The Boilermakers this year are a team full of questions. After four years of stability with the core of Haas-Mathias-Edwards-Thompson, Purdue is rolling out six new players this season, including five who are a redshirt or true freshmen.
Two of the few constants this season are junior Carsen Edwards and senior Ryan Cline. But even the play of these talented upperclassmen have some questions attached. Chief among them, can Cline be a reliable second scorer behind Edwards?
Everyone knows Edwards is going to put the ball in the hoop. He poured in 30 points on 7-11 shooting in a 90-57 season-opening win against Fairfield this week. But the play of Cline could be just as big a story. He filled in that second-leading scorer spot admirably with 13 points on 3-6 shooting from long distance.
Cline’s always had the rep of a three-point specialist, and for a good reason. He’s averaged at least over 38 percent from three his entire career and of his 156 made field goals, 130 have been beyond the arc. This season, Coach Painter, Cline, and his teammates were adamant about Cline’s ability as a scorer, and wanted to see him featured more in the offense. Still, I wouldn’t blame you for being somewhat skeptical given what everyone has seen for three years at Purdue.
Well, while it is only three games worth of data, and two of them are not official in the stat book, Cline has looked the part of a second scorer for Purdue.
First, there were reports out of a “secret” scrimmage against no. 13 West Virginia a few weeks ago. Purdue dropped the scrimmage 95-89, but Cline absolutely lit it up. The Carmel, IN native, put up 27 points and led a second half charge by the Boilermakers.
Next came an exhibition game against Marian University. Cline again poured it in with 23 points, on 7-10 shooting from three-point range. He also showed some game off the dribble with the other baskets coming off dribble-drives.
Then there was the official season opener on Tuesday. Cline was second in scoring behind Edwards with 13 points on 5-10 from the field. He also passed out eight assists to only one turnover.
One still might be skeptical, but this is the best start to a season in Cline’s career. He clearly seems to have a green light to shoot whenever he wants and is not competing for minutes against Dakota Mathias.
His role this season is incredibly important to the success of the team. Points, outside of Edwards, could be hard to come by at times. The emphasis of defenses to hone in on Edwards will create opportunities for others. His ability to spread the floor, make three’s, pass to the open man, and drive to the hoop, is vital for Purdue’s motion offense and a return to the NCAA tournament.