Boilermakers: A.J. Hammons Returns; Purdue Beat Cardinals 96-61

The Purdue Boilermakers moved to 3-0 for the third straight season with a win over the Incarnate Word Cardinals.

After sitting out the first two games, Purdue Boilermakers senior leader A.J. Hammons made his season debut against the Incarnate Word Cardinals and helped the Boilers pull out a 96-61 victory.

Despite a slow start, Purdue was able to push their measly five-point lead – 22-17 – with 8:39 left in the half to a 53-24 halftime lead. Isaac Haas came out firing in the second half, scoring the Boilermakers first six points, and the Cardinals never made it close.

Purdue’s offense was scorching once again, but they had a quiet night – compared to their game against Vermont – behind the three-point arc. They shot 9-of-21 from downtown, their first game with less than 30 attempts from three-point range.

But this was not a perfect game from the Boilermakers, so let’s talk about the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of their performance.

The Good

This team is just firing on all cylinders right now and the addition of Hammons did nothing but make this team even more fearsome. For the third straight game, the Boilermakers beat their opponent by 25-plus points, a feat that was expected of them against these teams and it’s nice to see it taking place.

A big part of those blowout victories have come from their three-point shooting and the play of their big men. Haas led the team with 17 points, 12 rebounds, `and four blocks, Hammons had eight points, six rebounds, and three blocks, and Caleb Swanigan lost his double-double streak, but still finished with 10 points, six rebounds, and three assists.

Nov 18, 2015; West Lafayette, IN, USA; Mandatory Credit: Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

Purdue’s size advantage also led to them out-rebounding the Cardinals 56-19.

Yet the big men were overshadowed by Vince Edwards. Edwards was all over the floor, making and blocking jump shots, and had arguably his best game of the young season with 13 points, six rebounds, two assists, and three blocks.

Defensively, Purdue held a high-scoring Cardinals team – averaged 79.6 points per game last year – to under 70 points. That was the first time this season Incarnate Word failed to score at least 70 points.

As I talked about in the preview article for this game, we already know what Purdue’s offense is going to bring, but their defense seemed to slip against Vermont and this was going to be a test to see if they could rise to the challenge of holding one of the best scoring teams in the country.

The Bad

After forcing Vermont into 17 turnovers, the Boilermakers only forced eight turnovers out of Incarnate Word. It’s great the team held the Cardinals to only 61 points, but creating turnovers will need to be consistent, especially later on in the year.

On the same token, Swanigan led the Boilers with six turnovers. He had four total in the first two games, so it could have just been an off night.

The Ugly

Swanigan’s six turnovers were only part of the 22 the Boilermakers had as a whole. Do you recall how many they had against Vermont just a couple of days ago? Five. Last season they average 13 turnovers a game and after tonight they’ve hit that same average for this season. 22 is way too many, and against a good team that would have doomed them.

It’s great to see Purdue at 3-0, they are doing exactly what every big conference team should be doing to lesser competition – looking at you Illinois – and so far living up to their preseason billing. They still have a lot to work on, but these games are supposed to be used for figuring out your strengths and weaknesses before you play the tougher teams. It will be interesting to see how the Boilermakers fair against teams with legitimate size, but until then we can have fun watching them light up the scoreboard.

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