November 22, 2015

While Florida is still searching for its identity under a first-year coach, it's easy to see what Purdue is.

Just look at the 21st-ranked Boilermakers' roster.

The imposing Boilermakers will try to build off a huge performance from their bigs when they meet the Gators Sunday night in the championship game of the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.

Purdue (4-0) boasts four players at 6-foot-9 or taller, and the Boilermakers' two 7-footers broke out during Saturday's 61-39 win over Old Dominion in a semifinal game.

Seven-footer A.J. Hammons scored 18 points and grabbed six rebounds off the bench and 7-foot-2 Isaac Haas added 10 points and eight boards.

They each played 19 minutes and combined to make 12 of 18 shots in another 20-point win for the Boilermakers, who have won their four games by an average of 31.5.

It was just the second appearance of the season for the senior Hammons, who missed Purdue's first two wins for reasons coach Matt Painter would not disclose.

Hammons averaged a team-best 11.9 points last season and opened his senior campaign with eight points, six rebounds and three blocked shots in Wednesday's 96-61 victory over Incarnate Word.

Haas has nearly doubled the scoring average from his freshman season, moving from 7.6 points on 53.5-percent shooting to 13.8 on 75.0. He's scored in double digits each game with an average of 8.0 rebounds while playing more than 19 minutes just once.

The bigs are the clear focal point of Painter's offense, but Kendall Stephens scored nine of his 12 points after halftime on Saturday. Stephens averages 12.3 points while making 43.8 percent (14 of 32) of his 3-pointers.

''For us to be successful offensively, we're going to have to have a balance,'' Painter said. ''If Kendall Stephens doesn't make those shots in the second half, they're just going to stay in on the big guys. To be able to shuttle those guys in and keep a fresh body in there is a real advantage for us.''

Florida (3-0) did not enjoy such an easy Saturday against Saint Joseph's but clawed out a 74-63 win.

The Gators shot 38.2 percent from the field and made just 8 of 32 from beyond the arc, but they used a late 17-3 run to rally from a six-point deficit in the final six minutes.

Kasey Hill and Dorian Finney-Smith each scored 13 points and Devin Robinson added 12 and 10 rebounds off the bench for Florida - which is led by first-year coach Mike White after Billy Donovan moved to the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder in the offseason.

''We grinded one out,'' White said. ''It's early for all these teams. We're finding out more and more about ourselves every day. We never got into a good rhythm offensively. A lot of that had to do with St. Joe's. But we remained poised and made big plays late in the game.''

Florida failed to make the postseason for the first time since 1996-97 while going 16-17 in Donovan's final year. The Gators have lost six straight games against ranked opponents, though the last three came against then-No.1 and undefeated Kentucky last season.

Purdue and Florida have split a pair of meetings since 1996 with the Gators winning the most recent 74-67 on March 18, 2007.

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