Stifling defense carries Purdue to Crossroads blowout of Butler
INDIANAPOLIS — For the past season-and-a-half or so, Purdue's been one of the more formidable offensive teams maybe in all of college basketball, with its uncommon blend of overwhelming size and pinpoint perimeter shooting.
But in their dominating 82-67 win over Butler Saturday at the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis, the 17th-ranked Boilermakers served notice that they can very much revisit their program's roots and win important games with defense.
Aside from a brief turnover-riddled fiasco in the second half that saw the Bulldogs narrow a 26-point deficit to just nine with three minutes left, Purdue dominated.
The final numbers were warped by that Butler run, but in the first half — after which Purdue led by 16 before pushing the lead into the 20s to start the second half — the Bulldogs shot 21 percent and committed nine turnovers.
"We were playing sped up," Coach LaVall Jordan said, "and we didn't respond."
With Purdue closing passing and driving lanes as soon as they opened and forcing Butler into sloppy ball-handling and bad misses, the Bulldogs kept in the game largely off garbage points, putbacks and such, while Purdue missed a good number of quality looks from three-point range that might have blown the game open.
It barely mattered, because of the Boilermakers' defensive performance.
"We've learned from our mistakes," point guard P.J. Thompson said, referring back to the Battle 4 Atlantis, as Purdue's done for weeks now during a winning streak that reached seven games on Saturday. "We know we can score the ball at a really high level and score with anybody in the country, but we know what's going to separate us the rest of the season and into the postseason is defense. I think we've shored that up from when we were in the Bahamas, because we knew we could outscore those teams but we didn't come ready to play defensively and it bit us."
When the second half broke, the shots that didn't fall in the first half, did.
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Before halftime, Vincent Edwards was 3-for-3 from long range, but everyone else 0-for-7 before Ryan Cline's three with six seconds left gave his team a 35-19 cushion.
"We talked about our game from last year and how we know how it feels in that other locker room," Coach Matt Painter said, referring to last season's win vs. Notre Dame, which Purdue trailed by 17 in the first half. "We didn't want them to be able to bring that energy. We should have talked about doing it for 20 minutes. I thought our guys were ready to play, but sometimes it's fool's gold where a couple of shots go down for you and you just feel better about it. We got a couple good shots and knock them down."
It might have been the biggest sequence of the game then that to start the second half, Dakota Mathias rolled in a three on Purdue's first possession of the second half, followed by a triple by Carsen Edwards less than a minute later. With those two shots, the lead hit 22 and Butler's hopes of gaining early traction dashed.
The lead peaked at 26.
Then, Butler's run, made possible by many of Purdue's 18 turnovers.
"Basketball's a game of runs and we just got comfortable a little bit and didn't keep that fight that we had," Vincent Edwards said.
But after Butler got within nine and it suddenly became relevant context that the Bulldogs beat Ohio State earlier this season after being down 15 with less than four minutes left, Purdue responded, with three straight stops, six straight free throws, then a Carsen Edwards bucket that finished off an 8-0 run that pushed the lead back to 17.
Carsen Edwards led Purdue with 18 points. Isaac Haas was held to just 16 minutes due to foul trouble, but scored 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting nonetheless, matching Vincent Edwards' point total. Mathias added 14 and Thompson 12, seven of them in the final 3:09.
Purdue shot 53 percent from the floor and held Butler to 38 percent, the difference in a box score that saw the Bulldogs win the rebounding (37-31), turnovers (18-17), points off turnovers (19-18), second-chance points (19-7) and fast-break points (13-6) columns.
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