Long known as an offensive team, Purdue is quickly starting to show why teams should more and more fear the Boilermakers’ defense.
No. 17 Purdue limited Butler to less than 40 percent shooting, forced 17 turnovers and blocked 10 shots to pull away for an 82-67 win in the first game of the Crossroads Classic at Bankers’ Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Saturday.
The Boilers’ customary offense was still on display — Purdue shot over 50 percent and hit nine 3-pointers — but it was the defense that was the difference in a dominating win over their downstate rivals.
“We know we can score the ball with anybody in the country. We can really score at a high level. But what’s going to separate us and allow us to be really successful throughout the rest of the season and in the postseason is defense,” said Purdue senior G P.J. Thompson, who had four of the Boilers’ eight steals. “We’ve really toned it up defensively. I think we’ve gotten a lot better, as you guys can tell, throughout the season, and I think there’s still room to improve.”
It was the defense that set the tone for Purdue, which jumped out to a 9-1 lead less than three minutes into the game and never trailed.
Led by 7-foot-2 senior center Isaac Haas, the Boilermakers dominated the paint and forced Butler into poor shots. The Bulldogs finished with 18 offensive rebounds but that was more of a product of 43 missed shots rather than positioning.
“I think their pressure really affected us, especially early. We didn’t execute,” Butler coach LaVall Jordan said. “We had nine turnovers at halftime, and a lot of it was just we played speed up due to them pressuring us. We didn’t respond like we have before when we’ve gotten some pressure like that.”
Purdue (11-2) closed the first half on a 13-5 run to take a 35-19 lead into the break and built its advantage to as many as 26 (55-29) with just over 13 minutes to play when Butler made a frantic comeback and pulled to within nine (69-60) with 3:03 to go. The Boilermakers then closed on a 13-7 run to put the game away.
Carsen Edwards scored 18 points to lead five Purdue players in double figures. Vincent Edwards hit four 3-pointers on five attempts and scored 15 points, Haas also had 15 points, Dakota Mathias had 14 points and Thompson had 12 points on 7-of 8 shooting from the free-throw line.
Kelan Martin led Butler (8-3) with 17 points but on 6-of-13 shooting. Paul Jorgensen had 15 points and eight rebounds, Kamar Baldwin scored 13 points and Aaron Thompson chipped in 10.
The victory by Purdue broke a six-game losing streak to Butler dating back to the 1998 season, a fact in which they were well aware.
“(My) sophomore year, we ended up losing to Butler, letting one slip. We didn’t execute down the stretch like we did today,” Edwards said. “This year we were able to stay out and stay ahead and finish the game. So I think it’s kind of a good feeling and to break that curse of not beating them. So it was really good.”
NOTES: No team has had more success in the Crossroads Classic than Butler. The Bulldogs are 5-2 in seven Crossroads games. Purdue is 2-5. ... Purdue hadn’t beaten Butler since Dec. 19, 1998, a span of five straight games. Butler coach LaVall Jordan was a sophomore for the Bulldogs that season. ... Purdue leads the overall series 38-19. ... Purdue has won seven straight games. ... Purdue coach Matt Painter claimed his 300th career win in the Boilermakers’ 76-42 win over IUPUI last week. He is 301-149 overall. ... Butler senior F Tyler Wideman entered the game tied atop the Big East in shooting percentage at 71.4 percent but was just 3-for-9 on Saturday.