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Vincent Edwards' double-double helps Purdue surge back into Big Ten play

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Vincent Edwards dribbled hard, stopped, stepped back and let go on a fadeaway jumper.

It missed, and the senior clapped hard and smiled.

Had to do a heat check at that point — with the way Edwards had been lighting it up over a four-minute span early in the second half. The forward had just made a deep three-pointer from the wing with a defender in his face late in the clock, a shot that left him shaking his head and smiling widely.

From the first half when Edwards felt like he couldn’t make a shot — he missed five of his seven attempts — it was quite a turnaround.

And one that sparked the Boilermakers to a resounding 98-66 victory to close out the non-conference season Wednesday at Mackey Arena.

Purdue’s senior captain scored 14 of his team-high 23 points in that second-half stretch — and 14 of the team’s 16 — that opened up the game for the No. 14 Boilermakers, who used a huge second half to surge back into Big Ten play.

Edwards finished with a career-high 15 rebounds to go with his season-high points.

It was a bit of a role reversal first to second half for Edwards, who controlled the boards in the first (12) before dialing up his scoring in the second (17).

“I was telling Dakota (Mathias), ‘I don’t know what’s going on. I can’t do anything.’ Just stuck with it,” Edwards said of his second-half offensive effort.

And it mattered.

Purdue (13-2) led by only five points at halftime but gained separation early in the second half, sparked by Isaac Haas’ thunder dunks, Mathias’ three-pointer, Vincent Edwards’ three off P.J. Thompson’s steal of an inbounds pass and Mathias’ baseline jumper to surge 16-point lead.

The Boilermakers made six of their first seven shots of the half and didn’t have a turnover in the span to race to a 16-5 run and a 59-43 lead.

Lipscomb didn’t manage to get closer than 10 the rest of the way. And when the Bisons did reach that, Purdue responded with a 16-2 run that included Edwards’ four-minute domination for a 78-54 lead with 8:47 left.

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First, Edwards drove into the paint, stopped abruptly, let the defender flow past him and floated the ball into the basket.

Two possessions later, he drilled a three-pointer from the corner.

On the next possession, he stuck another three, this time from the wing.

About a minute later, he got fouled on a three and sunk all three free throws, and then came the shot-clock-winding-down deep three-pointer from the wing to extend the lead to 24 points.

“That was huge,” Mathias said of Edwards’ stretch. “We talked about it at halftime. I told him to keep his head up, to keep shooting. He puts a lot of time into the game. He’s so versatile. His man guarding him, he got posted up a few times, got dribbled around a few times, so then he started stepping out and hitting threes. It’s a tough matchup when he gets going like that. I told him to stick with it, and he made them pay.”

Edwards’ 14th rebound — the one that surpassed his career high — came after that and, then, the step-back miss.

But he’d already made his point, at least on the offensive end. He’d already asserted himself on the glass, a sign of maturity for a player who has developed into a consistently solid rebounder for a team that desperately needed one this season minus Caleb Swanigan.

Of Edwards’ 12 first-half rebounds, five were on the offensive end and he turned two of those into immediate putback points.

Edwards said his attitude was "the least I can do is rebound."

“When you’re going hard, sometimes you don’t even realize how many rebounds you have. When Coach said I had 12 at half, I was honestly shocked," Edwards said. "But just having Isaac down low, people are worried about him, so it’s easy for me to kind of get my space and get around and go in there and rebound.”

Coach Matt Painter appreciated that approach.

"I like the maturity of understanding you can do a lot of other things to help your team win," Painter said. "That's what you try to instill in your guys. That's what you try to recruit. You didn't come to Purdue to score the basketball — you came to Purdue to win. ... He's been a great player for us."

Edwards’ second-half offensive surge was helped, in part, he said, by his teammates, especially Haas in the post.

The 7-foot-2 center had an emphatic start to the half, getting the Boilermakers juiced with back-to-back right-hand thunder dunks and then adding a two-handed, pull-the-rim-down slam for a 57-43 lead.

“That was a fun little stretch right there,” said Haas, who finished with 19 points on seven-of-nine shooting and added seven rebounds. “Honestly, I just felt like our guys were just cutting harder and easier for me to get an open lane to post deep and get one-on-one with those guys. I just caught it, finished it. Eventually, they’re going to have to do something to deny me, and they started leaving those guys open on the three-point line. Coach Painter has said it a million times, you have to pick your poison with us. It’s all the same thing really.”

In the end, Edwards had his sixth double-double of the season, Haas had those 19 points and seven rebounds in only 21 minutes, Carsen Edwards dropped 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting and Mathias added 15 points and a team-high four assists.

That balance is one reason Purdue didn’t lose a game in December and is riding high heading into the resumption of Big Ten play.

The Boilermakers, looking to defend their conference championship, already are 2-0 in the league and gained confidence by taking care of business against non-conference opponents. Purdue has won nine straight.

“I think we’re in a really good spot, especially coming back from the Bahamas,” Mathias said. “I think our defensive intensity is what’s really separated us the last few weeks. We’re sticking to the scouting report, the rules. I just think we’re more aggressive than we were, especially on the defensive end, doing the little things and sticking to the details.”

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