Purdue charged to the title game in the World University Games with seven consecutive victories, but the Boilermakers fell short of winning gold with an 85-74 loss to Lithuania.
Purdue, USA’s lone representative at the games, will return from Taipei with a silver medal. It’s a disappointing finish for Purdue, but overall it was a productive international trip that allowed the team, which lost Caleb Swanigan to the NBA Draft, a chance to rebuild and rally before the season officially gets underway.
Without Swanigan, Lithuania out-rebounded Purdue 44-32, and it was the 17 offensive rebounds and extra opportunities allowed that ultimately did them in.
It’s too early to tell if Swanigan’s absence will loom large this season, or if Matt Painter can replace his production by committee. The team returns 7-footer Isaac Haas and 6-foot-8 power forward Vincent Edwards, both of which combined to average just under 10 rebounds per game last season. But on Tuesday, the lack of an inside presence may have been the dagger, as the team wasn’t able to deal with the size of the roster that featured Notre Dame starting center Martinas Geben.
Sophomore point guard Carson Edwards was gracious in defeat after pouring in 23 points, noting that rebounding — or a lack thereof — might have cost them the gold.
“You’ve got to tip your hat to Lithuania — they played a hard and athletic good game,” Edwards said to reporters (via the Journal & Courier) in Taipei. “When we didn’t get the rebound they got second-chance points and they made us pay for it. We didn’t get the stops when we needed them. We got them to take tough shots, but they ended up getting some rebounds.”
Purdue has made three-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances under Painter.