West Lafayette, IN – The Purdue Boilermakers locked down the Arkansas State Red Wolves Tuesday night 87-46. Purdue began the game with high intensity and pressure allowing no points and forcing five Arkansas State turnovers in the first four and a half minutes and the Boilermakers never looked back. On their cruise to victory they tied a season high in three-pointers made with nine, eight of which they had converted by halftime. It was the second consecutive game the Boilermakers held their opponent under 50 points and the seventh time this season they have held opponents under 62 points.
6’6″ sophomore guard Kendall Stephens led Purdue in scoring with 18 points doing all of his damage from the 3-point line going 6-for-7 from distance. Stephens used his high basketball IQ to find soft spots in the Arkansas State zone all night and put on a shooting clinic with his great stroke.
Down low for the Boilermakers are a pair of 7-foot post players that are going to create matchup problems for most teams in the nation. The first of which is junior A.J. Hammons. Hammons returned to Purdue for his junior season and has started to get in a rhythm after a slow start to the year. Tonight he used his size well and pounded the post scoring 10 points and gathering five rebounds. While Hammons no doubt has talent, he seems to rush his shot in the post and he lacks touch, making his margin for error on a shot very slim. On his jump shot he seems to push the ball more than shoot it, resulting in a flat release on his jumper and free throws. While in the post he draws contact well resulting in plenty of trips to the line.
On defense, Hammons loves to block shots, he sits and hunts waiting to come off his man to alter a shot. Hammons has two big question marks. The first is his rebounding. He doesn’t stay disciplined with his block out and almost seems disinterested at times in pursuing the ball when met with a block out. The second is the biggest, and one that has been questioned his entire career, his consistency. Can he bring it every night? Hammons has first team all big ten talent, no doubt, but can he develop the consistency to achieve that honor is the question.
The most impressive prospect for Purdue was 7’2″ freshman center Isaac Haas. Haas has NBA size and uses it to overpower defenders constantly while playing through contact. Haas has a soft touch around the rim, however, his jump shot has a longer release and is not consistent. On the defensive end, Haas stays on his feet and uses his length to alter just about every shot at the rim. He came into the evening averaging .8 blocks per game and had two blocks tonight, however, that doesn’t represent the number of shots he changes in a game.
Haas is an NBA prospect off of sheer size but he has the game to back it up. The biggest questions for him moving forward are working on his athleticism and feel for the game. Some of his movements are a step slow, which is natural for a freshman. Haas is going to be a very strong candidate for Freshman of the Year in the Big Ten conference.
The Boilermakers will be very competitive in conference play this year. They have the size to cause problems with every team in the Big Ten outside of Wisconsin. Purdue will take on Vanderbilt Sunday before meeting in-state foe, 25th ranked Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, IN.
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