After losing two elite scorers with Carsen Edwards and Ryan Cline, a big question heading into this season concerns the Boilermakers ability to score. The returning players made it clear that they're more than capable.
The Boilermakers played their annual exhibition game against Southern Indiana on Friday, and they put on a show.
Though the Eagles are only a Division II team, Purdue’s shooting display showed that they have the ability to score, regardless of the other team’s ability.
Purdue shot the lights out in the first half with 78.3% from the field and 66.7% from the 3-point line. Four Boilers scored in the double digits, and they all did it efficiently.
The highest scorer of the four was sophomore forward Aaron Wheeler. He scored 17 points and only missed one shot the entire night.
More impressive was his defensive effort. Anytime the Boilers were on defense, Wheeler was a leader on the court. He was the first player calling out defensive assignments. He had three defensive rebounds and three blocks.
“He only played 18 minutes and got 17 points. We’ve seen that in games and stretches, but I didn’t play him enough,” head coach Matt Painter said. “Getting those three blocks in 18 minutes, that’s huge. You play in a regular game and get four or five blocks and you’re a faceup four to go along with Matt Haarms who led the Big ten in blocks last year. I think that can really help our defense.”
Grad transfer Jahaad Proctor was also one of Purdue’s double-digit scorers. Proctor seemed to fit perfectly with the team, scoring 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting. His only miss came from 3-point range. Proctor demonstrated his ability to get to the basket and also his playmaking as he racked up three assists.
The freshmen played fairly well for the first game, but only freshman guard Isaiah Thompson seemed to separate himself.
Thompson was able to play a lot more minutes due to junior guard Nojel Eastern’s foot injury, and he took advantage of his opportunity. He scored 8 points and shot 3-for-6 from the field. Thompson looked like the fastest player on the court at times, and he used that to his advantage. He brings another dimension to the Boilermaker offense when he is able to push the pace. Friday’s game may have given him a case for more minutes when Eastern returns.
Freshman forward Mason Gillis showed his prowess on the boards, grabbing six rebounds, but did not attempt a shot.
Freshman guard Brandon Newman had a bad shooting night, going 1-for-6, but showed great confidence in shot and may take the role of a shooter off the bench once the season begins.
“The freshmen all played really hard; that’s all we can ask, all the other stuff is going to come,” Wheeler said.
Sophomore Eric Hunter Jr. also performed well, showing a keen willingness to shoot. According to Painter, he wanted to see Hunter make an impact on the game by finding his shot and creating for others, and he did just that. He scored 9 points, shooting 4-for-7 from the field. He also dished out four assists and grabbed three rebounds.
“I just feel like the game is slowing down for me,” Hunter said. “My teammates gave me a great amount of confidence to just be aggressive and make plays.”
Purdue will be back in action for this season's first official game at 7 p.m. Wednesday against University of Wisconsin-Green Bay in Mackey Arena.