The Journal Gazette
 
 
Wednesday, December 29, 2021 7:20 pm

No. 3 Purdue beats Nicholls State, 104-90, to close non-conference schedule

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

WEST LAFAYETTE – Zach Edey scored 21 points, Jaden Ivey added 19 and Purdue's offense hummed in a 104-90 victory over Nicholls State at Mackey Arena tonight in the Boilermakers' non-conference finale for the 2021-22 regular season.

3 Takeaways

  • Lighting it up from outside ... : Purdue had a field day from the 3-point line in the first half, going for 11 for 19 from beyond the arc and making four long-distance shots during a 23-2 run that completely changed the tenor of the game after the Colonels had jumped out to a 17-11 lead. Sasha Stefanovic was the leader of the onslaught, going 4 for 8 from beyond the arc in the first half and doing a superb job of finding open space to shoot when Nicholls sent an extra defender at Purdue's centers, which it did through the opening 20 minutes. The Boilermakers had three other players make multiple 3s in the first half, including Brandon Newman, who was 2 for 3 from long distance. Newman had been struggling before the holiday break, hitting only 4 of 23 3s in the previous five games. He seemed to be searching for some confidence, but he may have fixed that issue during the break because he drilled his first two deep shots tonight without any hesitation. 
  • ... and from the paint: When the second half began, Nicholls State changed its defensive strategy. The Colonels, apparently deciding they'd had enough of Purdue's centers kicking out to Stefanovic, Newman and Co. for wide-open 3s from post double-teams, decided to try to play Trevion Williams and Edey one-on-one from the block. That mostly solved one issue, but created a whole new problem for the visitors, who had nowhere near the height capable of stopping two of the best big men in the country in single coverage. Williams scored the first two baskets of the half on relatively easy hook shots from eight feet and then ceded the court to Edey, who went wild. The 7-foot-4 sophomore spent a five-minute stretch in the second half just putting his hands up to catch passes from the perimeter for dunks. He scored 11 points in a 3:44 span without missing once. It was like a high school center had been called down to play in a peewee basketball game. 
  • Better competition looms: Purdue was never in serious danger of losing this game, but it was not the Boilers' best performance. True, they made almost everything they saw, first from the perimeter, then from in close, but their defense was more than a little lackluster. In fact, if Purdue had not been as hot from the field as it was, the Colonels very likely would have made this a game down the stretch. A large part of the problem was Nicholls hitting its own barrage of 3s: the visitors were 16 for 35 from beyond the arc, including 8 for 15 after halftime, which kept Purdue from really pulling away. This is the second straight game – following a similar performance against Incarnate Word – in which an inferior opponent has hung closer than it should by draining 3s in bunches. That could just be randomness, but the Boilers also didn't do a great job of guarding the perimeter tonight and they often lacked energy on defense in general. Purdue's lights-out shooting masked those concerns, but it won't do so forever, especially when Big Ten play begins. The Boilers have plenty to work on before the league schedule re-starts Monday.

Player of the Game: Zach Edey

The giant sophomore scored 15 of his points in the second half, keeping Purdue comfortably in front despite the bevy of 3s from the Colonels. Edey went 7 of 8 from the field, hitting his first seven shots before a miss. He added five rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal. It was Edey's fourth 20-point game of the season.

Tip-Ins

Purdue finishes its non-conference slate with an 11-0 mark (the Boilers are 12-1 overall). It's the fourth time in program history they've got undefeated outside of conference play and the first time it's happened since 1994. Lest anyone think the Boilermakers have played a soft schedule, their four wins against teams in the top 40 of KenPom.com's efficiency rankings are the most in the country. The Boilers have won 13 straight non-conference games since a 58-54 loss to Miami (Florida) on Dec. 8, 2020. ... The Boilermakers reached the 100-point mark for the first time since a 104-68 win Feb. 5, 2020 against Iowa. ... Purdue shot 57% from the field, compared to 48% for the Colonels. ... Purdue had 30 assists on 35 made field goals. Williams had eight helpers and Ethan Morton had a career-high seven, including a couple of pretty feeds to Edey in the second half. ... Williams also had nine points and 11 rebounds. ... Before the game, the Boilers announced forward Caleb Furst, a Fort Wayne native, Blackhawk Christian graduate and the 2021 Indiana Mr. Basketball, was in the program's health and safety protocol and would miss the game. ... Ty Gordon led Nicholls with 29 points on 9 for 15 from beyond the 3-point line. 

What's Next?

The Boilermakers will be back in action Monday, when they re-start Big Ten play with a matchup against No. 24 Wisconsin (9-2, 1-1 Big Ten) at Mackey Arena. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network. Wisconsin boasts a win over then (and now)-No. 12 Houston and split its first two Big Ten games against Indiana and Ohio State. The Badgers struggled to get past Nicholls, winning 71-68 while getting out-rebounded. They'll face Illinois State tonight before taking on Purdue. Sophomore guard Jonathan Davis averages 20.9 points for UW.

dsinn@jg.net


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