The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, November 16, 2021 8:00 pm

Halftime: No. 6 Purdue 51, Wright State 17

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

WEST LAFAYETTE – Caleb Furst has wasted no time acclimating to the college game.

The 2021 Indiana Mr. Basketball out of Blackhawk Christian started for the third straight game to open his college career tonight and for the game's first eight minutes, he was the best player on the floor. In that opening flurry, Furst had seven points on 3-for-3 shooting, four rebounds and two assists. He was excellent on defense, showing good instincts and discipline in double-teaming high-scoring Wright State forward Grant Basile when the Raider star got the ball in the post and he helped hold Basile, who came into the game scoring 25 points per game, to five points on 2-for-10 shooting.

Furst's early effort helped Purdue build a sizable lead before the midway points of the first half and the margin mostly kept growing through the rest of the period. At halftime, the No. 6 Boilermakers lead 51-17 and are shooting 58% compared to 23% for Wright State. 

After Purdue's season-opener against Bellarmine, coach Matt Painter said the next step for Furst was to find ways to get some cheap baskets on dives to the rim, put-back layups and the like. Furst seemed to take that advice to heart because he had one of each in the first half against the Raiders. The Fort Wayne native opened the scoring for the Boilermakers with a two-handed dunk off a Zach Edey miss and later dove to the rim for a nice layup off a pretty pass from Trevion Williams, who continues to defend his crown as the best passing big man in the country. 

Later, the Purdue freshman showed off his range, catching a pass in rhythm on the right wing and hesitating not at all before drilling a 3-pointer, the first of his career with the Boilermakers. At halftime, Furst has eight points on 3 of 4 from the field. 

The biggest key for Purdue tonight has been its height. As I wrote before the game, the Raiders just have no answer for any of the Boilermaker bigs, whether it be Edey, Williams or Furst. As a result, the Boilers are dominating the glass, pulling down 28 rebounds to just 13 for Wright State. Purdue has six offensive rebounds and have scored a basket off all six, mostly on put-backs for the big men, who have been almost entirely unstoppable down low. Edey in particular has found pretty easy going against the smaller visitors, pouring in 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting and grabbing seven rebounds. Williams also has 12 points.

In addition to Purdue's onslaught in the paint, the Boilers are 5 for 11 from 3-point range, led by Sasha Stefanovic, who has gone 3 for 5 from long distance. Because Purdue has such an advantage inside, the Raiders have been forced to focus almost all of their attention there and Stefanovic has been all but free to roam the perimeter in search of open looks, which were plentiful in the first half.

The only real quibble possible from a first half that has gone almost entirely according to plan was the performance of Jaden Ivey. The preseason All-American guard went just 1 for 4 from the field and played out of control on too many possessions, fighting up shots in the paint that aren't necessary when so much else is working for the Boilermaker offense. Ivey showed off his immense talent with a crowd-pleasing Euro step for a fastbreak layup late in the half, but that was his only basket of the half. He stayed in the game defensively, but Painter has talked repeatedly about the need for Ivey to pick his spots and the sophomore hasn't really done that tonight.

Beyond that, though, there just isn't a lot to complain about. Furst looks like a potential key piece to this team, Williams and Edey can't be stopped, Stefanovic is bombing away and the Raiders are overmatched. The only drama left revolves around whether Purdue will reach 100 points tonight.

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