Purdue bounces back in a big way by crushing Arizona
PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — After a two-game stretch in which it felt as if Purdue's entire season of such promise had gone sideways, the Boilermakers flipped the script entirely to close the Battle 4 Atlantis.
In Purdue's 89-64 romp over No. 2 (for the time being) Arizona, the Boilermakers turned all those glaring issues from their disappointing losses to Tennessee and Western Kentucky into strengths.
"Once we're locked in," forward Vincent Edwards said, "we're a much better team than the past couple games showed."
Purdue had been ice cold from the perimeter prior.
It was white hot against the Wildcats.
For the game, it made 50 percent of its threes. When the early ones fell, it clearly fueled the Boilermakers to bigger and better, particularly on defense, where the superior talent of the Wildcats got nothing going, beyond the interior domination of wunderkind big man Deandre Ayton.
Allonzo Trier, who came in averaging 29-plus points per game, scored eight on 3-of-10 shooting with four turnovers.
But it was offense that won this one for Purdue, a re-awakening of the formidable scoring punch the Boilermakers flashed in four games prior to this trip.
Dakota Mathias shook off his shooting woes from the two prior games, making 9-of-13 and scoring 24.
Carsen Edwards — he too had struggled in the Bahamas — turned the game on its side with his first-half shooting blitz.
Vincent Edwards played one of the better games of his career, a 5-of-7 shooting, 17-point, eight-rebound, four-assist night matchup up against some pretty high-end talent. Matt Painter said he wanted to use Edwards' skill to attack an Arizona front line that started two 7-footers, using a blueprint from how opponents have gone at Purdue's size in recent seasons.
Speaking of that size, Isaac Haas chipped in 12 points, fouled out Ayton and set an early tone for Purdue with a big effort to grab an offensive rebound for a basket and the opening-minutes lead that the Boilermakers never relinquished. At another point in the game, Haas stuffed Ayton underneath the basket, triggering a fast break Purdue scored off on a Mathias three for what amounted to a five-point swing.
The Boilermakers, held scoreless in transition by Western Kentucky, scoring 13 fast-break points vs. Arizona.
"Defense leads to offense and we did a good job disrupting the flow of their offense," Mathias said. "The shot clock got down to eight, nine a few times on them and they had to force it. We got out and ran and that's what we want to do, get easy buckets like that. We've got smart and skilled players and when you get out in transition like that, it's a lethal combination."
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Spelling Haas was redshirt freshman Matt Haarms, who may have impacted the game as much as anyone, quite honestly.
Haarms stood up to the 7-foot-1 millionaire-in-waiting Ayton, though the black eye Purdue's young center sported after the game came courtesy, he said, of point guard P.J. Thompson, somehow.
"I was really low," Haarms said.
Otherwise, he stood tall.
In his 20 minutes, Haarms scored six points, grabbed four rebounds, handed out two assists and blocked five shots, his energy and enthusiasm clearly affecting the game and his team for the better.
Purdue led for all but 25 seconds, usually big.
When Arizona did position itself for a run, getting within 12 with about eight minutes to go, Mathias served as the Boilermakers' closer.
After Carsen Edwards made two free throws to stop an 8-0 Wildcat run and Haas scored on a hook to knock Arizona back, Mathias blew the game open.
First, he made a jumper from the elbow. Then, he threw a bounce pass to Haas unaccounted for for a two-handed dunk. Then he threw a cunning dart of an entry to Haas backed up to within inches of the rim, with Ayton on his back.
Ayton was called for his fifth foul and took a seat for good with 22 points and eight boards. Haas made both foul shots to give Purdue a 20-point lead with four-and-a-half minutes left, then back-to-back and-ones by Vincent Edwards and Mathias and a Mathias bucket off his classmate's steal pushed the lead to nearly 30, putting an exclamation point at the end of a trip that seemed to bring so many questions.
"We have the ability to do (this)," Mathias said. "We just have to bring it out every day. There's no days off. You saw it. You're going to get beat if you don't bring it."
The first two games, it was openly discussed that the opponent was the tougher of the two teams. Friday night, it wasn't even close. Purdue dominated that category from the jump.
It wound up outrebounding Arizona and its two starting 7-footers by 10 and forced its guards almost exclusively into shooting difficult jumpers off the dribble, especially in the first half.
Purdue won this game at both ends of the floor and in all elements in between, but it was its shooting resurgence that jumps off the page, but also brings a caveat.
"I think it's good they were resilient, bounced back and won a game, but I really don't think it answers what happened in the other two games," Painter said. "We made shots. The other two games, we didn't make shots. You have to be able to beat good people when the ball doesn't go in. … You have to be able to grind things out, especially in the Big Ten."