Purdue pounds the Panthers

It was smooth sailing for Purdue in its 83-55 win over Eastern Illinois.

WEST LAFAYETTE -- Perhaps it was an omen that this would be Purdue's night. When the opening tip was tossed in the air, the Boilermakers came down with it for the first time this season.

"That started us off right," Ronnie Johnson said with a smile after Purdue's 83-55 win over Eastern Illinois.

The Boilermakers' slow starts were weighing on head coach Matt Painter. Before the game, he called out Purdue's starting five.

"If we're not going to have energy at the beginning of the game, then I'm starting the wrong people," Painter said in the locker room minutes before the game.

Winning the jump was just the beginning of the Boilers' big night. They followed it up with 12 straight points, setting the tone for the rest of the night.

In the opening minutes, Eastern Illinois couldn't buy a bucket. Purdue presented a stout defense that the Panthers couldn't figure out.

"We had a couple good stops," Johnson said. "That's what we need to start the game off right. We got a couple quick buckets."

Purdue's only offensive issues came from beyond the arc, where they posted a porous 0-for-9 in the first half and 4-of-20 on the game. Kendall Stephens, the sharp-shooting freshman, connected on three from long range and gave the Boilermakers a big boost offensively.

Stephens missed his first four attempts from three-point land before getting his stroke corrected in the second half.

"Coach Painter and the coaches have a lot of trust in me and that keeps my confidence going, knowing that they believe in me and what I can do," said Stephens, who posted a season-best 11 points.

While Stephens put together a solid showing, he was outdone by his fellow freshman, Bryson Scott. The point guard posted a game-high 14 points, part of the 35 combined for Purdue's first-year players.

It wasn't just the freshmen leading Purdue. The scoring was spread all around, with seven Boilermakers recording at least eight points.

"It's good to see guys share the basketball and have a lot of different people come close to double digits or have double digits," said Painter.

Much of Purdue's success around the hoop can be credited to sophomore point guard Ronnie Johnson, who tallied 10 points and eight assists. The greatest sign of improvement, though, was that he only had one turnover. His precise passing helped throw off the Panthers and was the engine that kept the Boilermakers running.

"I thought I played like a true point guard today," Johnson said.

Johnson and the Boilermakers' starters answered the call, their bench provided a more production, and the game ended with four walk-ons on the floor to put the win away.

There wasn't much for Purdue to sweat, from the opening tip to the final buzzer.


-- While the win was the main course for Painter, he enjoyed a little dessert, too. Four-star center Isaac Haas faxed in his letter of intent before the game, officially making him a Boilermaker. "I think he's got a chance to be a really good player," Painter said in his first public comments on Haas. "It was a really unique situation for us."

-- Indeed, it was unique. Haas backed out of his Wake Forest commitment and pledged to Purdue after Painter made a push with a weekend visit. In fact, the head coach missed his first in-season practice to visit with Haas in Alabama. "I felt it was that important for our program," Painter said.

-- Purdue reached the 80-point plateau for the third time in four games, shooting 45.9 percent from the field. It connected on 24 of 41 two-point shots and posted 42 points in the paint.

-- Fifth-year senior guard Sterling Carter struggled, missing all five of his shots in 14 minutes of action. After the game, Painter pulled him aside and offered a vote of confidence. "I just try to encourage guys that I think can shoot to continue to do so," he said.

-- Purdue has one more tune-up before traveling to Orlando for a date with Oklahoma State. Next up, it's Siena, coming to Mackey Arena on Sunday.

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Northwestern Wildcats, and currently covers the Purdue Boilermakers. A Chicago native, he resides in West Lafayette.
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