Led by Zach Edey and Lance Jones, the Boilers were able to defeat the Eagles before an important matchup with Xavier on Monday.
The Purdue Boilermakers defeated the Morehead State Eagles 87-57 in front of a sold-out Mackey Arena. The Boilers started hot again with a 15-0 run to start the game, but struggled at times to contain the Eagles Riley Minix who scored 18 points. Purdue was without Ethan Morton who was dealing with an illness that likely would have drawn the assignment against Minix once he got going in the first half.
The Boilers were led by Zach Edey with 18 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks in just 24 minutes of play. Edey was a model of consistency from the free throw line as he went 8-9 and made the Eagles pay when he went to the rim to score and was fouled. Edey put Morehead State in a bind when he was on the floor and his ability to clog the lane and block shots made it difficult for a team that shot only ___ of ___ from behind the arc.
As good as Edey was, it was a bit of a coming out party for Lance Jones and what he brings to the team this year. The 5th-year transfer guard scored 15 points on 6-10 shooting and 3-6 shooting from behind the arc, none more impressive than his pull-up three in transition from eight feet behind the arc. That sparked the Mackey crowd in the second half, where the Boilers pushed the lead up to 31.
Jones has been a revelation for the Boilers over the first two games, as he has displayed a gritty, gritty attitude that the team simply didn’t possess last season. The confidence he gained during his tenure as Southern Illinois’ leading scorer and primary perimeter defender helped elevate this team from a confidence standpoint. When paired with Braden Smith, having two guards who can handle the ball and challenge opposing ball handlers and compete.
Smith, showing much more emphasis and confidence to take on a bigger scoring role, scored seven of the Boilers’ first fifteen runs in that first inning that put the Eagles behind the eighth ball. Smith finished the night just two rebounds shy of his first collegiate triple-double with 11 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds. These types of plays will become more normal for a lead guard with the skills Smith possesses in pick and roll and as a shooter.
The number of defensive breakdowns and the fact that the Boilers were outplayed in second chance points was concerning. This is something the Boilers pride themselves on under Matt Painter and need to be focused on to take advantage of their size advantages. The defensive breakdowns that occurred in this game found Morehead State shooters open for three points, but the Eagles only shot 7-31 (22.6%). These shots are more a product of Zach’s presence inside and force a team to take more of these shots than they are probably comfortable with, but the forms need to be cleaned up before the next two games where the Boilers will host unseeded Xavier. (RV) and will face No. 11 Gonzaga at the Maui Invitational.
After a slow end to the first half, Lance Jones came out in the second half and got the ball rolling for the Boilers. From a defensive position, Jones dribbled a 30-foot 3-pointer that he drilled and forced a Morehead State timeout.
Player of the match:
Again, the easy answer here is Zach Edey with his 18 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks. But the easy answer isn’t always the right one. Lance Jones showed the kind of spark he can be to help push this team over the top with his shooting, decision-making ability and defensive tenacity. Perhaps most important is the boldness and confidence he seems to have instilled in his teammates. Jones 15 points on 3-6 from behind the arc with 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 0 turnovers gets the nod.
The Boilers will host the unranked Xavier Muskateers Monday night in what could be the final Gavitt Games between the B1G and Big East.