Following Purdue Fort Wayne's season-opening victory last Tuesday, coach Jon Coffman praised his team's depth. Fast forward one week, and that depth passed the first test against a Division I squad this year, as the Mastodons surged late to knock off Austin Peay 65-60 Tuesday at Memorial Coliseum.
That depth for PFW (2-0) faced an early challenge, as starting forward Bobby Planutis picked up two fouls inside the game's first four minutes. Deonte Billups gave a lift off the bench, playing nearly 28 minutes, while Ra Kpedi picked up the interior scoring slack in Planutis' absence, netting a career-high 17 points.
“We were attacking some bad space, so we started getting the ball moving and we started attacking,” Coffman said. “(Kpedi) finished around the rim. When our bigs can catch and score around the rim, it makes our guards look really good. They decided to stretch out and try to take away the 3, and Ra penalized them.”
With Damian Chong Qui sidelined briefly in the first half after falling awkwardly to the floor, then sitting for more time after appearing to tweak the injury midway through the second half, Jarred Godfrey seamlessly stepped back into the role of ball handler.
As Coffman shuffled his lineup to account for those varying needs, Godfrey played several positions within the offense to thwart any attempt the Governors (1-2) pushed toward making a long run.
“I feel a lot of confidence with our depth, and I'm going to get even more as we go,” Coffman said. “There's a lot of growing confidence in a lot of guys on our roster. We have depth. I think some guys stepped up when Bobby had to sit.”
PFW jumped out to a 36-27 lead with 17:21 remaining, only to see Austin Peay embark on a 14-4 run over the next 6:31. Tariq Silver, who scored a team-high 15, capped the run with a 3-pointers to put the visitors ahead 41-40 with 11:50 to go.
But the Mastodons maintained a higher level of aggressiveness late while still playing with enough poise to not foul, finishing 17 of 21 from the free-throw line as compared to just 2 of 5 for Austin Peay. And Kpedi took full advantage of that attacking play in the Mastodons backcourt, netting a pair of dunks to help seal the victory.
“I think our guards set me up really well,” Kpedi said. “They're very aggressive and they attack the paint. They set me up for easy ones, and I'm very appreciative of that.”