Old Gold and Black > Old Well
Purdue holds off North Carolina to set up a top six showdown with Villanova
Good morning. Purdue got its first test of the season at Mohegan Sun Arena Saturday vs. UNC. While the game got too close for comfort at times, the Boilers found a way to win the game, something they will have to do many more times this season, starting today, if they want to acheive their lofty goals.
Game Recap: Purdue 93, North Carolina 84
Purdue got off to a fast start in this one, quickly showing off their offensive firepower behind the hot shooting of Sasha Stefanovic and the aggressiveness of Jaden Ivey and Zach Edey. After the offense cooled down, UNC began to claw away, finally taking the lead late in the second half. Then Jaden Ivey happened. An incredible three-possession stretch in which he found two teammates for open threes and then finished an and-one. That put Purdue up by nine, and they closed the game out from there.
Play of the Game
While I usually go with just one play for this category, the aforementioned sequence of events from Ivey deserves to make an exception. Game is tied, crowd is against you, and you just completely shut them down with three consecutive plays. First, he made one of the best passes this season, an inconceivable, “how-did-he-see-him” kickout to Stefanovic for three. Then he got in the lane and made his favorite read, the easy kickout to the weakside when the defense loads up on his drive. Thompson bangs the three. Ivey finished by blowing by a defender and finishing plus the foul at the rim. It was the type of high-level talent that few in this country can tap into, and it was crucial in a game Purdue seemed to be losing control of.
A win that will age well. Not only did Purdue pick up its first big win of the season, it got one that is likely to age like fine wine. North Carolina hasn’t been incredibly impressive yet, but they are ranked 18th for a reason. As you likely noticed tonight, they have a ton of offensive talent. And as the defense comes together, Carolina is likely to be a mainstay in the top 25 all season. Come March, this is a win that the Selection Committee will look favorable upon when they decide which seed line to put Purdue on. Ultimately, it’s March that matters, and big nonconference wins will help Purdue in that regard.
Purdue can survive foul trouble. It would be surprising to see another game this season in which BOTH Trevion Williams and Zach Edey are in this kind of foul trouble. But if it does happen, Purdue now knows it can survive. They played the last eight minutes of the first half with no Edey and no Williams, running Caleb Furst at the five and Ethan Morton at the four. The score during that stretch? 17-17. Furst was incredible, blocking shots and running the floor with reckless abandon. Purdue gets Mason Gillis back today and if either of their two star big men have to sit, they know they have the depth to be conservative with bringing those two back in.
Purdue will have a difficult time with floor-spacing bigs. Another takeaway that was more confirmed by the UNC game than brought up because of it, it’s clear Purdue’s personnel doesn’t lend itself to guarding teams that can spread them out. Edey and Williams have a tough time with skilled bigs who can shoot and put the ball on the floor. Dawson Garcia was 10-13 for 26 points today, and made Purdue’s centers look silly on multiple occasions. Fortunately, Purdue won’t see many bigs like Dawson Garcia throughout the year. The Villanova matchup (with Gillis back) should tell us quite a bit.
He Said It:
“Whenever I get the rebound and I get in transition, I try to get to the basket but I know they’re all in the paint. And I know some of my teammates are going to be wide open. So I just put my teammates in the best position.” - Jaden Ivey, on his transition game.
“I knew when I cam in I had to be aggressive and go at those guys. I’ve been in these situations before, and I know when the game is on the line, I know I gotta step up and make big buckets.” - Trevion Williams, on his late-game dominance.
“We’re not a very good defensive team right now. North Carolina’s not a very good defensive team right now. To advance far in the tournament or win a championship in your league, you’re going to have to be a good defensive team. We’re just not going to be able to out-score everybody. We gotta get better defensively” - Matt Painter, on the state of Purdue’s defense.
