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What we learned about Purdue basketball at the Maui Invitational

WEST LAFAYETTE — Yeah, but ...

Purdue basketball has done this before, running through a challenging nonconference schedule. Stop it with the nonsense. Worry about March when it's March and for now enjoy what you're watching. Even if you're not a Purdue fan, you can at least appreciate it.

By winning the Maui Invitational with three wins in three days last week, the Boilermakers have now won 30 consecutive nonconference regular season games and No. 31 almost surely comes Tuesday night when Texas Southern visits Mackey Arena.

The streak seemed near its end in Hawaii, but Purdue found a way to beat three top 10 teams (coaches poll) in three very different styles.

There was a lot to be learned by seeing the Boilermakers against Gonzaga, Tennessee and Marquette, both good and bad.

HONOLULU, HAWAII - NOVEMBER 22: Head coach Matt Painter of the Purdue Boilermakers speaks to Braden Smith #3 during the first half of their game in the Allstate Maui Invitational at SimpliFi Arena on November 22, 2023 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)
HONOLULU, HAWAII - NOVEMBER 22: Head coach Matt Painter of the Purdue Boilermakers speaks to Braden Smith #3 during the first half of their game in the Allstate Maui Invitational at SimpliFi Arena on November 22, 2023 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)

Matt Painter has a lot of tools in the toolbox

No, Purdue coach Matt Painter wasn't lying when he said he felt comfortable inserting any of his 12 scholarship players into a game.

Different scenarios dictated how Painter used his roster in Hawaii, but what he showed was he'll go into his toolbox and find the right piece for the job.

Myles Colvin. Ethan Morton. Mason Gillis. Caleb Furst. Camden Heide. All had their moments off the bench in big situations to help Purdue grind out three wins.

After the win over Gonzaga last Monday, some were writing off Fletcher Loyer. On Tuesday, they were eating those words.

Zach Edey gets a lot of the attention and deservedly so. College basketball won't see a player like Edey again for a long time.

But the play of Trey Kaufman-Renn, Lance Jones and especially Braden Smith goes a long way in supporting Edey's monster performances.

HONOLULU, HAWAII - NOVEMBER 22: Myles Colvin #5 and Lance Jones #55 of the Purdue Boilermakers celebrate after winning the Allstate Maui Invitational at SimpliFi Arena on November 22, 2023 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)
HONOLULU, HAWAII - NOVEMBER 22: Myles Colvin #5 and Lance Jones #55 of the Purdue Boilermakers celebrate after winning the Allstate Maui Invitational at SimpliFi Arena on November 22, 2023 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)

Free throws are a concern

What was up with Purdue's freebies?

The Boilermakers are going to have to feast at the free-throw line, especially as much as Edey is fouled. Edey missed six in a row against Tennessee and Braden Smith, probably along with Loyer as Purdue's most trusted free-throw shooter, is in a serious foul shooting funk.

In three games, Purdue shot 63.3% (50 of 79), and that's with a respectable 13-for-16 performance against Gonzaga. Smith missed five times in eight chances. For reference, he missed just 14 free throws out of 106 attempts last season.

Too many turnovers

How is this for a stat you wouldn't expect after beating three of the nation's best teams: Purdue was minus-11 in turnover differential at the Maui Invitational.

The Boilermakers had 44 turnovers in three games, with 31 of those coming against Tennessee and Marquette.

Purdue won't be able to keep overcoming nearly 15 turnovers a night, so if the Boilermakers hope to have a longer stay than usual atop the college basketball polls, they'll have to clean that up.

Purdue guard Lance Jones (55) in action over Gonzaga during an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 20, 2023, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
Purdue guard Lance Jones (55) in action over Gonzaga during an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 20, 2023, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

Lance Jones is a difference maker

We're rehashing the obvious here, but how many times can the grad transfer from Southern Illinois prove his worth?

Yes, the three-quarters court buzzer-beater was awesome, but it's his defense that provides another element Purdue didn't have last season.

Jones was disruptive on defense and that'll lead to a lot of easy transition buckets this season. And his speed is needed to match teams with quicker guards like, for example, Marquette.

Sam King covers sports for the Journal & Courier. Email him at sking@jconline.com and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @samueltking.

This article originally appeared on Lafayette Journal & Courier: Maui Invitational championship showcases good, bad of Purdue hoops