Purdue 84, Milwaukee 53 Game Recap
Purdue starts off its season with a crushing 84-53 win against the Milwaukee Panthers.
Coach Painter and Purdue are no strangers to freshman classes making big impacts, but it's been a while since two freshman guards have had this kind of game in Mackey Arena.
Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer combined for 24 points and had just 3 turnovers against a pressing Milwaukee team that wanted to challenge the freshman guards from the jump.
"It's hard to be good right away... there's a big learning curve when you start," Coach Painter said after the game. "But they both can shoot the basketball and pass the basketball... They both had a really good first game."
They got help from Brandon Newman's 16 points and helped ignite a defense that forced 20 turnovers and held Milwaukee to 38% shooting.
It's Not What They Did But How
Mason Gillis forces a steal and nearly loses the ball dribbling up the court. Thankfully he didn't because what happened next is going to survive the rest of the season on the highlight reels.
Braden Smith cut hard up the right side of the court just as Gillis gathers his wayward dribble. Gillis dumps it off to Smith who is a step away from the paint, but he doesn't dribble. He doesn't look either. Instead he flicks the ball over his head with his right hand about 12 feet into the air towards the middle of the paint where it hangs for a moment, most of the crowd surprised at the angle of the shot.
Only it wasn't a shot. Instead, the ball reached the pinnacle of its height at a one where only a 7'4" man could go up and get it. Zach Edey preceded to do just that, grabbing the oop from Smith and flushing it down with two hands.
"It was just kind of like crazy... you kinda just gotta throw it up there and he'll get it," he joked after the game. "It almost went to the ceiling and he got it," he went on talking about Edey's ability to go get the ball.
For Loyer, it might not be a single play, but a myriad of them, or just his audacity to already be making these kinds of shots. He showed off catch and shoot ability, off the bounce scoring, and pump fake side steps on the way to 5 three pointers and 17 points.
Oh And They Can Play Defense, Too
It's not normal for freshman to put their name in record books in their first game, but Braden Smith's 7 steals is just one off the all-time Purdue record of 8 steals by Ricky Hall in 1983.
His defensive effort capped off an offensive performance where Smith showed his all around ability to push pace and get his teammates involved. He scored 7 points, had 4 boards and 4 assists, and turned the ball over just 3 times.
"We have to be good in team defense more than anything and have active hands and protect the paint. There's going to be certain teams where we can pressure and certain teams where we can't," Coach Painter said after the game about what this team allows him to do defensively.
Not Last Season's Boilers
By the time the halftime buzzer sounded through Mackey Arena, this Purdue team had already made a statement - they were going to defend. Last year's Boilermakers were the 93rd best defense in the country according to KenPom ratings. Last season's Boilers struggled to force turnovers and defend the three-point line. You can have a good defense without one, but struggling at both guarantees needing to win shoot outs.
This team's early mantra seems to be doing both well. They jumped onto Milwaukee early, using their length and athleticism to strip drives, get into passing lanes, and out rotate the ball on the perimeter. Purdue forced 12 turnovers in the first half and Milwaukee went 0-9 from the three point line.
Purdue forced 21 turnovers, more than any game last season. They were also able to defend the perimeter, forcing the Panthers to shoot 3 of 19 from three.
"You should see our practices," Braden Smith says about his team's effort and hitting the floor. "Z's out there diving on the floor. He's 7'4" and diving on the floor."
No Reason To Press
Coach Painter made the choice to go with his two freshmen guards to start the season, Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer, and it paid off against an ultra-aggressive full court press team in Milwaukee. Despite pressure early and often, Coach Painter's young guards didn't just handle the press, but used the aggressiveness to their advantage. They pushed the ball against the press when Milwaukee looked to trap, and played with poise when Milwaukee defended with just one guard.
The task looked even more difficult when David Jenkins Jr. was ruled out with a severe black eye suffered at practice on Saturday.
"It bothers you a little bit," Loyer said after the game after starting the game 1-7. But he says his teammates trust him and see the work he put in in the off season and that made it easy to keep shooting.
"It kinda feels like a video game out there. Like it's not real out there," Loyer said talking about finally being able to do this for Purdue for the first time.
"I thought he played really well besides his ability to finish," Coach Painter said after the game. "Sometimes he rushes at times... but he's right there. He's right at the rim."
On a night that Edey struggled to score with his usual efficiency scoring 12 points on 13 shot attempts, he flashed other parts of his game. When Milwaukee sent doubles, the big man was patient and picked apart their defense. He found open shooters across the court. He forced Milwaukee into early foul trouble. He was an anchor for a Purdue defense that held Milwaukee to 38.4%.
Edey had one of his most dominant performances on defense and the glass. He had 6 blocked shots and 17 rebounds including 10 offensive.
Even without making shots, Edey disrupted Milwaukee's interior line and forced Milwaukee into early foul trouble. Purdue was in the bonus with 11:40 left in the first half. Purdue went 14-16 from the free throw line in the first half despite struggling from the field, Purdue was able to go into the half with a 39-20 edge. Milwaukee on the other hand was just 2 of 4 from the line.
Edey finished the game with 12 points, 17 rebounds, and 2 assists.
New Year Newman?
Brandon Newman did not wait long to make an impact off the bench showing that last year's struggles are a thing from the past. After being benched for a good portion of Big Ten play last season, Newman's showed what he can do with the right mindset and an in rhythm jumper. He dropped 11 first half points, and scored 5 quick points in succession in the second half five minutes in.
He was 6 of 12 from the field and looked aggressive from the onset. He scored 16 points and made 3 three-pointers.