With four straight wins buoyed by the play of 7-2 Isaac Haas, No. 21 Purdue seems to have righted the ship after consecutive losses to Tennessee and Western Kentucky in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Haas will likely need another big outing when undefeated Valparaiso travels 90 minutes down the road to West Lafayette to play the Boilermakers on Thursday.
Haas scored 26 points, including the go-ahead basket with under a minute left, to lead Purdue to a 74-69 victory over Northwestern on Sunday in a game that featured 12 ties and 13 lead changes. Haas finished 8-of-13 from the field and 10-of-14 from the foul line, adding nine rebounds, and on Monday the senior was named Big Ten Player of the Week after averaging 18.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in wins over the Wildcats, Maryland and Louisville. “His ability to kind of close out the game and make plays, any miss there down the stretch probably would have cost us the game. He was either able to get fouled or make a play,’’ coach Matt Painter said of Haas after the Northwestern contest. Valparaiso became just the second team in the nation, along with Duke, to start this season 8-0 as the Crusaders took down Utah State 72-65 on Tuesday behind 25 points and nine rebounds from Tevonn Walker.
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ABOUT VALPARAISO (8-0): Walker, a 6-1 senior and the lone returning starter from last season’s Horizon League regular-season champion, is averaging team-bests of 17.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 26.6 minutes while knocking down a team-high 12 3-pointers. Sophomore point guard Bakari Evelyn, a 6-2 sophomore who started his career at Nebraska, is averaging 11.5 points and a team-high 3.9 assists. Valpo makes its mark on defense, ranking second in the nation in field-goal percentage defense (34.3 percent) and seventh in 3-point percentage (25 percent).
ABOUT PURDUE (8-2): Vincent Edwards (13.5 points, 8.9 rebounds per game) had 12 points and eight rebounds and reserve sharpshooter Ryan Cline (3.3 points per game) chipped in 13 points Sunday against the Wildcats. Four players are averaging at least 13.5 points, led by 6-1 guard Carsen Edwards, who scores 16.3 a contest. The Boilermakers shoot 49.8 percent from the floor, including 41 percent from beyond the arc, which ranks 27th in the country.
1. Valpo, which is 2-14 all-time against the Boilermakers and hasn’t won a game against a team from the Big Ten since 2004, snapped a streak of 40 consecutive losses to top-25 teams with a victory over Rhode Island last season.
2. Marvin Rea, a 5-9 guard on Purdue’s 1988 Big Ten Conference championship team and an Indiana high school basketball coach, died in an automobile accident on Tuesday.
3. The Crusaders’ 8-0 start is the third best in program history.
PREDICTION: Purdue 77, Valparaiso 63