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Purdue Big Man Haas Plays Sizable Role In 77-55 Victory Over Lehigh

Stan Jastrzebski

In a week where holiday tournaments are sure to play havoc with national rankings, Purdue's men's basketball team came into Saturday night's game knowing it needed just an average shooting night and a victory over winless Lehigh to improve its own standings in the polls.

However, with 11 teams in the Associated Press top 25 losing in the past week, including four ranked higher than Purdue (Indiana and Cal twice apiece and Arizona and Miami once each), the only accurate shooting the Boilers did in the first half was from the free throw line, where they were 10-of-12.

But when an opponent shoots 24-percent from the field, it's easier to survive shooting 36-percent in the opening 20 minutes. And when your 7'2" center decides to take extra initiative on offense, it becomes even easier.

To combat the poor shooting, the Boilers pushed a ten-point halftime lead to 18 by going to the paint to open the second 20 minutes, getting a pair of layups, a turnaround jumper and an offensive rebound putback from sophomore center Isaac Haas, as well as a running shot off glass from Vince Edwards for their first five buckets of the half.

The assertiveness Haas showed in the second half was lacking during his freshman season, but has been self-evident this year as he continues to steal minutes (and starts) from senior veteran A.J. Hammons. Haas came into the game shooting almost 77-percent from the field and proceeded to pour in a game-high 24 points on 8-of-11 from the floor (73-percent). He shot a similar percentage from the free throw line, where he converted eight of his 10 tries. Those numbers translated into a 38-24 scoring edge down low for the home team and ameliorated the poor first-half shooting somewhat.

Purdue played without senior defensive leader Raphael Davis, who sat on the bench in street clothes, but still held the Mountain Hawks to 30-percent shooting for the game, including missing 17 of their 21 three-point tries. However, Purdue -- which made 18 threes against Vermont earlier this year -- didn't fare much better from beyond the arc, shooting 4-of-19.

Turnovers continue to be a bugaboo for Matt Painter's team, as the Boilers committed 12 and threw the ball away five more times than did Lehigh on Saturday.

Purdue (6-0) plays at Pittsburgh Tuesday night in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge.