Purdue 80 – West Virginia 68 – Victory in Portland

With just over 4:00 to play in the second half, WVU had cut the longstanding Purdue lead to single digits, even four, and the lead continued to bounce up a few points here and there. WVU had the ball as the shot clock expired, but driving to court against Zach Edey isn’t easy. Edey raised his long arms and blocked it. Braden Smith, a real freshman I might remind you, went after the loose ball and hit it to the other side of the field. As the shot clock expired, Fletcher Loyer gave chase, but was unable to save the ball in time. Instead, it went beyond Purdue’s boundaries. West Virginia would have only one second left on the shot clock and would need to get the ball out from under the Purdue basket. They couldn’t score.

I’m hammering this possession because it’s so indicative of the way Purdue will play this year. So much bustle. Purdue saw three different players make feats here that resulted in a shot clock violation and Purdue possession. It was beautiful. The Purdue crowd in Portland, Oregon at the Phil Knight Legacy tournament gave the team a standing ovation after this example of crowding. I won’t say this would only please Purdue fans, but it’s certainly a staple of Purdue fans to appreciate this kind of dirty work and fuss.

John Wooden Memorial Player of the Game (JWMPOTG): I try to hand this out for every game wrap I write, which may be more this season with Casey at Boiler Upload. Expect to get a big dose of Zach Edey here. Even if his shots don’t always look good, he still dominates the game. He was a force on defense who turned shots and blocked the aforementioned shot. Overall, Edey continued his great game by finishing with 24 points and 12 rebounds to go 10-12 at the free throw line. What a game from the big man. He continues to take on whatever challenge Painter throws at him. An honorable mention goes to Mason Gillis for his usual hustle and his 2-3 shots from deep.

We all knew this West Virginia team was going to get Purdue in trouble, and they did. A young Purdue team relying on two freshman guards would likely commit a lot of turnover against a talented and fast WVU squad. Purdue actually flipped it 18 times, but what might surprise you is that the two starting freshman guards only committed three. The JWMPOTG had six. Committing 18 turnovers wasn’t the only problem Purdue had that kept WVU in this game. Purdue also allowed 15 offensive rebounds. These two stats together were enough to keep Purdue from driving away.

Purdue’s lead hovered around 10 points for most of the game, with multiple chances to put the game out of bounds that fell short due to turnovers or offensive rebounds from the Mountaineers. It was a great test for a young team. Mike Tyson once said that everyone had a plan until they got punched in the mouth and while it’s not the most elegant phrase, it’s certainly true. Purdue got punched in the mouth a few times (metaphorically speaking) in this game, but always found a way to take the hit, whether it be through a Mason Gillis three, a Zach Edey bucket, or a busy play on defense and return used to be. The lead may have fallen to four in the second half, but it never really felt like Purdue had let anything slip. At least I had a feeling Purdue would respond.

That to me is the most important thing that comes out of this game. Sure it was nice to see Brandon Newman get some shots and it was certainly nice to see Caleb Furst and TKR play some good games as well, but in the end I will remember this team’s reaction.

A few more things worth mentioning and since it’s late we’re going to do it quickly. First, Braden Smith is going to be a problem for many opponents and you saw that tonight as Stevenson committed a stupid, blatant 1 out of frustration that gave Purdue two shots (Smith made them both) and the ball at a time when WVU desperately needed stops. Second, Purdue took care of business at the free throw line 24-28. Kiss from the chef. Finally, the three point shooting was much improved at 8-17.

Purdue is now waiting for the winner of the Gonzaga vs. Portland State game starting soon. When programming, keep in mind that this game will end at 11:30 PM Eastern time if everything is right on time. If you’ve been following college basketball, you know that’s not very likely, so expect a start time of 11:45 or maybe even midnight. Brace yourselves folks, this is all just a preparation for UCLA and USC’s participation in the conference.

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