Purdue's Carsen Edwards (3) and Ryan Cline celebrate during the first half of the men's NCAA Tournament college basketball South Regional final game against Virginia, Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Saturday, March 30, 2019 9:50 pm
NCAA Tournament Halftime: Purdue 30, Virginia 29
DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Purdue picked up exactly where it left off against Tennessee: knocking down shots from everywhere.
Ryan Cline and Carsen Edwards combined for three 3-pointers in the first three minutes of the game, getting the very pro-Purdue crowd into the game almost immediately. This is one of the best atmospheres in which the Boilers have played this season and it's essentially a road game for the Cavaliers. When Edwards hit the third of those 3-pointers, the arena was so loud I couldn't hear what the reporter directly next to me was saying.
Despite that early flurry from beyond the arc, Virginia's defense has been absolutely as advertised overall. The Cavaliers make everything extremely difficult in the lane and the Boilermakers have struggled mightily to get anything inside the 3-point line. Of their first 17 points, 15 came from beyond the arc, a pace that isn't sustainable going forward. If Virginia can continue to force Purdue to shoot from the outside, the Cavaliers will be in good shape, even considering how hot the Boilers have been. Sooner or later, that red-hot shooting has to come down to earth, right?
On defense, the Boilermakers' biggest key has been rebounding. Virginia's struggles on that end of the floor from the first few rounds of the tournament have carried over and the Cavaliers aren't getting much that comes easy. They're shooting 41 percent at halftime and have gotten a good portion of their opportunities from offensive rebounding. When Purdue holds them to one shot, Virginia has been largely ineffective. Forward Mamadi Diakite is one of the only players that Purdue has had trouble stopping and he leads the Cavaliers with 10 points.
From a big picture perspective, it's difficult to really assess the first half because Purdue shot so well from deep and Virginia so poorly. At halftime, the Boilermakers are 8 for 19 from beyond the arc and the Cavaliers are 2 for 12. Part of that terrific shooting for Purdue is because of tremendous offensive execution. Tom Izzo has called Purdue "the best cutting and screening team in the country" and the Boilermakers have played like it in the first half, running their shooters through a maze of picks and rubs to get them open shots. Carsen Edwards in particular has gotten most of his looks in that way. Of his nine shots, eight have come from beyond the 3-point line and he actually was able to sit for a rest in the first half, which he didn't do at at all against Tennessee. Virginia freshman Kihei Clark has done a very good job of sticking with Edwards on the perimeter, but when Kyle Guy has been on him, the Purdue guard has been able to slither free. He's got 16 points, on his way to another huge night, unless Virginia starts sending two defenders at him every time he touches the ball.
Late in the half, Purdue went a little cold from beyond the arc and Virginia climbed back from a 10-point to deficit to cut it to as few as one. Purdue settled down, remained poised, and held on to the lead at halftime. The Boilermakers haven't panicked and they haven't been intimidated by the best defense in the country. They've executed and played physical defense. It's the same formula that's gotten them here and 20 more minutes of it will get them to the Final Four.