It was a great night of basketball in Mackey Arena. A rare meeting of two, top 15 teams in November didn’t disappoint in a heated competition. In a game separated by only three points at the final buzzer, Boiler fans can come away knowing a lot more about this Purdue team than they did going into the game. Here’s what we learned from playing the defending national champions.
Caleb (Biggie) Swanigan and Isaac Haas are both going to be dominant this year inside
Despite both getting into foul trouble early, Swanigan and Haas were able to put up a combined 42 points and 11 rebounds in only 51 (combined) minutes. Together they were 16-23 from the field. The Wildcats had no answer for them.
Villanova coach Jay Wright said, “We just don’t play against that size… we can’t simulate that in practice.”
Purdue can break the full court press
Purdue fans can breathe a sigh of relief. For the first time in years, the Boilers showed they can consistently break a full court press. Villanova brought the press many times throughout the game and Purdue handled it with relative ease and composure, only turning the ball over once as a result of the pressure.
Purdue is going to be vastly different this year on defense
Mackey Arena proudly displays a sign that reads “Defense Lives Here” and Purdue hangs its hat on playing hard-nosed defense, but losing two B1G defensive players of the year has brought Purdue a lack of both an elite perimeter defender and rim protector. This was exposed mostly by Josh Hart’s ability to drive past his defender and finish around the rim. Last season those shots around the rim would have been made much harder or blocked by AJ Hammons. Isaac Haas, though a massively tall individual, can affect shots on the inside but lacks the athleticism to be a true rim protector. As a result, Purdue is going to need a combined team effort to help and switch on the perimeter to prevent guards and wings from getting in the lane.
Purdue needs more help from its guards
Dakota Mathias, PJ Thompson, Spike Albrecht, and Carsen Edwards combined for 19 points in a total of 90 minutes, shooting 6-21 from the field. Those numbers need to come up for Purdue to be an elite level basketball team.
Basil Smotherman is a ball of energy
Coming off a redshirt season and a suspension, Smotherman’s quickness and athleticism adds a great spark to this team. Though hustle plays don’t show up in the box score, Basil’s energy and tenacity was huge in this game. Smotherman is easily this team’s best on-ball perimeter defender and probably should have guarded the preseason All-American Josh Hart more than he did.
Isaac Haas commented that “[Basil] gave us a really good lift just with his energy and enthusiasm… it definitely gave us a spark.” Smotherman added, “Some nights you’re not going to score points, but you can also rebound and play defense and play hard… I just went out there and played hard.”
The Boilers are going to be a really good team
With arguably Purdue’s two best players in early foul trouble (Swanigan and Haas), a poor showing from Vincent Edwards and the guards, too many turnovers, and missed free throws, the Boilers still hung with the 3rd ranked defending national champs. As an early indicator, this would seem like a good one.
There is still a lot of room for improvement but as Jay Wright said following the game, “Purdue is going to have a hell of a year. That’s a really good basketball team.”