Carsen Edwards, strong defense lead Purdue to dominant win
It was just a few games ago that Carsen Edwards spoke about his need to go to the rim more when "you can't make a shot," a nod to his struggles from three-point range at that time.
Thursday night, such things seemed like a distant memory as the sophomore guard poured in 26 points — and made six threes on eight tries — in Purdue's 97-48 blowout of Tennessee State, the No. 16 Boilermakers eighth consecutive win in its final game before the holidays.
"I just kept shooting," Edwards said with his typical matter-of-factness. "That's really it."
Whether it was threes or otherwise, Edwards was 10-of-14 from the floor, missing by one the career-high of 27 he set just two games ago against IUPUI.
Edwards' blistering shooting was complemented well by his passing. He finished with four assists and facilitated numerous other baskets, one of the driving forces behind a 59-percent shooting effort for Purdue, which made 15 threes.
"He's letting some things come to him," Coach Matt Painter said of Edwards. "The more he's patient, the more he picks his spots, the more he's going to be efficient and score the ball for us. He did a good job getting in rhythm on his three-point shots. That's an important piece for him, to just take what the defense gives you and not have that pre-determined thought. If you have space, be aggressive and drive it. If you don't, move the basketball, then get in rhythm and take your shots.
"I think you find that sometimes when people are changing defenses to try to find something you struggle at and as people are changing defenses and trying to do a lot of different things, people are going to be open and he was open a lot tonight."
And he was open right away, burying a wide-open corner three against Tennessee State's zone just 15 seconds into the game, setting the tone for the scoring eruption to come, for both Edwards and Purdue, which had little trouble finding open shots.
"We were moving the ball," Dakota Mathias said. "We did a good job prepping for them and knew where the holes in that zone would be. We have a lot of unselfish guys, and a lot of guys had good shots, but passed them up for great shots."
As good as Edwards and the offense was, they had help, notably from Purdue's surging defense collectively.
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Largely because of it, the Boilermakers led 48-16 at halftime, affording more than enough cushion to weather a modest Tennessee State run to open the second half.
The Tigers made six shots on 24 tries before halftime. They made their first two threes and three of their first four to trail just 11-9 early, then scored only seven more points the final 15-and-a-half minutes of the half.
Tennessee State finished the game shooting below 31 percent, having committed 17 turnovers that Purdue turned into a staggering 36 points, another reflection of the Boilermakers' newfound ability this season to turn defense into offense.
P.J. Thompson added a season-high 17 points for Purdue and Matt Haarms scored 12 of his 14 in the second half as the Boilermakers pushed their lead to its peak of 49 in the second half.
Mathias was just 2-of-10 from the floor, but handed out 10 assists. Ryan Cline made three threes and finished with nine points.
"We prepared this week like we were playing Duke," Thompson said. "I thought we had great preparation coming into this game and with no classes, it's just a time to get in the gym and get better. There's not a lot of stress. It's strictly basketball over break."
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