A trio of productive freshmen debuts bolstered Purdue's men's basketball team to a 77-64 victory over Liberty in its opening game of the 2020-21 college basketball season at the Space Coast Challenge in Melbourne, Florida.
7-foot-4 freshman center Zach Edey came off the bench to lead the Boilermakers (1-0) in scoring with an efficient 19 points on 9-for-10 shooting in 15 minutes of action. Freshman guards Jaden Ivey and Brandon Newman were the next leading scorers with 12 and 10 points respectively, while also contributing aggressive defensive play on the perimeter.
Ivey sparked the Boilermaker offense early when he made an off-balance jumper that led to a trip to the foul line. Newman produced the highlight of the first half with a thunderous chase-down block after losing the ball to a Liberty steal.
The Boilermakers created offensive opportunities in a variety of ways. Besides the contribution from the freshmen, junior center Trevion Williams dished out five assists and often acted as the focal point in the offense, while junior wings Sasha Stefanovic and Aaron Wheeler combined to rain down five 3-pointers from distance.
It was an overall efficient performance for the Boilermaker offense as the team converted 58.5% of its field goals and hit 50% from deep. Facing off against the second best defensive team in the country in the Flames (0-1), Purdue was able to create offensive chances consistently by working through Williams in the low post and allowing him to find open shooters on the wings.
Purdue's 13-point winning margin does not necessarily tell the entire story of the game. Liberty kept it close throughout the entire first half with blazing shooting from starting guard Darius McGhee (32 points) and an efficient debut from freshman big man Micaiah Abii, who drove to the basket at will and converted a few midrange jumpers early on.
Edey was subbed in at the 15:24 mark in the first half with the Flames holding a tight lead and immediately made an impact, scoring the first three times he touched the ball. His first touch was an alley-oop slam that he effortlessly caught in traffic, while his second saw him rake through a crowd of Flames defenders to gather an offensive rebound and lay it in off of a missed free throw.
• Purdue now plays Clemson (1-0), which beat Mississippi State, 53-42 on Wednesday night in the championship of the Space Coast Challenge in Melbourne, Florida. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.
Purdue Postgame Notes
* Purdue opened the season with a 77-64 win over Liberty in the Space Coast Challenge … the Boilermakers have now won eight straight season openers and are now 15-1 under Matt Painter in season openers.
* Purdue improved to 9-2 all-time against current members of the Atlantic Sun Conference.
* Purdue improved to 20-5 in regular-season tournament since the 2014 Maui Invitational … Purdue is looking for its first tournament title since the 2016 Cancun Challenge.
* Purdue improved to 25-1 all-time under Matt Painter against teams with zero victories, having won 15 straight games against winless teams.
* Head coach Matt Painter won his 338th game in the Big Ten, moving past Thad Matta for eighth on the Big Ten’s all-time wins list (Matta has 337).
* Purdue’s 58.5 (31-of-53) field goal percentage was the second highest in a season opener under Matt Painter (.590 vs. SIU Edwardsville; Nov. 10, 2017).
* Purdue shot 50.0 (9-of-18) from long distance in a season opener for the second time under Painter (.500 vs. Northern Illinois; Nov. 11, 2011).
* Purdue’s freshmen scored 44 of Purdue’s 77 points in the win over Liberty (Edey – 19; Ivey – 12; Newman – 10; Gillis – 3) … the 44 points are the most scored by a freshman class in a game since the freshman class scored 46 against Western Illinois on March 20, 2013.
* Zach Edey scored 19 points on 9-of-10 shooting with five rebounds in just 15 minutes of action … a year ago, there were four games nationally where a player had at least 19 points and five rebounds in 15 minutes or less.
- Purdue Athletics Communications contributed to this report.