Down the Shore
Purdue took down Villanova in a top-five matchup and returns to Mackey with a 5-0 record and increasingly real national title aspirations.
Good morning. Purdue won the championship game of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off against Villanova, cementing its place as an elite team and national title contender. Faced with an 11-point deficit, the team responsed in a big way. Let’s talk about it.
Game Recap: Purdue 80, Villanova 74
Purdue came out of the gates hot early once again in this one, playing a mere 19 hours after the North Carolina game finished up. Villanova threw several counter-punches though, responsing to seemingly every Purdue basket with a make of their own. The Wildcats have a tough, veteran team led by two super seniors, but they’ve only got seven guys right now. As the game wore on, Purdue’s depth won out. They kept the game at arm’s length and when ‘Nova missed a few free throws, Purdue jumped all over them and took the game.
Play of the Game
This game was about everybody stepping up and doing their job for Purdue. One of the guys who did that the most in this game was the freshman, Caleb Furst. With Purdue up six and 2:30 to go, Jaden Ivey received a flat ball screen from Zach Edey and split the double, elevating at the rim for what seemed like it would be one of his signature finishes. But as Villova’s helpside defender rose up to try and block the shot, Ivey turned and fired a pass to a wide-open Furst in the corner, who calmly drained the three. That’s a play Ivey doesn’t make a year ago, and a play Purdue wasn’t sure Caleb Furst would make before the season. It’s clear that these two will be a formidable duo for the remainder of the 2022 season.
Purdue overcame second-half adversity. We all know six of Purdue’s 10 rotation members have yet to play in a game with fans away from Mackey. In this game, Purdue found itself down 11 against a veteran Villanova squad with nine minutes to go. The rest of the way? An absurd 34-17 Purdue run, which included 11 straight made baskets to close. Yes, Villanova got tired and missed both free throws and shots, but Purdue saw an opportunity and seized it, and proved a little adversity is no problem for this group. We’d all seen this team play, we knew they were among the best in the country. What we didn’t know is how they would handle in-game adversity and how they would handle a sizeable deficit well into the second half. Now we do.
The dynamic duos are not limited to the center position. This was the first game back from suspension for Mason Gillis, which meant that we got to see the full 10-man rotation. It’s clear through five games that Jaden Ivey and Sasha Stefanovic are going to see the most time (both played 33 mins. today), which means their backups, Brandon Newman and Ethan Morton, will see less (20 mins. combined). But while we know about the Williams/Edey monster, the Thompson/Hunter pairing at point and Furst/Gillis combo at the four both impressed as well. Thompson knocked down three big second-half threes, while Hunter came in and played great defense. Furst clearly has the upper hand in his battle, but Gillis gave good defensive minutes. Long story short: Purdue is really freaking deep.
The book is out on how to attack Zach Edey. While there are a lot of positives to take away from this game, other teams can watch this film and see how to attack Edey defensively. Because his center of gravity is so high, it can be difficult for Purdue’s guards to feed him on post entry passes, and it was today. I know he led the team in scoring and was generally dominant, but there came a point where Painter had to go offense/defense with Edey and Williams. Edey was put in a ton of ballscreens by Jay Wright, and continued to flat hedge, leaving him vulnerable to pick and pops, like this one from Eric Dixon (miss). In March teams will bring him outside the paint and Matt Painter will have a tough time scheming around his perimeter deficiences. It is something to monitor as the season goes on.
They Said It:
“The way we were able to move the ball at the end, we were able to get the shots we wanted.” - Caleb Furst, on Purdue’s late-game execution.
“Anytime you have to deal with monsters with Trevion and Zach, that one-two punch, it wears people down. I think it wore them down tonight. I think we just capitalized on it.” - Isaiah Thompson, on Villanova’s attempt to guard Purdue.
“We gotta make shots, so we can set our defense. For whatever reason, we won’t know who we’re guarding in transition, it like blows my mind. But we just gotta work on not beating oursleves. We still have too many moments where we’re just beating ourselves and we’re not connected.” - Matt Painter, on the state of his team’s defense.
Jaden Ivey Moment of the Game:
While Ivey only scored 10 points in this one, he pulled down seven rebounds and dished out seven assists, a testament to his unselfishness and complete floor game. I wanted to use this category to highlight his three-point shooting, which at least to me, looks better than last season. He made two of four from three against Villanova, with this one being an important shot in the game. With Ivey, it’s all about shot selection. When he gets a catch and shoot attempt with his feet set, he’ll make most of them. When he’s pulling up five seconds into the shot clock and shooting an off-balance three, that’s why his percentage is lower. Through five games, he’s 7-20 from three, good for 35 percent. If that number holds, he will be a surefire top-10 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. If it doesn’t, he might be anyway.
