November 17, 2015

Purdue didn't miss A.J. Hammons in its first two games, but it might finally get the senior big man back for the next one.

With or without their top returning scorer and rebounder, the No. 21 Boilermakers likely won't have too much trouble trying to improve to 3-0 for a third consecutive season Wednesday night against visiting Incarnate Word.

Purdue coach Matt Painter hasn't offered a specific reason why Hammons has yet to play. The 7-foot senior, who averaged 11.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.6 blocks over 99 games of his first three seasons, isn't hurt or dealing with any law enforcement issues according to the team.

''It's an internal thing, and hopefully, he can get things taken care of and play Wednesday night,'' Painter said following Sunday's 107-79 rout of Vermont. ''We're trying to help him.

"Once he completes everything he'll play. If he doesn't, he won't."

Hammons, 7-2 sophomore Isaac Haas and 6-9 freshman Caleb Swanigan should make up one of the more imposing frontcourts in the nation when they're finally on the floor together, but the other two-thirds of the group is off to a solid start.

Swanigan, a highly touted prospect nicknamed "Biggie," has 25 points, gone 3 of 7 from 3-point range and recorded 24 rebounds in 53 minutes while Haas had 28 points and five blocks in the first two contests.

With Swanigan's help, however, it's been Purdue's perimeter play that has highlighted its early success. After going 12 of 31 from 3 in Friday's 81-40 win over North Carolina A&T, the Boilermakers made a school-record 18 on 36 attempts against the Catamounts.

"We have to have that balance between inside and outside," Painter said.

Dakota Mathias, who had a team-high 17 points off the bench Sunday, and forward Vince Edwards are each 5 of 8 from 3-point range while guard Ryan Cline is 7 of 13.

Maintaining that outside success could be vital for Purdue, which ranked 12th in the 14-team Big Ten by shooting 32.7 percent from beyond the arc last season.

"You saw (Sunday) how dangerous (3-pointers) could be,'' said the 6-8 Edwards, who made 32.6 percent of his 3-pointers last season. ''Last year, we never had a game when we all clicked on 3-pointers. (Sunday) was that day, and we set a school record.

"We are going to continue to be ready, and we have to knock down shots."

Incarnate Word (2-0) held Division III opponents Texas Lutheran and Schreiner University to 11-of-37 shooting from beyond the arc, but the San Antonio-based school will face its biggest challenge - and first ranked opponent - since moving up to Division I in 2013.

Senior guard Kyle Hittle has totaled a team-high 28 points for the Cardinals, who were picked to finish sixth by the Southland Conference coaches after going 18-11 and earning a spot in the CollegeInsider.com tournament last season. Derail Green, a 6-7 junior who played 28 games for Wichita State in 2013-14, has 23 points, 19 rebounds and three blocks in the first two games for the Cardinals.

Looking for a ninth consecutive victory at Mackey Arena, Purdue is 35-1 in November home games under Painter.

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