Purdue and Maryland faced off in a game pivotal to the Big Ten race, in which the Boilermakers are still very much alive. The Terrapins, who sit two games off the conference’s top spot, were aware that they needed to show up in a big way if they wanted to keep their name in the race and pick up a statement win.
There is one way to beat Purdue and that is to limit the beast that is Carsen Edwards. The Big Ten’s leading scorer, who is averaging 24.6 points per game and slightly above that in the Boilermaker’s eight-game winning streak, did not hesitate to get himself involved in the act. From the first possession of the game, which saw Edwards knock down a three in the face of Jalen Smith, who has a humble nine-inch height advantage, Maryland knew this would be no small task.
Efficiency is key in conference play and the Boilermaker’s keeping their first half turnover total down to two allowed them to take an eight point lead into the half. Along with Carsen Edwards’ 17 points, senior Ryan Cline shot 3-3 from beyond the arc. On the defensive end, Purdue limited the production down low by Maryland. Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith had a combined five points in the first period. Every time it seemed that Maryland was able to piece together a few productive possessions, a stop on the defensive end and an explosive attack on the other side of the court allowed Purdue to keep it at a distance.
The second half made this game feel like a tale of two halves, however. Anthony Cowan and Jalen Smith appeared to reconnect wavelengths, allowing Maryland to finally have success down low. Once Purdue began to respect that, Eric Ayala found his stroke and was able to hit a couple of threes.
The Terrapins had a 10-2 run to begin the half and in that time, Carsen Edwards found himself unable to get a rhythm from the field. This comeback was topped off with 10:13 remaining when Cowan was able to receive an outlet pass and throw the alley-oop from mid-court to Jalen Smith, causing the XFinity Center to erupt.
Shooting woes continued for the Boilermakers, who seemed incapable of getting many open looks and when they did, it was not converted.
Part of what allowed Purdue to dominate much of the first half was the offensive rebounding game, specifically sophomore Nojel Eastern who ended with eight boards in total. Scoring was not the only thing that Jalen Smith improved on in the second half, as he grabbed three offensive rebounds. This energy and grit really seemed to separate the Terrapins, who continued to extend their lead in the last 10 minutes.
Moving forward, this blow will not seem to be fatal for Purdue. This matchup is currently the final ranked opponent that they will have to face. Unfortunately for Matt Painter’s bunch, four of their last seven will be on the road. Of their three conference losses, the Boilermakers have been away from home for all of them.
Maryland definitely has one of the more challenging schedules left, especially for a team looking at making a push for big wins. In the next seven days, the Terps will face #6 Michigan in Ann Arbor and #21 Iowa in Iowa City. Also, the Wolverines will be taking a trip to Maryland on March 3. Regardless, this was a large confidence booster for a team that seems to have found an identity.