Shooting ability of freshman guards can help Purdue’s big men

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In their 15-17 season last year Purdue endured its share of issues on the offensive end of the floor, shooting 42.7% from the field (ninth in the Big Ten) and 32.7% from beyond the arc (eighth in the Big Ten). With center A.J. Hammons back for his junior season and another seven-footer in freshman Isaac Haas expected to contribute, head coach Matt Painter is looking for options who can help space the floor with consistent perimeter shooting.

Sophomore Kendall Stephens, the team’s best returning three-point shooter, is expected to be an option but the Boilermakers will need more players to step forward on the perimeter if they’re to make a move up the Big Ten standings. In their 90-49 exhibition win over Carroll College Friday night, Purdue received contributions from two freshmen who are looking to crack the rotation.

P.J. Thompson (16 points) and Dakota Mathias (12) combined to shoot 8-for-11 from three in Purdue’s comfortable victory, and in the two exhibitions the newcomers combined to shoot 11-for-17 from beyond the arc. By comparison, the rest of Purdue’s roster shot a combined 4-for-30 from deep in the exhibitions. According to Nathan Baird of the Lafayette Courier-Journal, following the game Thompson noted that the team saw some things on film that they could possibly exploit with he and Mathias being the ones to take advantage.

“When we watched film, we knew this team was going to pack it in on the weak side to help take care of our 7-footers,” said Thompson, who built off of a seven-point, five-assist, four-steal performance in the first exhibition. “We knew if we moved on the weak side and set screens for each other and spotted up, we were going to get some looks.

“Our teammates did a really good job of feeding us the ball, and we were fortunate enough to knock some shots down. But really, it all goes to the presence of our bigs and them drawing all the attention and us feeding off of that.”

Obviously from a talent standpoint Carroll isn’t as formidable as the teams Purdue will see in regular season play, especially when they hit the conference portion of their slate. However exhibitions are helpful in allowing a team the opportunity to work on things against outside competition.

Sophomores Stephens and Bryson Scott and graduate transfer Jon Octeus will clearly be key guards for Purdue this season, but so will Thompson and Mathias as they’ll provide additional depth and production on the perimeter. And if they can carry their shooting into the regular season, Purdue’s big men will have more room to operate in the post.