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With Its Big Men Bottled Up, Purdue Rains Threes In Season-Opening Win

Stan Jastrzebski

Early last year, when Purdue opponents played hack-a-Hammons or hammer-a-Haas against Purdue centers A.J. and Isaac, the resulting free throws were sometimes an adventure.

This year's team has added another big man, highly-touted freshman Caleb Swanigan, but the free throws are now more often freebies for the Boilermakers than for their opponents.

On a night when North Carolina A&T seemed determined to use a zone defense to keep the Boilers from using their size advantage inside (and proved it by forcing a couple early turnovers on interior passes), Coach Matt Painter's team scored both from the charity stripe and outside the three-point arc.

Fifteen of Purdue's first 21 points came on 3-pointers, with junior Kendall Stephens hitting four of the five long-range shots. For the game, the Boilers attempted 31 threes and made 12 of them. Freshman Ryan Cline -- recruited for his shooting -- missed his first two three-pointers as a Boiler, but made his final four to tie Stephens for the most makes on the team.

The 36 points on outside shots were almost as many as the visiting Aggies collected on all their shots combined in a 81-40 Purdue victory -- nearly the same score as Purdue's season-opening 80-40 win over Samford last year.

Even though the Boilers were playing without Hammons -- on the bench with an issue Painter hasn't publicly disclosed -- the team quickly got several Aggie starters in foul trouble and banked 21 points from the charity stripe.

Hammons wasn't on the floor, but Haas -- a defensive liability at times as a freshman -- picked up where his senior teammate left off. The sophomore swatted three of the team's seven blocks, helped limit the Aggies to just 14 points in the paint on a night when the team shot only 24-percent from the floor and tallied a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) for good measure.

It was part of a balanced scoring attack for the home team, with six Boilers in double figures. Swanigan led all players with 11 rebounds.

Purdue (1-0) continues its non-conference schedule at home against Vermont Sunday at 2 p.m.