of this while averaging just over 20 minutes per game.
There hasn’t been a question at any point this year whether or not this Purdue team was dangerous both in the conference and on a national level. When they get rolling from the perimeter with guys like Carsen and Vincent Edwards, Matthias, Cline and Thompson making perimeter shots, this team can beat anybody at any time.
The Boilers had a 24 point lead at the half, while they’re dynamic duo of Haas and Caleb Swanigan had combined for 4 points. That’s the nightmare of any opposing coach, the pick your poison type of talent that Purdue has.