WEST LAFAYETTE – Purdue is going to beat Incarnate Word and the final score likely won't be particularly close in the end. But the visiting Cardinals, who are vastly out-classed in terms of talent and athleticism utilized some interesting concepts in order to keep the score respectable through the game's first 10 minutes. Purdue leads 45-27 at halftime, but it probably should be up by more than that.
Incarnate Word, coached by Purdue alumnus Carson Cunningham, who played for the Boilermakers from 2009 to 2011, came out in a 1-3-1 zone on the defensive end, forcing Purdue to get the basketball moving and making offense just a little bit more difficult for the Boilermakers. Purdue was able to get the ball inside to Trevion Williams, starting again in place of Zach Edey, in the post and let him go to work. Caleb Furst made a living in the early minutes running the baseline behind the zone and Williams made a number of smart passes to Furst for easy looks. The biggest problem offensively for the Boilermakers in the early going was at the foul line, where they inexplicably started 0 for 5, including a pair of misses apiece from Furst and Williams.
On offense, Incarnate Word used the rarely-seen "make-every-3-you-attempt-and-hope-for-the-best" strategy. The Cardinals five 3-pointers in the early going and did not convert a 2-point attempt until 8:51 remained in the half. It's a little unfair to say Purdue let up defensively after its strong performance Saturday against Butler, but the Boilermakers were not quite as crisp as they were in the Crossroads Classic. They played hard and a couple of the 3s were well-contested, but Incarnate Word also had several open looks. Purdue's defense didn't give up almost anything inside the arc and it made life fairly difficult for the Cardinals, but there are still some rotations it could clean up. Those will bite the Boilermakers in the Big Ten schedule and coach Matt Painter will likely emphasize those after the game tonight.
The good news for Purdue – and the main reason the Boilermakers are very likely not in danger of a miraculous UIW comeback – is the visitors have exactly zero answers for the Boilermaker big men. The Cardinals clearly came into the game intent on making someone other than Williams beat them and have run multiple defenders at him in the post on a regular basis. But Williams is too smart to let that bother him and he has made numerous smart passes to set up rotations, easy baskets or a must-foul situations for Incarnate Word. Then, Zach Edey came off the bench and just dominated. It almost isn't fair how much bigger and more skilled Edey is than his Cardinal counterparts. He grabbed at least three rebounds just by putting his arms up in the air and Purdue was just able to throw him the ball over the top for easy baskets. At the half, Williams and Edey have combined for 17 points on 7-for-9 shooting and 13 rebounds. Purdue has mismatches against most teams down low, but tonight the talent gap there is even more pronounced than usual.
The bottomline is Purdue is a far better team, but it still has some areas it needs to clean up, especially in perimeter defense. The offense has been crisp, but there have been some missed opportunities and the lead should probably be closer to 25. There are still 20 minutes left to work on some of those deficiencies and maybe put on a little show for the fans who have packed Mackey against an inferior opponent.