A.J. Hammons

Jorden Kaufman, A.J. Hammons
Associated Press

No. 11 Purdue beats Youngstown State 95-64, goes 11-0

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) Freshman Caleb Swanigan and senior A.J. Hammons both scored 15 points to lead four Purdue players in double figures and the 11th-ranked Boilermakers remained unbeaten with a 95-64 victory over Youngstown State on Saturday.

Hammons added 11 rebounds. Rapheal Davis and Issac Haas both scored 13 points for Purdue (11-0), which had a 54-point second half.

Matt Donlan had 19 points to lead Youngstown State (4-6).

Purdue improved to 11-0 for the first time since the 2009-10 team won its first 14. The Boilermakers have won every game by at least 12 points, pulling away from Youngstown State during the second half.

A 3-pointer from Dakota Mathias gave the Boilermakers a 76-55 lead, and a free throw from Haas extended it to 77-55 with 7:17 remaining. Two free throws by Swanigan with 4:09 to play pushed the lead to 86-59.

A layup by Hammons and consecutive dunks by Hammons and Davis gave Purdue a 61-41 lead with 12:17 remaining, prompting a Youngstown State timeout.

Tied at 18 with 8:58 remaining in the first half, Purdue closed the opening 20 minutes on a 23-12 burst, including 3-pointers from Davis and Ryan Cline, for a 41-30 lead.

Swanigan had 11 points, two rebounds and two assists for the Boilermakers in the first half, and Davis added nine points on three 3-pointers. Purdue was 6 of 11 from beyond the arc before halftime.

TIP-INS

Youngstown State: This was the Penguins second trip ever to West Lafayette, dropping a 65-54 decision on Dec. 17, 1983. … Youngstown State was coming off a week of final exams after a 60-56 loss to American on Dec. 4. … The Penguins have not beaten a Top 25 opponent since 1952 when they defeated No. 19 La Salle 68-57.

Purdue: Boilermakers starting point guard P.J. Thompson left the game with 17:21 remaining in the first half after being poked in the right eye under the basket. … Purdue fans applauded loudly with 5:49 left in the first half when coach Matt Painter inserted the 7-foot-2 Hammons into the lineup with 7-footer Isaac Haas, the first time this season he has played the two together.

UP NEXT

Youngstown State hosts Geneva on Tuesday.

Purdue plays Butler in the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis on Dec. 19.

Scoring options, defense make No. 21 Purdue a Big Ten contender

Matt Painter
Associated Press
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Entering the season the one question mark for No. 21 Purdue was how their perimeter play would combine with a talented front court. If this weekend at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut is any indication, the Boilermakers are deserving of the “contender” label in a competitive Big Ten.

Matt Painter’s team went on a 12-0 second half run Sunday afternoon, pulling away from Florida and winning what was at one time a competitive game by the final score of 85-70. What stood out for Purdue offensively this weekend was the many options they have, which allows for them to make up for off nights from an expected contributor.

One day after A.J. Hammons and Kendall Stephens combined to score 30 points off the bench in their 61-39 win over Old Dominion, it was P.J. Thompson who stepped forward against the Gators. Thompson scored 15 points, grabbed five rebounds and dished out four assists without a single turnover. Thompson’s play in the reserve point guard role not only made up for starter Johnny Hill’s quiet outing (two points, one assists, three turnovers), but it also helped Purdue account for Stephens going scoreless on 0-for-7 shooting.

In total five Boilermakers scored in double figures, with the Big Ten’s best defender in senior Rapheal Davis leading the way with 18 points, shooting 50 percent from the field and 11-for-26 from beyond the arc (which includes Stephens’ 0-for-6). Given the interior scoring Purdue can get from the likes of Hammons, Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan and the all-around game of sophomore forward Vince Edwards, opportunities to score from the perimeter will be there for this group.

The key is that the guards take advantage, and to this point in the season that’s happened. And when someone, in Sunday’s case both Hill and Stephens, struggles there’s another option ready to step forward. Thompson was productive off the bench against Florida, and the same can be said of fellow guard Dakota Mathias who hit two three-pointers during the second half run that essentially decided the outcome.

Of course some will point to the level of competition Purdue ran into this weekend, but keep in mind that they beat two solid teams in Connecticut. ODU will be a contender in Conference USA, and Florida should have a good year especially once the injured Alex Murphy returns to the rotation.

Part of being a contending team is proving that you can take care of the games you’re expected to win. Thus far Purdue’s done exactly that, using the combination of an offense with multiple options and a stifling defense to get the job done. When discussing who Big Ten contenders, the Boilermakers certainly deserve mentioning.

More options equals more competition for Purdue

Matt Painter
Associated Press
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On the heels of their first NCAA tournament appearance in three seasons, Purdue is preparing for a 2015-16 season in which there will be heightened expectations. Of the ten players to average 10.7 minutes or more per contest a season ago nine return, and additions such as grad student Johnny Hill and five-star freshman Caleb Swanigan are expected to have an impact as well.

