WEST LAFAYETTE -- On the opening possession, Central Connecticut State guard Kyle Vinales saw an opening in the paint and drove for a shot. Out of nowhere came A.J. Hammons, swatting the shot into next week. This set the tone for Purdue’s 109-73 win, but also more than that.
It was Hammons’ first game back off a three-game suspension, revealing the Boilermakers’ new look in full form. The results were nothing short of stellar—something Purdue can hope to see more of.
The Boilermakers were dominant on the defensive end, holding the Blue Devils to just 34.6 percent. They transitioned at ease, setting up whatever was necessary on offense. And they posted 109 points, the most Purdue has scored in the Matt Painter era. Much of that was due to Hammons’ presence in the middle.
“He’s seven feet and one of the best in the country,” said sophomore guard Rapheal Davis. “Teams are going to draw a lot of attention to him. When you have him in there, teams are going to draw attention to him. He draws open shots for everybody.”
Hammons finished with 12 points and a career-high seven blocks in the win. More importantly, he played with hustle and energy, fulfilling a vow to his teammates.
“I owed it to them for everything,” Hammons said after the game.
With Hammons on the floor, everything changed from Purdue’s struggle of a season-opener. The offense flowed with smooth, smart passing and set up open look after open look. The Boilermakers put on a clinic.
“I thought we were more unselfish, we shared the basketball,” Painter said.
Central Connecticut State head coach Howie Dickenman didn’t temper his words quite like Painter.
“We got manhandled—inside and outside,” Dickenman said. “We had a couple bright spots that didn’t really need to be acknowledged.”
The game can be summed up better with Dickenman’s words. There wasn’t much the Blue Devils could do to slow down Purdue. Senior guard Terone Johnson led the Boilermakers with 17 points, one of five to tally double-figure scoring. Painter emptied the bench at the game’s end, and still, all but two Purdue players factored in the scoring.
It wasn’t always a one-sided game. In fact, CCSU led by five near the midway point of the first half. Purdue dashed any hopes the Blue Devils had, going on an 18-0 run to take control.
“We decided we were going to lock down and play harder than we were before,” said senior forward Errick Peck, who posted 11 points in his second game with the Boilermakers.
Purdue’s only scoring drought came in the game’s final minutes, when it went more than four minutes without the bucket that would break the 100-point mark. A frustrated Mackey Arena grumbled with each miss. Finally, walk-on guard Stephen Toyra busted through with a layup. This was the game’s only drama.
With Hammons manning the middle, everything went right for the Boilermakers. They can only hope this will be trend.
-- Matt Painter has made no secrets about the fact that he loves Purdue’s depth. On Wednesday, the bench provided 29 of the Boilermakers’ 109 points.
-- The only down moment for Hammons came at the first-half buzzer when he missed a screen that would’ve given Bryson Scott an open look from three. Instead, Scott was stuffed and didn’t get the shot away. Painter was quick to pull Hammons away and offer some words. There were many more highs than lows, though.
-- Central Connecticut State guard Kyle Vinales led all scorers with 22 points, but that came on just 6-of-21 from the field. He had averaged more than 30 points entering Wednesday, but the Boilermakers were able to contain him.
-- After the game, CCSU coach Howie Dickenman was visibly frustrated. He used the word “Helpless” to describe his team.
-- Purdue returns to action on Sunday evening when it hosts Rider at Mackey Arena.