Guards beginning to thrive as Purdue hosts Minnesota

Purdue freshman guard Carsen Edwards scored 19 points in his first Big Ten game on Wednesday.
Doug McSchooler/AP

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Two of the Big Ten’s most impressive early season teams — No. 15 Purdue, which has won seven in a row, and Minnesota, which already has four more victories than it amassed in 2015-2016 — will collide on Sunday in Mackey Arena.

At 12-2, 1-0 in the Big Ten after crushing Iowa 89-67 on Wednesday night, Purdue has a more mature pulse this season, getting improved guard play from juniors P.J. Thompson and Dakota Mathias along with freshman Carsen Edwards.

Edwards scored 19 in his first Big Ten game, Mathias added 17 and point guard Thompson has 53 assists and only 10 turnovers through 14 games.

While power forward Caleb Swanigan (averaging 17.8 points and 12.4 rebounds) and 7-2 center Isaac Haas (14.4 points and 5.4 rebounds) are the Boilermakers’ 1-2 punch, three starting guards have made Purdue a more complete team, one that is averaging 84.6 points a game.

“I try to make sure that we are ready to play from the beginning,” Thompson said Friday. “Our team has been ready to play more times than not. We try to get more film time in and we study the playbooks the coaches give us.

“But if you don’t look at it and learn, then it’s not going to help you. I’m more vocal now. I make sure I talk during warmups. It’s nothing too big. It’s just little stuff.”

Purdue led Iowa and Big Ten scoring leader Peter Jok 49-25 at halftime and increased the advantage to as many as 31 points during the second half.

“I think it shows the maturity of our team, the way we came out to start each half in the Iowa game,” Mathias said. “I think it was a big step for us. We’re doing a good job of moving the ball and finding the open man.”

Junior forward Vince Edwards said Carsen Edwards’ 19-point effort in his first conference game was eye-opening. Vince and Carsen are not related.

“It was major,” Vince Edwards said. “He is a bad man. To come out as a freshman — in your first Big Ten game — I was really impressed with him. And he did it in a lot of different ways. That was a nice start, to come out fearless and ready to go.”

Coach Matt Painter has rotated eight players and has gotten solid production with a variety of combinations.

“I think for our guys to understand how to play at times with different lineups is important,” Painter said. “For the most part, we’ve stayed with how we play and make the right play and have good shot selection.”

For Minnesota, improving to 12-2 after going 8-23, 2-16 in the Big Ten last season is reason for optimism, although the Golden Gophers lost their Big Ten opener Tuesday night at home to Michigan State, 75-74, in overtime.

“These games in this league always seem to come down to one or two possessions,” Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said. “There will be plenty more close games. Hopefully, we can be on the other side of that.

“This is the most complete team we have had. Getting that feeling of winning again has really breathed life into the program. I always thought long-term that we were going to have to take a step backward to take two forward.”

Minnesota sophomore forward Jordan Murphy, averaging 10.6 points and 8.6 rebounds, said his team must keep the Michigan State loss in perspective as it prepares to play red-hot Purdue.

“We have to keep in mind that we are 12-2,” Murphy said. “It’s not like we are 7-5 or 5-7.”