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Purdue silences any upset talk with dominant victory over Valparaiso

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There would not be another stumble.

Despite lacking the weight of being a Big Ten or ranked opponent for the first time in five games, Purdue still showed workmanlike and big-game precision Thursday.

And it led to prompt dispatching of Valparaiso, the Missouri Valley team that entered the game unbeaten.

Vincent Edwards had 15 points, nine rebounds and three assists as the No. 21 Boilermakers won easily, 80-50, in Mackey Arena.

The last time Purdue had matched up with an unheralded non-conference opponent, Western Kentucky in the Bahamas, it struggled to rise to the occasion. Other than briefly starting slowly — actually trailing 6-5 in the first five minutes — there was little doubt about Purdue's ability to finish this time.

The Boilermakers (9-2) turned up the defensive pressure and got hot from the floor in the first half, and there was no turning back.

“You don’t want to lose more than one to refocus. We happened to lose two. We learned from it, I thought,” senior point guard P.J. Thompson said about the hiccup in the Bahamas and the ensuing response. “Everyone says, ‘Yeah, we learned from the loss,’ but honestly we come in with a different mindset and we respected our opponents better and we came out and we showed that. We responded in the Bahamas by beating Arizona and we took care of Louisville and then two tough games in conference. We had the same mindset with Valpo. And this is a good team. I think they’re better than what the score showed. I just think we played really well (Thursday), and I thought our focus on the defensive end was really, really good.”

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Taking care of mid-major, non-conference opponents is what this Purdue team is built to do, considering its experience and level of maturity. But the coaching staff makes sure to still offer reminders of not overlooking any opponent — and that was a message leading into Thursday’s game on a couple fronts.

Thompson said players saw on social media that Purdue was an upset pick — it’s unclear where specifically that was — so that lit a fire in them to make sure that didn’t prove true.

But they’d also just seen Notre Dame be upset by Ball State, too, and Matt Painter said his staff gave his team two box scores this week: The Oklahoma-Ball State one (in which the Sooners won easily, 108-69) and the Irish-Ball State one (an 80-77 Cardinals’ victory).

So it probably wasn’t a surprise to see the Boilermakers respond like they did to missing some good shots early but, eventually, hitting them and ripping off a 31-11 run over the remaining portion of the first half.

Purdue got nice balance from Isaac Haas in the post and perimeter shooting to take a commanding 36-16 halftime lead. That back-and-forth was big during a three-minute stretch in which Haas scored from the paint, dished out of a double to lead to Edwards’ basket, got fouled and sank two free throws and had another assist off a double team, again to Edwards, as Purdue pushed its lead to 28-14 with about 4:15 left in the half.

“We knew they were going to come after me pretty hard with two solid games back-to-back,” said Haas, who finished with 10 points on two-of-six shooting after scoring a career-high-tying 26 against Northwestern. “They obviously double the post all the time. That’s part of Valparaiso’s game. They did it on Vince. They did it on me. Did it on Matt. I knew that Vince was going to be open. He communicated that to me early in the game when I missed in a couple times, and after that, I managed to step back and see him, feed him.

“Whenever he’s up top, it’s hard for his guy to come down and double whenever he feeds the ball in, so just kind of made it easier for me, even though I didn’t make, like, any layups (Thursday). I’m just going to get in the gym. I’ll be fine. Not worried about that.”

The Boilermakers’ lead ballooned to 32 points in the second half, and all of the starters but Thompson were on the bench for good with 7:22 still left to play.

Purdue held Valpo (8-1) to only 33 percent shooting and forced 18 turnovers in a show of dominance.

“We just followed our scouting report,” said Edwards, who was one rebound short of his fifth double-double on the season. “Our coaches did a great job of scouting for these guys. We had a lot of respect for them. They were undefeated. So you can’t take anyone lightly with the upsets that have been going around in college basketball. We didn’t want to be a part of that.

“Valpo is a really good team. We were able to execute and follow scouting report, and it worked out well for us.”

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