WEST LAFAYETTE – Sasha Stefanovic equaled a career-high with 23 points, Purdue scored nearly 1.5 points per possession for one of the most efficient offensive nights in program history and the No. 7 Boilermakers opened their 2021-22 season with a 96-67 victory over an overmatched Bellarmine team tonight at Mackey Arena.
- Purdue doesn't have a 3-point problem: Prior to the season, it was unclear who would provide consistent outside shooting for the Boilermakers apart from Stefanovic and Brandon Newman. Isaiah Thomspon answered the bell tonight, draining five 3s, but Purdue spread the wealth, with five players making at least one. The Boilermakers went 16 for 36 (44%) from long range and also got fouled while shooting 3s three times as the Knights struggled to close out. When Bellarmine got within a point at 21-20 midway through the first half, Thompson drained back-to-back shots from long distance and Jaden Ivey added another in a 9-0 run that all but put the game away. The Boilers are likely going to be able to score in bunches from beyond the arc this season, especially against undersized teams such as Bellarmine that have to double the post. Purdue's bigs are such good passers that post feeds almost always lead to an open 3 if a double comes.
- Caleb Furst can hold his own: This wasn't really a surprise. Furst, a Fort Wayne native and the 2021 Indiana Mr. Basketball, started in his collegiate debut tonight. He poured in his only basket with a dunk off a nice feed from Ivey and helped clean the glass, pulling down nine rebounds. Most importantly, however, nothing looked too fast for him. He was able to mostly stay in front of his man on the perimeter and he moved the ball well in the flow of the offense. He had one chance at a corner 3-pointer that missed badly off the side of the backboard, but was otherwise as rock-solid as anyone could reasonably expect from a freshman in his first game. The Blackhawk Christian graduate played 26 minutes in all and looked like he belonged in on the court, though sophomore Ethan Morton took most of the minutes at power forward down the stretch.
- It's good to be back: Mackey Arena was filled to the rafters and the Paint Crew was in the stands for the first time since March 2020. The return of one of the Big Ten's best atmospheres was a long time coming, but the Boilermaker faithful didn't miss a beat, roaring as loud as ever at big moments. When Thompson made a 3 early in the second half and Ivey followed with a steal and a monster dunk on the other end, all but sealing the victory, the crowd reached its loudest volume of the night and sent the Knights into a timeout with a wall of noise raining down on them.
Player of the Game: Sasha Stefanovic
Stefanovic went just 1 for 6 from 3-point range against Indianapolis in the exhibition game, but exploded tonight, going 5 for 6 from long distance and 6 for 8 from the field overall. He posted his fifth career 20-point game and first since Dec. 1, 2020, with 16 of his points coming in the second half. The fifth-year senior put together an outstanding stretch midway through the second half, when he scored all 12 points in a 12-2 Purdue run on four 3-pointers that came in a 2:25 stretch.
Purdue was opening its 124th season. There was a full crowd at Mackey Arena for an official game for the first time in 612 days. ... Prior to the game, Purdue announced that freshmen Trey Kaufman-Renn (out of Silver Creek) and Brian Waddell (Carmel) will redshirt this season. That makes Furst the only member of the 2021 recruiting class who will play this year. ... Furst's Blackhawk Christian teammate Frankie Davidson, who now plays for Grace, was on hand to watch Furst's college debut. ... Purdue won the rebounding battle 42-22. ... The Boilers went 24 of 29 at the free-throw line, making their first 18 in a row. ... The Boilermakers have won nine straight season-openers by an average of more than 25 points. ... Purdue had 21 assists on 28 made field goals. ... Zach Edey had 16 points and nine rebounds for the Boilers. He got to the foul line 10 times against the undersized Knights. ... Dylan Penn and CJ Fleming led Bellarmine with 14 points each.
Purdue is back in action Friday, when it will take on Indiana State at Mackey Arena. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. and will be live-streamed on the web at www.bigtenplus.com. The Boilermakers beat the Sycamores 80-68 in December 2020 and Indiana State finished the season 15-10 and 11-7 in Missouri Valley play. ISU opened its season tonight with a matchup against Green Bay.