The Boilermakers went 1-1 this weekend, defeating No. 20 Virginia Commonwealth University and falling short to Florida State University in the Emerald Coast Classic Championship in Destin, Florida.
Offensively for Purdue (4-3), both games were a struggle. Both games were expected to be a defensive battle due to Purdue’s defensive prowess, but the Boilers missed a lot of open shots, which kept the two games close.
Purdue shot 40.9% from the field against Virginia Commonwealth (6-2) and 33.9% from the field against Florida State (7-1). From the 3-point line, the Boilers were even worse, shooting 25% against the Rams and 20.8% against the Seminoles. While both Virginia Commonwealth and Florida State are excellent defensive teams, Purdue’s 3-point shots were largely uncontested in both games.
The 3-point shot is a staple of head coach Matt Painter’s offense, so Purdue’s struggle shooting the ball is concerning, especially since this team has been inconsistent from outside the arc so far this season. Purdue also struggled to take care of the ball. The team committed 24 turnovers against Florida State, which was a big part of their loss.
Even though Purdue shot poorly, it held its opponents to low percentages as well. Florida State shot 37.9% from the field and an abysmal 5.9% from 3.
“They make it so hard for your team to run offense,” Painter said. “Obviously our defense is definitely ahead of our offense at this time in terms of what we can do and can’t do versus quality opponents.”
Virginia Comonwealth didn’t do much better, shotting just 44.2% from the field and 17.6% from the 3-point line. The Purdue defense forced 13 turnovers against Florida State and 21 against Virginia Commonwealth, a team that averages just 14 a game.
Freshman guard Isaiah Thompson stepped up for Purdue and played some big time minutes in the midst of junior guard Nojel Eastern’s struggles. Thompson played 15 minutes against Virginia Commonwealth and scored 7 points. His impact doesn’t necessarily show on the box score, but his ball handling and quickness helped the Boilermakers survive the Rams’ defensive pressure.
Against Florida State, Eastern spent most of the second half in foul trouble and eventually fouled out. This forced Thompson to play for 33 minutes. Once again, he stepped up and performed when his team needed him. In the final seconds of overtime, the ball was in his hands when it was time to make a play. While his shot didn’t go in, this weekend could prove to be valuable for his confidence.
“It’s definitely a confidence-booster anytime you get to go against pressure like that,” Thompson said. “I thought I did a good job. I know it’s a lot of things, but the more I play, the more I learn. I feel like I was a lot more comfortable than usual.”
Although Purdue didn’t capture the tournament championship, fans should be encouraged by the Boilers’ performance. Purdue didn’t do well offensively, but still managed to put itself in position to win both games.
The Boilermakers return home Wednesday and will face off against the University of Virginia in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, a rematch from the Elite Eight last season.