Purdue said they wanted to come into Arkansas and win, but that’s what a team is supposed to say. Despite the two teams being ranked in the top-15, and this being a road game for Purdue, it was an exhibition that wouldn’t matter for either team’s record. It was a game for charity, to raise money for the United Way.
They didn’t really care all that much about winning, right?
If any illusion existed about how serious Purdue was taking this season and this game, the sight of 7’4″ Zach Edey diving for a loose ball and colliding with Arkansas’ Davonte Davis and the game tied at 65 proved that Edey and the Boilers weren’t willing to accept a loss, even in the pre-season.
Edey’s hustle would save Purdue the ball, and after Davis was helped off the floor by trainers, would give Purdue the lead 67-65 on a basket inside and just two minutes left in the game.
But Arkansas wanted to win, too, and after Smith pushed Purdue’s lead to 69-66 with under a minute left, Tramon Mark hit a three for Eric Musselman’s Razordbacks.
Both teams wanted to win so much that 40 minutes of action wasn’t enough. A Purdue turnover on a chance to have the last possession turned into a missed El Ellis lay up at the other end and the teams would head into a 5:00 overtime tied at 69-69.
Then again, both teams hadn’t played a regular season game yet, and the start of overtime looked like two teams not at their peak. But the game didn’t lack in intensity, with Edey’s two free throws being matched by Ellis’s lay up and a foul that gave Arkansas a 72-71 edge.
Another floater for Ellis would give Arkansas the three point lead.
Tramon Mark would extend the lead to five with a mid-range jumper over Ethan Morton, but Braden Smith would find Lance Jones on a kick-out for three that cut the Arkansas lead to 76-74 with just over 40 seconds to play. One of two free throws would get Purdue the ball back and a timeout would set Purdue up for another chance to tie it with 22.5 seconds on the clock, Arkansas up 77-74.
Lance Jones was fouled before the in bounds and would hit the second free throw to pull Purdue within two and Purdue would have to send Arkansas to the line with 20.1 and its big man Zach Edey to the bench with his fifth foul.
That would seal the game for Arkansas, 81-77.
The game was tied after regulation, but it was Purdue’s first half play that cost them the win after struggling in key areas that cost them its game in the NCAA Tournament last March. Purdue turned the ball over 11 times and went 2 of 13 in the first half.
Trey Kaufman-Renn who was supposed to alleviate some of Purdue’s offensive dips from last year struggled in this one, scoring 9 points, but turning the ball over 4 times. Kaufman-Renn struggled from the line, but came up clutch late, hitting a shot through a foul and making his only free throw of the game to pull Purdue within 1 at 63-62. Kaufman-Renn was 1 of 4 for the game from the free throw line.
Purdue wouldn’t have been in the game if it weren’t for a strong start to the second half by Fletcher Loyer who scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half including 8 points in short order, knocking down a three, making two shots at the rim through contact, and converting on one of two And-1’s.
After missing his first four three-point attempts, Mason Gillis came alive for Purdue in the second half. Gillis finished 3 of 8 from three and though he didn’t get the start, he finished the game for Painter and had 13 points.
Reigning Player of the Year Zach Edey never got unleashed, scoring 15 points and grabbing 9 rebounds in 24 minutes of action.
Braden Smith finished the game with 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists and played 37 minutes despite going to the bench briefly in the second half with a lower leg issue.
Not much went well for Purdue in the first half.
Zach Edey caught his first foul on the first play of the game, and then his second with almost 10 minutes to play in the first half. The big man and reigning National Player of the Year avoided foul trouble almost all of last season, but Purdue was forced to play without him for most the first half. Edey had just 8 minutes and never got going, struggling to get the ball in a good spot, and scored just once on a put back. He had 3 rebounds.
Unfortunately for Purdue, last season’s woes showed themselves against Arkansas. Bothered by Arkansas’ length, Braden Smith started strong, hitting two threes on pull ups against a drop coverage on the pick and roll, but turned the ball over 4 times. Smith led Purdue in scoring with 8 points.
Trey Kaufman-Renn was inserted into the starting lineup to offer more scoring punch, but the redshirt sophomore looked more like his early season self, turning the ball over 3 times and struggling to get clean looks inside to start the game. He had 6 points on three of five shooting, converting on a spinning hook shot and cleaning up on the offensive glass, but missed two free throws late in the first half.
No Purdue player knocked down a three-pointer besides Braden Smith. Purdue with 2 of 13 as a team in the first half. Lance Jones, starting alongside Loyer and Smith, missed two threes but was fouled on a third attempt and made two of three free throws. His lone turnover was a strip near mid court that led to an Arkansas lay up at the other end.
Myles Colvin was one of the few bright spots for Matt Painter, making his only shot of the first half, a baseline pull up and blocking two shots at the rim.