The Journal Gazette
Saturday, December 18, 2021 1:00 pm

Halftime: No. 3 Purdue 39, Butler 21

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Purdue wanted more energy to start the game. It found some.

The No. 3 Boilermakers played some of their best half-court defense of the season early on against Butler, flying around, playing in the proverbial string and making life difficult for the Bulldogs, who shot just 26% in the first half. Purdue leads 39-21 at halftime, thanks in large part to a 15-1 run that saw Butler miss eight straight shots from the floor. So much for Purdue struggling in the Crossroads Classic.

Purdue's defensive performance was not limited to one player or one unit. The Boilermakers, as a team, starters and bench, perimeter and interior, turned up the intensity a few notches and held Butler without many clean looks from anywhere within the 3-point line. The Bulldogs hung close in the early going mostly on the strength of a couple of 3s over the top of Blackhawk Christian graduate Caleb Furst, who is still finding his way somewhat defensively on the perimeter. Outside of those shots, which both came in a 1:09 span in the early minutes, Butler was just 2 of 17 from 3-point range. Combined with Purdue's relentlessness inside the arc, it made for a sluggish half for the Bulldogs. It's the type of performance coach Matt Painter has been looking for from his team on that end of the floor, though the Boilers are helped somewhat by Butler's lack of a game-breaking scorer.

Purdue opened the game with a change in the starting lineup, inserting Trevion Williams in place of Zach Edey. The move worked as Williams scored twice from in close to get the Boilermakers out to an early lead. But Painter went to Edey after Williams picked up a foul and it quickly became clear the Bulldogs had no answer for the 7-foot-4 behemoth underneath. A lot of teams have no answers for Edey, but Butler in particular struggled to block him out, giving the sophomore a chance to clean the glass to the tune of 10 rebounds in the first half. All told, Purdue has a 23-11 rebounding advantage, keeping Butler from getting second chances after its string of missed shots. Edey has also scored 10 points, all on free throws or relatively painless baskets from in close because the Boilermakers ran efficient offense to get him the ball in good interior position. 

Purdue really pulled away, however, when Jaden Ivey got going. Ivey's transformation into a knockdown 3-point shooter continues apace as he went 3 for 3 from beyond the arc in the first half, including two he launched from several feet behind the line. The sophomore was a dangerous scorer last season, when he shot only 26.5% from beyond the arc. As a 40% shooter from outside, a mark he reached with his first-half performance today, he is nearly unstoppable. Ivey added a steal and a thunderous breakaway dunk – a play that is becoming his signature – and finished with 13 points and four rebounds in the half. 

Purdue has pretty much done everything Painter wanted to see in the game today, turning in a bounce-back performance after consecutive rough games against Rutgers and NC State. Butler being ice-cold from the field even on relatively open shots has helped, but the Boilermakers deserve credit for forcing quick shots and making the Bulldogs work for everything. This game isn't over yet, but Butler will need to get red-hot to get back into this one; it's not really built to score points in bunches.

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