Hoosier State Hoops: Purdue Punches Ticket to Sweet 16

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Purdue, following wins against Old Dominion and Villanova, moved on to its third Sweet 16 in a row as both games showed what will make Purdue a tough out in the NCAA Tournament.

Against Old Dominion, the Boilermakers started off with a 32-19 edge and never let up as they kept the double digit lead that eventually led to a 61-48 win. Purdue kept that lead despite Nojel Eastern not being able to play due to him hurting his ankle in warmups.  

Eastern’s replacement in the starting lineup was Eric Hunter Jr. and he played great in his first start. Forget about the box score. In this situation, he came ready to play. Hunter had a career high in minutes with 23 and he did not play like he was rattled in the moment.

While Hunter helped Purdue not miss a beat, players like Aaron Wheeler, who I consider an “X-Factor” for Purdue, knocked down all three of his shots. Wheeler dropped seven points that were big given the absence of Eastern. When Wheeler becomes aggressive, he can take this Purdue team into a different realm.

Villanova, a March Madness powerhouse, was up next for Purdue, but the result was not what I expected as the Boilers steamrolled the Wildcats 87-61, their best game of the season.

Carsen Edwards was sensational. It was the best game I have ever seen him play. He dropped a career high 42 points on 12-21 shooting. The shooting slump he was in seemed to disappear in this game. His critics have really bashed the shot selection, but there were very few times he had a bad shot. It felt like he realized that he had to figure this out so that his team can be in the best position.

Edwards’ career night was not the only great news as Eastern came back into the starting lineup from his injury. He did not have the typical double-double he normally has, but just getting him back on the floor was so important. His defense and his ability to be an athletic playmaker changes how Purdue plays. Eastern played 27 minutes, and that is a lot, but they did not have to play him as much as they normally do because of the blowout win.

Ryan Cline struggled against Old Dominion but found his touch for Purdue just in time. He was 4-8 from behind the arc against Villanova as opposed to when he shot 1-11 against Old Dominion. Cline certainly could not have two back to back games where he was awful. There needed to be a better performance and he gave it to them in what was a huge game.

This week should be extremely encouraging for Purdue fans as the Boilermaker’s play  showed the many ways they can win basketball games and having those experiences help you as you move further into the tournament.

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