Lithuania 85, USA 74: Purdue Settles for Silver

PurdUeSA just did not have it today. Lithuania used a combination of excellent offensive rebounding and timely shooting to pull away from PurdUeSA in the gold medal game of the World University Games in Taipei. Purdue really missed Caleb Swanigan, as it could not keep the Lithuanians off the offensive glass. Lithuania had 17 offensive rebounds, with 7 of them coming in the 4th quarter lading to a ton of second chance points.

Dontas Tarolis had 13 points and 12 rebounds, 9 of them coming on the offensive glass as the Lithuanians could not be kept off the glass. Notre Dame’s Martinas Geben also had 12 points and 4 rebounds, 3 of them coming on the offensive glass. Lithuania also was 8 of 20 from long range.

It also did not help that Purdue went cold from three after leading the tournament from long range. The 74 points was the lowest point total for a U.S. team that was averaging well over 100 coming in. It showed that this was the 7th game in 9 days as Purdue was 5 of 19 from three.

Carsen Edwards led Purdue with 23 points, but it was not efficient as he was 10 of 24 from the floor. Vince Edwards had 16 on 7 of 11 shooting, but was mostly quiet in the second half. Isaac Haas had 17 points and 6 rebounds.

It is clear Purdue has a lot to learn, but there is a lot to be excited about. When the shooting was on, Purdue was extremely dangerous if not lethal. They struggled with the slash and kick game that the Israelis and Lithuanians exhibited. Israel took Purdue to overtime and Lithuania’s complete dominance on the glass turned the Gold medal game. Purdue led 36-29 shortly before halftime and 38-36 at the half, but once the Lithuanians went ahead in the third quarter Purdue could not get stops or keep them off the glass.

Jacquil Taylor probably had the best tournament of any newcomer (and he still feels like a newcomer even if this is his 4th year in the program). He was a strong rebounder that attacked the glass every game. His offensive game was still a little limited, but he had 7 rebounds in 13:32 of playing time against Lithuania. It was foul trouble that really limited him today.

Dakota Mathias was not his usual self in this game, but still had 9 points. PJ Thompson was held scoreless and Ryan Cline had only 5 points. Another glaring stat is Purdue had just 9 assists on 30 made field goals. We devolved into 1 on 1 basketball and that does not work well for us. Dakota, Jacquil and Nojel also fouled out of the game.

Overall the loss stings, but it is not one that affects Purdue coming into the 2017-18 season. We’re not going to have a stretch of 7 games in 9 days at any point. The worst stretch will be three in three days in the Bahamas. Lithuania is also a team filled with European professionals and Division I caliber players too like Geben (who had 9 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists for Notre Dame against Purdue last December). They are a very good team and this was a good test.

You also saw that there is a pretty clear rotation taking shape. The starting five of Dakota, Vince, PJ, Carsen, and Haas was mostly excellent. Ryan Cline and Jacquil were usually the first guys off the bench. Nojel eastern played the most of the incoming freshmen, while Eden Ewing and Aaron Wheeler did not play at all against Israel or Lithuania.

There is still plenty of reason for excitement coming into the year. This is going to be a very good, experienced team. Counting the three exhibitions it already has 11 games under its belt and, for the most part, it was dominant against the competition it faced. It honestly looked like we ran out of gas in the second half and got crushed on the boards. Find out a way to rebound better (where Biggie will be missed most) and this team is fine.

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