WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP)—Purdue is starting to make a habit of taking frustrations out on its next opponent.
After losing to Southern Methodist by a point in their own tournament six days earlier, the 22nd-ranked Boilermakers responded with an 82-62 drubbing of Evansville on Saturday—their fourth straight win over the Purple Aces at Mackey Arena.
The Boilermakers, who improved to 9-2 for the first time since 1997-98, showed similar intensity against Central Michigan, beating the Chippewas 80-39 four days after a 3-point loss to then-No. 11 Oklahoma.
“This was a much better game,” Purdue coach Gene Keady said. “We out-rebounded them 41-23, but we should have. It was good to get back on the winning track after getting pushed around by SMU.”
Kenneth Lowe scored 17 points to lead five Purdue players in double figures. Reserve Brett Buscher scored a season-high 12 and Evansville native Matt Kiefer added 14 in game he characterized as emotional.
“I grew up watching Purdue, but I also grew up watching Evansville basketball,” said Kiefer, who was 5-of-6 from the field. “I’ve been getting some open looks, and it feels like it’s coming easier now. It’s a credit to the team, too, for getting me the ball when I’m open.”
Evansville coach Steve Merfeld found himself watching Kiefer from the sideline on more than one occasion.
“He is good,” Merfeld said. “He really fits Purdue. He is the kind of man who will just beat you up, and that’s what he did tonight.”
Evansville didn’t back down. Kyle Anslinger led Evansville (1-7) with 16 points, including going 4-of-5 from 3-point range. The Purple Aces shot 41.7 percent on 3s in the first half and got within 39-35 on Lucious Wagner’s running 3 at the halftime buzzer.
But Purdue went on a 19-3 run over a 3:30 span in the second half to defeat Evansville, losers in six of their past eight games after leading at halftime.
Evansville turned in a strong defensive effort to keep the game close, relying on a 2-3 zone to clog the lane and force Purdue’s offense to the perimeter. The Boilermakers responded with 51.9 percent shooting in the second half. That opened the low blocks for Ivan Kartelo, who was 4-of-4 from the field for 11 points and nine rebounds, eight offensive.
“I think it’s obvious that (Purdue’s) size and strength wore us out,” Merfeld said. “We know how strong and physical they are. We played hard, but Purdue is a Top 25 team.”
Lowe was just 3-of-11 from the field, but was relentless in getting to the foul line. Lowe, who leads the Big Ten in free throw percentage, finished 9-of-10 from the line.