WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — From beginning to end through Purdue's basketball schedule, 7-foot-3 center Matt Haarms is going to have plenty of mismatches inside. Being that tall is hard to match.
But through Purdue's first four games, Haarms had been something of an afterthought in the Boilermakers' offensive scheme. That changes Saturday night against Jacksonville State, After a week of practice where getting the ball inside was a point of emphasis, the Boilers did just that, and Haarms led the way with 17 points in the 81-49 rout.
He also had 10 rebounds, giving him his first double-double of the year, and second of his career. It was, without question, his finest game of the season so far.
"That's something we harped on. We go for too long of periods of time where we don't throw the ball inside,'' Purdue coach Matt Painter said. "From an offensive standpoint, we're just trying to establish an inside presence and getting the ball inside.''
They did just that, and Haarms was appreciative.
"Guys were really looking for us on the plays we ran early where we specifically try to get it inside." Haarms said. "What I really noticed was they were looking for us for longer. It's going to take just being aggressive every time.
"I can't just like sag off and do what I used to do and be content with that. I've got to be willing to step up and willing to ask for the ball longer."
With the win, the Boilermakers move to 3-2 on the season. They have now won 25 games by 30 or more points since the 2015-16 season, the second-highest total in the nation behind only Gonzaga.
The Boilermakers were efficient on both sides of the court, shooting a season-high 55.4 percent from the field. They also played a relatively clean game, having 23 assists and just six turnovers. Over the past two games, Purdue has 47 assists against 14 turnovers.
It's not surprising that Purdue ha been really good defensively, because that's always a trait of Painter's program. Jacksonville State shot just 27 percent. and now Purdue has held all five of its opponents to 70 or fewer points to start the season, the longest streak to start a season since 2010-11, when they did it 19 straight times.
The week of practice sure helped, and having a few more days this week to work on this is going to come in handy, because big tests await this weekend. Purdue is off to Destin, Fla., when it will play TCU on Friday night in the Emerald Classic Tournament, and then get the winner of Tennessee or Florida State the next night if they win.
"We have four more practices before we play Friday and Saturday," Painter said. "Obviously, we'll be a lot lighter on Thursday than the other days. We've got to get better here. It's hard when you play a lot of games because then you have to try make your improvements through competition, which you still can.
"But in college when you get a chance to practice early in the season, you have to make some strides."