After rising two spots in the AP Top 25 rankings, the No. 21 Purdue Boilermakers look to start 3-0 as they host the Incarnate Word Cardinals.
Two games in, both without leader A.J. Hammons, and the No. 21 Purdue Boilermakers (2-0) are already looking pretty scary offensively. And that’s scary in a good way, at least for Purdue fans. After the three-point barrage, they unleashed on Vermont, what can we expect from the Boilermakers against the Incarnate Word Cardinals (2-0)?
One of the biggest questions heading into this game is whether we will see Hammons make his season debut or not. Head coach Matt Painter has kept mostly quiet about the entire situation and, as of writing, has not said whether Hammons will be available or not.
But if not, the Boilermakers still have enough low post presence with 7-foot-2 Isaac Haas and 6-foot-9 Caleb Swanigan. Both players have done a great job holding down the post in Hammon’s absence. Haas is averaging 14.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game and Swanigan – who just won Big Ten Freshman of the Week – is averaging a double-double, 12.5 points, and 12.0 rebounds.
While the big men dominate the low post, the rest of the team will be hovering around the arc, waiting for their opportunity to drop one from downtown. The Boilermakers love shooting threes – 67 taken in the first two game and they’ve made 30 of them, including a school record 18 against Vermont. That gameplan isn’t going to change against the Cardinals, especially if they are dropping like last game.
Offensively we kind of know what Purdue is going to give us, at least against lesser competition, so it’s on the defensive end that we may see the most emphasis. They gave up 40 points to North Carolina A&T, then proceeded to give up 79 to Vermont who wasn’t that much better than A&T. Incarnate Word is averaging 79.5 points per game, with five players averaging double-digits points, and you know Painter would love to see his Boilermakers hold them well under 70 points.
If you don’t know who Incarnate Word is that’s ok. This is only their second season as a Division I school, and they put themselves on the map last year after stunning Nebraska on a last-second shot. The Cardinals are a high scoring team – ranked 7th in the D-I last year with 79.6 points per game – and one that could really give the Boilermakers a test.
Senior forward Kyle Hittle is the team’s leading scorer (14.0 ppg) and will be the main focus of the Purdue defense. While the Cardinals can shoot, they will have a tough time dealing with the Boilermakers interior offense and defense. Jerred Kite (6-foot-11) and Tavin Askew (6-foot-8) are the tallest players for Incarnate Word, but both have averaged less than 10 minutes per game so far this season. That leaves Derail Green (6-foot-7) as the team’s only option to guard the likes of Haas, Swanigan, or even Hammons, and we saw how that worked for NC A&T.
Purdue should have no problem moving to 3-0 for the third straight season, and are 35-1 at home under coach Painter. The real questions are whether Hammons will finally step on the court and can the Boilermakers top the three-pointer record they set last game.