Aidan, how can you not be worried about…
Brandon Newman, who played 11 minutes, scored 0 points on 0-1 shooting and was generally not very good defensively? Because that’s just the way it’s going to be for the ten members of the rotation on this Purdue team. They’re so talented, so deep, so skilled offensively that really good players like Newman are going to have games where they play 11 minutes and are unable to get into a rythym, and then they’re going to have games where they score 20+ points and provide the necessary spark for Purdue to get the win. In talking about it afterwards, Coach Painter mentioned that he needed Ivey and Stefanovic out there. In high-pressure games against good teams, Purdue isn’t going to have the luxury of playing everyone’s minutes, they’re going to rise the hot hand. Tonight it was Ivey and Stefanovic and even Eric Hunter (who got 24 minutes to Thompson’s 16). In the future, there will likely be games where it is Newman.
Stat of the Night:
And we’ll add one more, for good measure:
💫Stars of the Game💫
⭐️Trevion Williams: This might be too low for Williams, whose presence on the low block helped keep Purdue competitive during several stretches in the second half where the offense became stagnant. But on a team like this, sometimes you will have to settle for one gold star and not two. Williams’ strength and variety of post moves on the low block befuddled Carolina’s bigs in a way that Zach Edey did not in this game. Whereas Dawson Garcia and Brady Manek, two long, athletic bigs, were able to stymie Edey’s advances, they had a difficult time with the shorter, yet more physical, Williams. Garcia, in particular, just had no answer for Williams, who finished with 20 points in just 13 minutes and made four of his seven free throw tries. It was a composed, mature, and at times dominant performance by the senior, who looked like the most experienced player on the court, which of course he was.
⭐️⭐️ Sasha Stefanovic: What more is there to say about this guy? Perhaps Williams came up bigger in the clutch yesterday, but it was the shooting and playmaking of Stefanovic that gave Purdue a lead they needed to start the game. Painter truly has a way of drawing up the best stuff for shooters like Stefanovic and when it works it is a thing of beauty. He’s not the biggest or the fastest or the most athletic, but Sasha Stefanovic has the least variance on this team. More than anyone else, you know exactly what you’re getting from him each time out: elite shooting, great passing (especially on post entries), and very few mistakes. There were people, myself included, who were a bit surprised when Stefanovic was the season-opening starter over Newman. But it’s clear through four games just how indispensable this guy is for Purdue.
⭐️⭐️ ⭐️ Jaden Ivey: Ivey was sensational at times in this game, stringing together high-level possessions when Purdue needed it most. Ivey is not the most consistent player; you don’t always know what you’re going to get from him on a possession to possession basis. But when he is able to tap into his immense upside, as he did late in the first half when Purdue had its two bigs on the bench with foul trouble and then again when the game was tied towards the end, it is special. Ivey has proven now that he is someone who rises to the moment. Sure he’ll have off nights against teams like Wright State and Bellarmine, but in the biggest of games, he’s delivered. The stepback three against Ohio State. The 26-point outing against North Texas. Yesterday’s 22-point, 10-rebound, six-assist masterclass against UNC with 50+ NBA scouts in attendance. He is, as Ja Morant tweeted: “A PRO.”
This was as stressful a viewing experience as I have had in a while, but that’s because we haven’t had high-level college basketball in a while. It was a bit of a strange game, played in a 9,000-seat arena that was clearly skewing Carolina in terms of fans. It was sloppy in the first half and then spectacular in the second, despite the refs doing their damndest to bog it down.
In these early season events, it’s either quite sloppy or everyone is making everything. Both were true in this one, but in the second half, the latter became true. Purdue would hit a big three and then Carolina would answer. The refs would call something on UNC and would answer with a make-up call on the other end (I kid, I kid). It was a really fun November basketball game between two good teams who are very similar. But one is a bit more experienced, and just a bit better. That’s Purdue right now.
In the big-picture, when I think about seeding, the importance of getting at least a game at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off is huge (and hopefully another, at 1:00). Purdue’s other marquee non-conference opponents are not helping them out right now. Florida State, which comes to Mackey in a week’s time, has lost to Florida and nearly lost to Tulane. North Carolina State, who Purdue will play in Brooklyn next month, lost to Oklahoma State and lost its best player, Manny Bates, for the season. Butler, Purdue’s opponent in the Crossroads, has lost Michigan State and played close games with IUPUI and Troy.
I hate to get so big picture so early in the season, but I can’t help but think how important a win over Villanova would be today. I’m not going to expect it, but I would really, really like for it to happen.
ABC. 1:00. Let’s find out.