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Purdue beats SIU-Edwardsville, but not without concerns

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On the night it unveiled its banner commemorating its 23rd Big Ten championship, Purdue opened its season as a team admittedly needing a constant "edge."

Yet, against an overmatched opponent in Game 1, the 20th-ranked Boilermakers' "edge" was too often dull, at least more so than they would have liked.

Purdue beat Southern Illinois-Edwardsville as you'd have expected — 105-74, buoyed by five double-digit scorers and a nearly 60-percent shooting effort.

But in one of the most time-honored gauges of "edge" — rebounding, already a concern for Purdue following the World University Games — things weren't particularly smooth.

The visiting Cougars outrebounded Purdue 40-39. Twenty-four of those rebounds came off the offensive glass — 24, two off a Mackey Arena opponent record set by Loyola in 1992, a quarter century ago — including 10 in the opening few minutes.

Senior co-captain Dakota Mathias was asked afterward if he'd seen the sort of "edge" he in particular has mentioned as a key to the season and Purdue's Big Ten title defense.

"Not the level we expect from ourselves," he said. "Obviously getting outrebounded, and with what they did on the offensive glass, it's not something we wanted coming in, something we have to fix.

"But it's early on, and we can fix things. We definitely took this as a learning experience to not let that happen again."

Purdue is an experienced team, led by a strong senior class, with an extra layer of experience coming with its participation in the World University Games, where Lithuania's offensive rebounding probably cost the Boilermakers gold.

"It's just concentration and mental toughness," Coach Matt Painter said. "Even if you have an older team, like anything else in life, you have to relearn some things."

In the big picture, Purdue's rebounding issues are meaningful until the Boilermakers prove them otherwise.

But on this night, they were rendered a footnote but Purdue's dominance otherwise, dominance that could be expected against an Ohio Valley team coming off a 6-24 campaign.

Purdue shot 59 percent, using a 19-4 mid-first half run to open up a double-figure lead, then closing the first half strong and blowing it wide open in the second half.

If there was any one singular turning point, it might have been this: Up 10 with about seven minutes left in the first half, Purdue went up 14 off Carsen Edwards' four-point play, then 17 on the Vincent Edwards three-pointer that followed soon thereafter.

It helped Purdue surge to a 20-point lead at halftime and a lead that peaked at 32 in the second half.

Mathias led the Boilermakers with 18 points while Carsen Edwards and Isaac Haas added 16 apiece, Haas doing so in just 17 minutes, on just six shots.

Vincent Edwards scored 14, while redshirt freshman big man Matt Haarms scored 11 on 5-of-7 shooting, with five rebounds, two blocks and two steals, putting forth another thoroughly impressive effort in his debut.

Grady Eifert scored eight points on 4-4 shooting and freshman Nojel Eastern debuted with eight points, eight assists and five rebounds.

There were a lot of positives for Purdue in its anticlimactic opener, but real concern too over the rebounding matter.

"When you shoot 60 percent from the field," Painter said, "you just have to give yourself a chance. You're going to win the basketball game. But they had 19 more shots than we did in the first half.

"It was alarming."

It shouldn't be a complicated fix, though, Vincent Edwards said.

"Just play hard. It solves everything else," he said. "We didn't hit first; they hit first, and it showed. They were after the balls. They just wanted it more, it seemed like at times. We have to be better as a team."

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