Stat of the Night:
Dubbed “The Monster” by @Forman and the Purdue Basketball social media team, this duo is going to wreak havoc on the country this season. That’s 30 points per game out your center spot. Just unreal.
Late-game execution is the reason Purdue won this game. Usually when the game gets close, shots stop dropping. Quite the contrary for the Boilers today.
💫Stars of the Game💫
⭐️Isaiah Thompson: Thompson played as good of a game in this one as he has all season, and maybe his whole career. He hit several clutch threes in the second half, showing off the elite shooting that has elevated him over Eric Hunter and into the starting lineup. More than his 12 points (4-5 from three), was his defense on Collin Gillespie, arguably Villanova’s best perimeter player. He picked him up full court and wore him down as the game went on. Despite giving up 20 pounds and several inches of height, Thompson refused to let Gillespie score in the post, and his constant pressure forced Gillespie into a few uncharacteristic mistakes. Thompson did everything asked of him and was an absolute star in his role.
⭐️⭐️ Zach Edey: Edey was easily the team’s leading scorer and maybe he deserves to be higher on this list, but the fact that he had to be removed because of his defense keeps him at number two. Offensively, we expected going into this game that Edey would dominate against the undersized Wildcats, and that’s exactly what he did. In just 20 minutes, Edey recorded 21 points and six rebounds, consistently getting post position and scoring at will on the catch. When guarding Trevion Williams, the battle is after he catches it in the post. With Edey, the battle is before the catch, with defenders doing everything possible to deny him the ball because when he catches it, it’s over. He overwhelmed Villanova with his size, making several clutch baskets down the stretch and getting Villanova’s Eric Dixon in foul trouble due to sheer physiciality. No play encapsulates Edey’s dominance like this one, where he bobbles the ball, catches it, and executes a step-through and-one dunk that exactly one player in college basketball could make: Edey.
⭐️⭐️ ⭐️ Caleb Furst: Okay, I might get some pushback for this, because Jaden Ivey was absolutely a top-three player in this game, maybe the best. Seven assists to one turnover is excellent and he controlled the game. But you’ve read about and Ivey and heard about Ivey a ton, and this guy made the biggest shot of the game. He ran the floor, he played off others, and he didn’t miss a shot. Just nine months ago Furst was dominating Indiana 2A high school basketball. He’s doing the same thing now on a top-ten team against North Carolina and Villanova. According to the advanced stats website EvanMiya, Furst is currently rated as the 15th best player in the Big 10 so far, and Purdue’s starting lineup, with Furst playing a vital role, is among the five most impactful five-man lineups in the country. Furst can do it all: pass, shoot, rebound, and defend. He’s an excellent player and will continue to get better for this Purdue team. He’s the real deal, and showed it (again) against the Wildcats.
During the first 11 minutes of the second half, I think we were all starting to begin the internal conversation, or external, if you were watching with friends, about this being a great loss to get the boys better and improve for the long haul. I certainly was.
“Villanova is a great team that is hard to prepare for, there’s no shame in this loss.”
And it’s true, there wouldn’t have been any shame in a loss to Villanova, they are one of the most experienced and well-coached teams in America. But when the ‘Cats started to show the smallest signs of slippage (missed free throws, forced threes, etc.), Purdue pounced.
And over the course of those final nine minutes, it became clear that Purdue is who we thought they were, a true national title contender. We spent all offseason projecting, hyping them up and hoping the improvement would come from these talented, if inexperienced, players. News flash: it has come, and faster than anyone could have predicted. I’ve seen improvement from everyone on this team, and that is so exciting.
Jaden Ivey, known for his dynamic athleticism and scoring punch, is halfway to his 2021 assist total through five games. Edey is a bonafide star on the low block, punishing small-ball teams like Nova. The three seniors have all accepted their roles and are excelling in them, putting Purdue’s success over their individual accomplishments. Isaiah Thompson has vastly out-performed preseason expectations, showing toughness and intelligence as a defender. Gillis, Newman, and Morton have shown flashes and look poised to have games in which Painter can’t take them off the floor. Furst has been a revelation.
This team is coming together before our eyes, and we only have a certain amount of games left to watch them. If you’re on the fence about going to see them, pull the trigger. This is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of team.