With that comes increased competition for playing time, and in the Boilermakers’ preseason preparations that’s serving as additional motivation according to Nathan Baird of the Lafayette Journal & Courier. Veterans such as seniors Rapheal Davis and A.J. Hammons, with the former due to be team captain for a third consecutive season, aren’t resting on past accomplishments and neither are their younger teammates.

Because doing so leaves one at risk of finding themselves on the outskirts of Matt Painter’s rotation.

You’ve got to fight day in and day out,” Hammons said. “We’ve got four bigs now, so my spot can get taken at any point. Even though I’ve been here four years and have more experience, it doesn’t really matter, because I know I came in as a freshman and started.”

So did now-sophomore Isaac Haas, who temporarily outplayed Hammons last season and overtook him for starting duties. Hammons adopted the mentality Purdue coach Matt Painter said he wants from his entire roster — that temporary physical pain or mental fatigue are preferable to falling down the depth chart.

Having competition within a roster is definitely a positive, especially if all involved compete while also pushing towards the common goal of winning games. Purdue, which managed to earn a double-bye in the Big Ten tournament, took an important step forward last season and given their talent can do even more in 2015-16.

The question at this stage is just how deep Painter will go in his rotation, with there being a host of possibilities at his disposal. The goal for his players is to make the process a difficult one, by not resting on their laurels and being ready to compete every day.

Purdue center A.J. Hammons to return for senior season

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With graduate student Jon Octeus being the biggest personnel loss for Purdue at the end of the 2014-15 season, one major question remained unanswered: what would 6-foot-11 center A.J. Hammons do? A second team All-Big Ten selection in 2014-15, the junior was faced with the NBA question for a second consecutive spring.

And just as he did last year, Hammons has decided to return to West Lafayette for another season. Hammons announced the news at halftime of the football team’s spring game.

“Earning my degree is one of the most important goals that I have for myself and returning to Purdue next year will enable me to reach that,” Hammons said in a release sent out by the school. “In addition, I feel that our team has a lot of unfinished business to reach next season and I want to be a part of something special.

“Purdue is an outstanding school with great people and the chance to compete for a Big Ten Championship and more is something I want to experience again with my teammates.”

Hammons and rising sophomore Isaac Haas give Purdue a substantial amount of size in the middle, with the latter developing into a quality option as the 2014-15 season progressed. And they have a host of options on the perimeter as well, with rising sophomores Vince Edwards and Dakota Mathias being joined by veterans such as Rapheal Davis, Kendall Stephens and Basil Smotherman.

If they’re one question for Purdue heading into the summer it’s the point guard spot, and with Octeus out of eligibility the Boilermakers will be young there. P.J. Thompson will be a sophomore, and Grant Weatherford is one of two freshmen joining the program with a talented shooting guard in Ryan Cline being the other.

Purdue may not be placed on the level of Maryland and Michigan State when it comes to assessing the contenders in the Big Ten, but they aren’t to be overlooked either. Hammons’ decision to return for his senior season ensures that Matt Painter’s team will be a factor in the conference race.

College basketball’s eight most important NBA Draft decisions

Yogi Ferrell (AP Photo)
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Yogi Ferrell (AP Photo)

Yogi Ferrell, Indiana: No one has more on the line with a little more than a week left before the NBA Draft’s early entry deadline than the Hoosiers, who will be waiting until April 25th to find out whether or not their star point guard will be back on the roster in 2015-16. Ferrell averaged 16.3 points and 4.9 assists last year, but more importantly, he was the point guard that made Indiana’s spread-out offensive attack so dangerous. You can’t guard Ferrell one-on-one, but you can’t help off of James Blackmon, or Robert Johnson, or any of Indiana’s myriad of shooters.

With Thomas Bryant set to join the program next season as well, the Hoosiers have already addressed their issue of rebounding, shotblocking and toughness in the paint. Now they just need their point guard back, because with him, they’re a preseason top 15 team. Without him? The NIT is possible.

READ MORE: Who has declared for the draft, and who is returning to school?

Ty Wallace, Cal: The Golden Bears struggled in Cuonzo Martin’s first season as head coach, but much of that was due to a lack of depth and some injuries. With Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews back, Kameron Rooks healthy, Stephen Domingo eligible and top five recruit Ivan Raab joining the program, Cal as the pieces to be a threat in the Pac-12. But, like Indiana, they need their point guard, Wallace, back. He averaged 17.1 points, 7.1 boards and 4.0 assists last season.

Buddy Hield, Oklahoma: The Sooners are already losing Tashawn Thomas to graduation, and with Frank Booker transferring out of the program, Lon Kruger’s back court depth will already be tested next season. Hield, the reigning Big 12 Player of the Year, is good enough keep Oklahoma in and around the top 15, considering Ryan Spangler, Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard all return. Without him, and the Sooners will have to scrap to ensure a tournament berth.

Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga: Mark Few is already losing his starting back court of Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell to graduation, and with all due respect to Josh Perkins and Silas Melson, that’s a loss that is going to be tough to overcome. Getting Przemek Karnowski and Domas Sabonis back ensures the Zags will have a formidable front line, but Wiltjer’s ability to spread the floor due to his scoring prowess creates all kinds of space on the interior. He’ll be a preseason all-american if he returns.

READ MORE: NBCSports.com’s Preseason Top 25

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Kris Dunn (Getty Images)

Here’s the kicker for Gonzaga fans: It seems going pro is something Wiltjer is actually toying with, but at this point, he’s not an NBA player. But if he gets his degree and decides he wants to start making money playing basketball, can anyone really look down on him for it?

Kris Dunn, Providence: If Kris Dunn returns to school, we’re looking at a first-team all-american that is good enough to carry the Friars back to the NCAA tournament. Without Dunn, who is a late-first round pick, the Friars will likely be back in rebuilding mode. There’s a real chance he comes back, however. Improve his jumper, cut down on those turnovers, and he’s a lottery pick, potentially top ten.

Caris LeVert, Michigan: I’ll just get this out of the way now: I think it would be foolish for LeVert to return to school. He’s broken the same foot twice in the last year, and feet are not a part of the body that professional athletes want to mess with. Playing another year in college is a serious risk, especially if he’s not completely healthy by the start of the year. That said, NBA team are aware of this as well, which means he may have already fallen out of the first round. If he comes back and he’s healthy, we’re looking at an all-american that can climb right back up those draft boards.

With LeVert, Michigan should be really good as well. We all saw how well Beilein had his kids playing by the end of last season, and that was without LeVert or starting point guard Derrick Walton. With LeVert, they’re probably top 25-good. Without him, we’re likely looking at a bubble team.

A.J. Hammons, Purdue: When Hammons is engaged, he’s an all-Big Ten caliber player. This past season, he was engaged, and it helped get Purdue to the NCAA tournament. He’s a defensive menace with a developing post game that would give Purdue a pair of seven-footers on their front line. The Boilermakers still could make an NCAA tournament without him, but if he’s back, they’re a borderline top 25 team.

Jakob Poeltl, Utah: Poeltl is a borderline lottery pick, and it would seem sensible for him to head off to the NBA. But there actually seems to be some doubt in whether or not he is going to go, and if he does decide to come back, the Utes will have at their disposal one of the best big men in the Pac-12. With Poeltl, they should make a second-straight NCAA tournament despite the fact they lose Delon Wright. Without him, they’re probably going to end up being a bubble team.

Rapheal Davis, A.J. Hammons help lead Purdue past No. 20 Ohio State

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On a team that entered Wednesday’s home game against No. 20 Ohio State with six players averaging between 8.8 and 11.0 points per game, Purdue junior center A.J. Hammons has led the way in scoring despite going through occasional bouts with foul trouble. But in three of the Boilermakers’ last four games, all wins, the 7-footer has committed two fouls or less and that has allowed him to have a greater impact on the action.

Wednesday night Hammons didn’t reach double figures in scoring but he was a factor in other areas, as Purdue went on a 10-0 run late int he second half and ultimately held off the Buckeyes 60-58 in West Lafayette. Hammons scored seven points on 3-for-3 shooting from the field, and he also accounted for seven rebounds, seven blocks, two assists and two steals.

Against an Ohio State team that doesn’t have the pieces needed to match up with him, Hammons was at times a commanding presence in the post.

As for the scoring, that was handled by Rapheal Davis (20 points, six rebounds before fouling out) and Jon Octeus (14 points, seven rebounds). Purdue didn’t shoot a high percentage from the field, making 42.2% of their shots, but they did outscore the Buckeyes 19-6 from the foul line. And on a night in which the Buckeyes were without their best perimeter shooter in sophomore Marc Loving, the foul line had a significant impact on the outcome.

D’Angelo Russell scored 20 points to lead the way for Ohio State but he was made to work for his looks, and the freshman shot 7-for-18 from the field as a result. Sam Thompson scored nine points but did so on 4-for-10 shooting and fellow senior Shannon Scott (two points) made just one of his eight field goal attempts, producing numbers that had to be better if the Buckeyes were to account for the loss of their second-leading scorer.

And for that Purdue, which entered the game tops in the Big Ten in field goal percentage defense (conference games only), deserves credit. And the focal point of the defense was Hammons, who served as the last line of defense on multiple occasions and did so without fouling. The good thing for Purdue this season is that they have freshman Isaac Haas to plug into the middle when need be, but Hammons has to stay on the floor (and be engaged) for the Boilermakers be at their best.

That hasn’t been an concern in recent games, which is one reason why Matt Painter’s team is now 7-3 in Big Ten play.