WEST LAFAYETTE – Bellarmine read its scouting report.
The Knights came into the game aware that Purdue had trouble defending the 3-point line in its "secret" scrimmage against Providence and in its exhibition game against Indianapolis. The upstarts, a long-range shooting team in its own right, came in determined to exploit that weakness and it made every effort to do so. The result was a first half in which Bellarmine bombed away from 3-point range and hit just enough to stay within striking distance. Purdue leads 50-37 at halftime after the Knights went 8 for 23 from beyond the arc.
The game could actually be closer if Bellarmine had had a little luck as the Knights had four or five 3s rim roll around and out. Still, they were able to drain three in a row during one stretch just past the midway point of the half for a 9-0 run that sliced the Purdue lead to just one at 21-20. Thankfully for the Boilermakers, Isaiah Thompson was hot from long range, as well. The junior drained a pair of 3s to stem the tide and finished 4 for 6 in the first half from long range to lead all scorers with 12 points. When Purdue's Sasha Stefanovic fed Zach Edey on the secondary break and Edey tomahawked the ball home plus a foul, the Boilermakers led 35-23 and they had put most thoughts of an upset to bed.
The bottom line seems to be that Purdue is a flawed team right now, but Bellarmine isn't really good enough take advantage of those flaws, at least not enough to win this game. Purdue has played harder on defense tonight after getting called out by coach Matt Painter for not doing so during the exhibition game. That renewed effort, plus Purdue's overall athleticism, helped it hold Bellarmine to just 36% shooting, despite missing some rotations and giving up more open looks from the outside than they'd like. Those rotations are going to be one area that ends up with the most room for improvement through the early part of the season.
Offensively, the Boilers have been pretty solid. They're 9 of 18 from beyond the arc – five Purdue players have made at least one 3 – and have moved the ball well, missing some open shots that could have extended the lead even further. Preseason All-American Jaden Ivey is just 1 for 6 from the field, but he's distributed the ball well and has been all over the glass, as has Edey, and the Boilers have a 23-11 advantage in rebounds. Sophomore Ethan Morton was a pleasant surprise, as well. After not getting many minutes last season, he was one of the first off the bench and ran the court well, pouring in a layup plus a foul in transition.
Fort Wayne native Caleb Furst, meanwhile, took just one shot – his first collegiate basket was a dunk off a nice pass from Ivey – but he affected the game on the defensive end, staying in front of his man on the perimeter and grabbing six rebounds. He committed one turnover, but it was after shot-faking and driving to the rim, where he made one pass too many, so Painter likely won't be too upset. For a first collegiate half, it was a promising start.
The Purdue coach likely won't be entirely pleased by this performance as there's still plenty to clean up on both ends, but his team's effort was certainly better than it was against Indianapolis and that will probably be enough tonight.