Purdue’s top defender from a season ago is now a college graduate, but the Boilermakers’ defense is earning high marks without him.
Having ridden a stifling defense to an 8-1 record and a three-game winning streak, No. 19 Purdue looks to continue its strong play Saturday night when it hosts a North Florida team likely to be overmatched.
The Boilermakers lost two-time Big Ten defender of the year Chris Kramer - dubbed irreplaceable by coach Matt Painter - to graduation, but they haven’t seemed to miss a beat. Purdue is limiting opponents to 56.1 points per game and 38.3 percent shooting, and has yet to allow more than 67 points in a contest.
The Boilermakers have allowed an average of 53.3 points while starting December 3-0. They won 76-58 at Valparaiso on Tuesday, pulling away down the stretch as E’Twaun Moore held Crusaders star Brandon Wood without a field goal after halftime.
Moore also thrived on the other end of the floor after the break, scoring 14 of his 23 points. The senior guard is averaging 20.6 points, most in the Big Ten.
“We ran more motion and just tried to spread them and have good spacing, and really tried to utilize E’Twaun when he got one-on-one,” Painter said.
JaJuan Johnson and Kelsey Barlow added 13 points apiece as Purdue won its first game without third-leading scorer John Hart (8.4). The sophomore guard is expected to miss at least a month with a stress fracture in his right foot, but the Boilermakers appear to have the depth to withstand his absence. They’ve placed four players in double figures in five of nine games.
Purdue will now put its 12-game non-conference home winning streak on the line when it faces the Ospreys (4-4) for the first time.
The streak doesn’t appear to be in serious jeopardy. North Florida has lost two games to ranked opponents this season by an average of 42.0 points.
The Ospreys, who fell 95-49 to then-No. 5 Pittsburgh on Nov. 13 and lost 96-58 at then-No. 15 Missouri one week later, certainly don’t shy away from top competition - their next game is Tuesday against No. 25 Texas.
North Florida saw its three-game winning streak snapped last Saturday with a 74-64 loss to Atlantic Sun conference rival Stetson. The Ospreys allowed the Hatters to shoot 54.3 percent.
“Obviously, this was not the result we wanted,” coach Matthew Driscoll told North Florida’s official website. “We have got to get better on the defensive end.”
Parker Smith led the Ospreys with 13 points off the bench. The transfer from Tennessee State is averaging a team-high 11.5 points despite being a reserve for all eight games.