On Saturday morning, a sea of red was formed by fans inside the XFINITY Center, as the No. 17 Maryland Terrapins (20-3, Big Ten 8-2) and No. 23 Purdue Boilermakers (19-5, Big Ten 8-3) squared off in a blockbuster Big Ten battle.
Maryland kicked off the game with an 11-2 run, forcing Purdue to fight its way back throughout a majority of the first. While Purdue’s start wasn’t ideal, the Boilermakers were able to narrow the deficit to just two points, entering the half down 36-34.
Maryland initially began to pull away in the second, but as time winded down, Purdue closed the gap. Down 72-71 with only a few seconds remaining, freshman guard Carsen Edwards drove to the hoop and was fouled on his layup attempt.
With the game on the line in front of a hostile Maryland crowd, Edwards connected on both shots, propelling Purdue to its 73-72 victory over Maryland.
Let’s see what we learned from the game.
What We Learned:
1. Caleb Swanigan Continues To Be Purdue’s Strength.
One factor that has evidently been Purdue’s bread and butter this season, is sophomore forward Caleb Swanigan. Purdue’s poor start against Maryland was, in large part, the result of failing to feed Swanigan in the paint. The Boilermakers quickly acknowledge the team’s inability to produce, and started to get things going with Swanigan down low.
The 6-foot-9 big man played a sizable role in Purdue’s noteworthy victory, notching 26 points and 10 rebounds. Swanigan, an undeniable candidate for National Player of the Year this season, has dominated all year behind his numerous double-double’s and 20-20 performances.
Nobody has more double-double’s this season than Swanigan, a man that is currently averaging 18.8 points and 12.9 rebounds per game. He has been the driving force behind Purdue’s success this season, and if he can continue to perform, a surplus of victories lie ahead.
2. Maryland’s Freshmen Are Key.
The question of whether or not Maryland could find other players to step up this season behind Melo Trimble has been answered, and its freshman are the solution. Freshman guards Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter have cemented their importance throughout Big Ten play this season, but against No. 23 Purdue, their contributions fell a bit short.
Despite the loss, Huerter had an 11-point, nine-rebound showing, while Cowan added 6 points, five rebounds and two assists. Freshman forward Justin Jackson — who is currently averaging 11.8 points and over six rebounds this year— also played his role, scoring 8 points and grabbing five rebounds.
Although the end result may have not been what Maryland had hoped for, its freshmen are rapidly developing. They’re a capable supporting cast behind Trimble, that can cause a variety of problems for opponents. Maryland’s young players have consistently grown and they will continue to flourish throughout the remainder of the season.
3. Purdue’s Guards Know Their Role.
While the attention has been rightfully centered around Swanigan this year, Purdue’s guards have played well. Junior guard Dakota Mathias put on a 12-point, four-rebound, six-assist showing against Maryland, as Edwards also added 12 points, two of which were the final free throws that captured Purdue’s win.
Mathias and Edwards have been two of Swanigan’s biggest assistants this year, consistently feeding their star player on the post. If Purdue can continue its collective efforts, get used to seeing the Boilermakers at the top of the conference.
These two teams are irrefutably among the Big Ten’s elite. Purdue and Maryland will continue to run through a majority of conference competition this season, as they build off their National Championship aspirations.