DETROIT — Purdue forward Vincent Edwards played nearly all of the Boilermakers’ win over Butler on Sunday in foul trouble.
Edwards was charged with his first just 4 minutes into the game. He picked up another a minute later. His third came with 3 seconds remaining in the first half of Purdue’s 76-73 second-round win over Butler in the NCAA Tournament.
The Boilermakers needed him to play big minutes in the second half, though, even with just two fouls left to give. The post-player rotation was thin, and will be going forward, with center Isaac Haas sidelined because of a broken elbow. So, Edwards and coach Matt Painter made a slight strategy adjustment.
“Coach P came to me in the [locker room at halftime] and he was like, ‘No more fouls,'” Edwards said. “I said, ‘What do you want me to do?’ He said, ‘I don’t care what you do, no more fouls.’ So, I was like, ‘Should I play high school D?’ He said, ‘Yeah, play high school D.’ We laughed and joked about that.”
High school defense is, as Edwards explains it, giving the appearance of doing a lot on that end of the floor without really doing much.
“If you were the best player on the team, everybody knows you didn’t play defense that much,” Edwards joked. “You just kind sat back there and you pointed. All the guys on this team did it because all of us were the best player on our high school team.”
Whatever adjustments he made, they worked. Edwards wasn’t called for a foul over his 15 second-half minutes. He also continued to produce on the offensive end, finishing with a team-high 20 points on just 8 shots. With Edwards on the floor, Purdue outscored Butler by 17 points — 10 points more than any of his teammates.
Edwards’ most critical play of the game, though, came on the defensive end. It happened as a result of his worst play of the game and he had to turn off his “high school defense” to make it happen.
Purdue was clinging to a 2-point lead with just under 2 minutes remaining and Butler on a 6-0 run. The Boilermakers desperately needed a bucket, but instead Edwards drove into the paint and threw the ball directly to Butler’s Kamar Baldwin. Edwards responded by running the floor and swatting Baldwin’s potential game-tying layup off the glass.
“A little bit under 3 [minutes], [Butler’s Paul] Jorgensen drove by me and got a layup,” Edwards said. “I went over to Coach P and he said, ‘All right, high school defense is over.’ That was just a little laugh we could have.
“I felt the burden of turning that ball over at the end knowing that I had to get a shot up or get a shot for someone else. I was just trying to hustle back and be able to make a play.”
Purdue (30-6) advanced to the Sweet 16 for a second consecutive year with the win. The Boilermakers will face Texas Tech (26-9) in Boston on Friday.