Purdue's depth saves the day

The Boilermakers' bench bailed out the starters in a win over Rider.

WEST LAFAYETTE - From the early individual workouts in August and September, it was evident that this Purdue basketball team would have more depth than it did a season ago.

In fact, coach Matt Painter has said several times that he believes he has at least eight, and possibly nine, starters.

That depth, primarily Sterling Carter, Bryson Scott, Jay Simpson and Rapheal Davis coming off the bench, absolutely saved the Boilermakers on Sunday night in a too close for comfort 81-77 victory against pesky Rider.

Those four combined for 38 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and seven steals on a night when starters A.J. Hammons, Errick Peck and Kendall Stephens were either saddled with fouls or never got going. That trio provided six total points and eight rebounds in 47 collective minutes.

New Jersey-based Rider made seven 3-pointers to Purdue's three, outscored the Boilermakers 24-16 in what became a free throw shooting contest and out rebounded the Big Ten Conference opponent 37-34 on its floor.

The only salvation Purdue had was a lot of depth among non-starters who provided a 45-20 advantage in bench scoring.

Certainly, Ronnie Johnson (16) and Terone Johnson (14) provided 30 points from the starting lineup, but freshman Scott and graduate student Carter were the players who pushed the Boilermakers across the finish line just ahead of Rider.

Scott scored eight of his 11 points in the opening half, and Carter, who finished with 13, scored six huge points down the stretch when it appeared Purdue was in jeopardy of losing a game that would stick out like a sore thumb on any NCAA tournament resume come March.

With the game tied at 68, Carter sank two free throws with 4:28 remaining to give Purdue a 70-68 lead, then got an offensive rebound basket 29 seconds later for a 72-68 advantage.

Carter sank two more pressure-packed free throws with 31.2 seconds to play, extending the lead to 79-75.

When the University of Seattle essentially told Carter last season they no longer really had a need for his services, he sent film of his performances, hoping that Purdue would provide a place for him to exhaust his final season of college eligibility.

Happy to be in West Lafayette, coming off the bench is a role Carter is eager to embrace.

"By starting on the bench, we see what the group before us does and what they don't do," Carter said. "Really, all we are trying to do is be sure that we cover our assignments."

Scott, a heavily recruited high school standout from Fort Wayne Northrop, also likes his role.

"Me and Sterling want to come in and bring energy," Scott said. "We want bring intensity that maybe was lacking. Fortunately tonight, it worked out."

With Simpson and Davis also making big plays down the stretch, the Boilermakers made Painter's claim that he has eight or nine starters look like a very valid one.

"Bryson was great, and our bench was very good," Painter said. "Sterling made plays that helped us seal the victory. Our entire bench, including Jay Simpson, was really good. It is a good thing when you are able to go to some of your other guys. That probably was the difference in the game."

Yes, it absolutely was the difference in Purdue's ability to snatch a victory and improve to 3-0 when without Scott and Carter, and also Simpson and Davis, the Boilermakers likely lose to Rider on Sunday night.

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