Good morning. Purdue shot the absolute lights out en route to an easy win over a half-decent Bellarmine team Tuesday night, showing impressive selflessness on a night where their most talented player struggled. We also received some surprising news about a talented freshman, all of which I will dive into below.
Game Recap: Purdue 96, Bellarmine 67
Finally, REAL basketball!!! Purdue got off to another slow start, and with ten minutes to play in the first half led just 21-20. From that point on it was all Boilermakers, as the threes began rolling in faster than the Breakfast Club into Harry’s on a Saturday morning. While Purdue allowed 67 points, they had fewer defensive breakdowns than in the UIndy game, as the Knights made several difficult shots. An impressive start to the highly-anticipated season.
Play of the Game
After Bellarmine cut the lead to one in the first half, Coach Painter immediately called a thirty-second timeout, upset with the shot selection and lack of energy from his team. Shortly thereafter, Ivey knocked down his lone three of the ballgame, increasing the lead to four. Then Caleb Furst walls up and gets the stop, and Isaiah Thompson knocks down the three after impressive ball movement from Purdue’s guards, pushing the lead to seven… and it was off to the races. The play came at a key team and is representative of the night as a whole…ball movement and catch and shoot threes galore.
Reports of Purdue’s shooting woes appear to be greatly exxagerated. Purdue shot 16-36 from three in this game, as Sasha Stefanovic, Isaiah Thompson, and Brandon Newman went 13-23 from distance. Those players are Purdue’s best three shooters, and may have felt a little disrespected during an offseason where Purdue’s skeptics harped on the Boilermakers’ lack of perimeter shooting. While the Knights’ porous perimeter defense helped Purdue’s shooters get open looks, the Boilers displayed exceptional passing ability and selflessness all game long.
Trevion Williams is embracing his role as super-sub. It’s not often that a preseason All-American isn’t a team’s starter but such is the case for Matt Painter and Co. Trevion Williams came off the bench, played just 15 minutes, and only scored four points on 1-1 shooting. Sounds like a problem, no? Wrong. Williams controlled the game throughout despite his lack of scoring, repeatedly finding open shooters and making life easier for teammates. There was a lot of talk about the Williams/Edey dynamic, whether or not the senior would be able to sacrifice playing time for the good of the team. Through one game, that may be more of a strength than a concern.
Ethan Morton’s emergence is a big reason for Trey Kaufman-Renn redshirting. Purdue announced pregame that four-star freshman Trey Kaufman-Renn will redshirt for the season. Kaufman-Renn is the third-highest recruit in Purdue history, but there is simply too much depth. In particular, though, Ethan Morton stepped in as the four-man for Matt Painter off the bench. Morton looked fantastic, displaying the passing ability and high basketball IQ that made him such a tantalizing recruit coming out of Pittsburgh.
He Said It:
“His was a 50/50 deal in my opinion. The thing that was different for him is that he has a moving piece with Mason coming back. I can project and guess to the best of my ability but I can’t say. We would have supported him either way. Obviously we have a loaded frontline. He decided to do this and I wasn’t going to talk him out of it.” - Matt Painter on Trey Kaufman-Renn’s decision to redshirt.
“It’s great to be here. You here people yelling random stuff, it’s great. Makes it hard to get down on yourself. I’ve never even played in front of 1,000 people befor so I had no idea what to expect. I like it a lot, honestly.” - Zach Edey on playing in front of fans at Mackey Arena
Aidan, how can you not be worried about…
Jaden Ivey? Because it’s been one game and he improved as said game went on. Granted, some of the issues that plagued him last season persisted. His handle still needs work and he turned it over a couple times. His shot selection was concerning, as he launched a couple unwise threes early in the shot clock.
But he settled down as the game went on, and played a nice second half where he didn’t force it. He showcased passing flashes that I think are very real and it’s telling that Purdue basically played him at the point for most of the game. The staff trusts him to be the primary creator and engine for the offense, and one game isn’t going to dissuade their (or my) belief in him.
In fact, let’s talk about…
The Jaden Ivey Moment of the Game
There are, of course, two nominees for this category, both coming on dunks off of steals. But we can only pick one, and while the windmill is cool, I’ve been a sucker for the two-hand back scratcher since D Rose put Steve Nash on a poster all those years ago. Watch the speed on the steal, the elevation on the dunk, and the passion after he rips the rim off:
💫Stars of the Game💫
⭐️ Zach Edey: Ho Hum, a 16-point, 9-rebound effort for Edey on just five shots. Perhaps more impressive was the big fella going 8-10 from the free throw line. The choice as a defender is basically grab him or let him posterize you. The Knights smartly did the former for most of the game, but Edey still made them pay. He turned it over three times tonight and Bellarmine actually did a decent job on him, but it didn’t matter. He’s simply too dominant, too productive to be taken off the floor, All-American backup be damned.
⭐️⭐️ Isaiah Thompson: The smallest player on the team, Thompson went overlooked all summer as it was assumed Eric Hunter Jr. would reclaim his role as starting point guard. Through three games (two exhibition, one official), Thompson has started each one and played the majority of the point guard minutes. Against Bellarmine, Thompson scored 15 points on five threes, while also pushing the pace and dishing four assists. It’s clear that Jaden Ivey will be Purdue’s de facto point, which means Matt Painter wants one thing out of Thompson and Hunter: space the floor and hit threes. The former is excellent in that regard, and he showed it tonight. Don’t expect him to be benched anytime soon.
⭐️⭐️ ⭐️ Sasha Stefanovic: What a performance from the Serbian Sniper. Stefanovic often excels doing the little things: switching onto bigs, pinpoint entry passes, reversing the ball (the pass in the clip above, for example). But tonight he got his time in the spotlight and deservedly so. Time and time again he got himself open beyond the arc, and time and time again he knocked down shots with ease en route to 23 points. Stefanovic is an off ball technician, utilizing the many stagger screens and pindowns of the Painter offense to create opportunites to launch. Sasha isn’t Purdue’s most flashy player, but he is just so reliable and when he gets going, the opponent is in big trouble.
It wasn’t clear which Purdue version we would see ahead of this game. They didn’t look all that impressive in the exhibition win over DII UIndy last Thursday night and lost to Providence in a scrimmage earlier on.
But last night we saw why this team is ranked as highly as they are, why they’re a popular pick to be a Final Four team. The ball movement, the offensive skill, the depth. It was all there against Bellarmine. And while Purdue isn’t likely to go 16-36 from three every night, Jaden Ivey and Trevion Williams aren’t likely to go 5-12 from the field for a combined 15 points most nights.
With the Kaufman-Renn redshirt, Purdue enters a territory I’m not sure many teams can match in this transfer-heavy era. They have nine guys (when Gillis returns) who have played with each other before and a tenth in Caleb Furst who looks like a seasoned vet. The chemistry, the continuity, the knowledge of each other’s games would make it surprising to see the Boilermakers struggle with these early-season buy games.
Tonight we got the entire Matt Painter Purdue experience. A highly-rated recruit electing to redshirt. A team with no transfers playing beautfiul basketball. These things are unconventional in 2021.
For Purdue, they’re normal. And while the defense wasn’t perfect, it’s hard to nitpick a thirty-point win in game one.
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