Big Ten recognizes that Purdue’s Vince Edwards is ever improving

Purdue's Vincent Edwards (12) goes to the basket against Indiana's Justin Smith during the first half of a game Sunday in Bloomington. (By The Associated Press)

Purdue men’s basketball coach Matt Painter made the conscious decision to sub out guys on 15 different occasions in the second half of the Boilermakers’ 74-67 victory at Indiana on Sunday.

Not only did he sub players out, but Painter’s best players weren’t exempt from that.

Senior guards Dakota Mathias and P.J. Thompson each came out of the game for a time, while senior center Isaac Haas was replaced by redshirt freshman Matt Haarms in five different situations over the final 20 minutes.

Even ultra-talented sophomore scorer Carsen Edwards was called to the bench once.

But Painter never did pull senior forward Vince Edwards from the game, which wasn’t clearly decided until the final minute.

Nope, in a game of this magnitude, and one thisclose, Vince Edwards is staying out on the floor.

Edwards scored 13 of his 19 points in the final half against the Hoosiers, and following his tremendous 30-point effort less than 72 hours earlier against Michigan, the Big Ten Conference was impressed enough to name him as the league’s current Player of the Week on Monday.

“He’s letting things come to him,” Painter said of Edwards recently. “He’s such a good passer. He can handle the basketball. He’s got great experience… and he’s been letting things come to him here in the past month.

“He’s been very good.”

Some might argue that “very good” doesn’t do the 6-foot-8 athlete justice, but Painter understandably tends to be a perfectionist.

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Edwards is crushing his previous career-high of 5.4 rebounds per game by pulling down 7.7 each night and with 11 more points, four more rebounds and 33 more assists, he will become just the third player in the Big Ten over the past 25 years to accumulate 1,500 career points to go with 700 rebounds and 400 assists.

He has indeed picked up his level of play over the past month, but most noticeably with his scoring.

In the Boilermakers’ initial 14 games, Edwards scored at least 19 points just once. However, over the past nine games, he has reached that mark (or surpassed it) in seven outings.

“I love him at that spot as a 4 (power forward),” Painter said.

The Purdue coaches played Edwards at that specific position at times last season, as they juggled playing time for Haas, as well as the 2017 Big Ten Player of the Year (forward Caleb Swanigan).

Veteran Michigan coach John Beilein said this year’s lineup is more confounding to his team than last year’s.

“Caleb Swanigan is a really good player,” Beilein said recently following his team’s second loss to Purdue this season. “But in the college ranks, the 4-man, if he’s playing the 4-man, he’s usually a guy that’s a driver or whatever. There are challenges there now with Edwards. This is the way we’ve played for years with a combo, he’s like a point forward, Edwards is.

“While they had a tremendous year with Swanigan, this team, for us, is more difficult to attack and it’s more difficult to guard.”

Indiana did a nice job defensively against the Boilermaker shooters, but it wasn’t enough due to Edwards’ ability and intellect.

Purdue struggled to its second-worst performance of the year from 3-point range, but Edwards didn’t allow that to keep him from being productive.

He missed all six of his 3-point attempts (four in the second half), but he switched offensive strategies and drove the ball more, scoring off drives and at the foul line instead.

“He did a good job of finding other ways to score,” Indiana guard Robert Johnson said of Edwards following his team’s loss. “We did a good job of limiting his perimeter shots and not giving him open looks that way, but I think he did a good job of finding out a way to score.”

In some regards, Edwards’ performance against Indiana, and having to figure his way through offensive challenges, was far more impressive than his career-best outing against Michigan last Thursday.

In that Boiler win, Edwards connected on 9 of 11 shots overall and all three of his bombs. Everything was going in for him that night, one in which he produced a lot, but attempted little.

Scoring 30 points on just 11 shots was the second fewest attempts needed in the history of Purdue basketball.

“A lot of times,” Painter explained, “guys that get 30 points, it takes them 20 shots to get there. He’s just been efficient for us.”

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