MINNEAPOLIS — Before departing Williams Arena — a venue he says he “loves” — Vincent Edwards was asked if he had anything to say to the building on his way out.
“Just thank you,” Edwards said.
Indeed, because the Barn has been good to Purdue’s senior forward.
Saturday, he scored 25 points — one shy of a career-high — and dominated a head-to-head matchup with Big Ten Player-of-the-Year candidate Jordan Murphy as the No. 5 Boilermakers blew out troubled Minnesota, 81-47, on its home floor.
Edwards has now scored a total of 49 points in his past two trips to the Twin Cities, and on this day carried his team to its 13th consecutive victory and a 6-0 Big Ten record, the latest coming over a team left in tatters by disciplinary issues and injury.
“I love playing here,” Vincent Edwards said after scoring 20 of his 25 in the first half. “It’s one of my favorite places in the Big Ten. I just always seem to be able to find a good rhythm here and coaches always do a good job finding ways to put me in position to be successful. My teammates found me in the first half, got me going and I was getting wide-open shots.
“It’s one of my favorite places to play, the floor being off the ground, the dark light in the background. It’s a nice arena and the rims are really soft. It’s a nice place to play.”
He had a lot of help, too, from his namesake, Carsen Edwards, whose 14 points and seven assists to no turnovers were only modestly more important than the leading role he played in stifling Gopher guard Nate Mason, who was 2-for-10 with just eight irrelevant points a year after taking a blowtorch to Purdue in Mackey Arena last December.
Carsen Edwards largely drew the matchup with Mason, perhaps in part because point guard P.J. Thompson has been battling the flu, limited to the point he vomited at halftime and didn’t start the second half.
“We just tried to take up his space,” Coach Matt Painter said of Mason. “We felt like we gave him too much freedom, too much space last season. If he was going to make tough shots (this time), so be it.”
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Mason's first two shots were airballs and he made just one jumper in 29 minutes of court time.
"Watching our old film, knowing when he comes off ball screens, what his tendencies are," Carsen Edwards said. "We tried to guard it better to go against his tendencies and have our big men higher off the screens to prevent him getting so much space to get shots, because that's really what he looks for — space. He does well in space."
While Mason was stifled, Murphy was, too, in part because Vincent Edwards’ skill set made him guard away from the basket, and in part because whenever he got the ball around the basket, there seemed to be a crowd of Boilermakers around him. Several times, guards snuck up on him from behind and either batted the ball free or otherwise disrupted him.
A player who opened the season with 17 double-doubles, but now clearly misses suspended center Reggie Lynch's complementary impact, went for just 10 points and four rebounds Saturday.
Purdue shook off a poor shooting start — “the first four minutes, almost everybody on our team took a bad three,” Painter said — to open up an 18-point first half lead, thanks in large part to a 15-0 run, fueled largely by Vincent Edwards, who scored 20 first-half points on 7-of-11 shooting.
But Minnesota — behind back-to-back threes from Isaiah Washington, a 16-percent long-range shooter prior to Saturday — finished the half on a 7-0 run to keep things interesting, at least for the time being.
Purdue seized momentum back to start the second half.
"We were moving and cutting a lot harder than we were early in the first half," said Dakota Mathias, who finished with 12 points. "A lot of guys were open and we were moving the ball a lot better, finding open gaps and just being more aggressive."
Carsen Edwards was key to it, first driving the lane and kicking out to Mathias for a three, later driving and hitting Isaac Haas — 14 points, 5-of-6 shooting – around the basket, before making two threes and scoring off a 2-on-1 with Thompson as Purdue blew Minnesota out.
"After the first half, you saw how they were going to be guarding it," Edwards said, "so I understood what I was going to be seeing in the second half and was able to make some plays off that."
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