While everyone expects Purdue to play big near the basket, the Boilermakers proved in their season opener that they may be capable of winning far away from it, too.
The No. 23 Boilermakers try to continue molding a winning formula without their best player against visiting Vermont on Sunday in the Naismith Hall of Fame Tipoff Classic.
Though the reasoning behind the absence of 7-footer A.J. Hammons remains unclear, Purdue still boasts 7-2 sophomore Isaac Haas and 6-9 freshman Caleb Swanigan - a McDonald's All-American - on a towering frontline expected to be the offensive focus.
North Carolina A&T was well aware of that size and employed a 2-3 zone Friday at Mackey Arena to lock up the paint and make the Boilermakers win from long range. Purdue adjusted with no problems, hitting 12 of 31 3-point attempts en route to an 81-40 win.
Purdue held A&T without a 3-pointer on its 15 attempts for a huge advantage from downtown. The Boilermakers shot 45.3 percent overall while holding the Aggies to 24.1.
Purdue's scoring was balanced even without Hammons, who also didn't play in a Nov. 8 exhibition. Coach Matt Painter has not announced any details surrounding Hammons, who scored a team-high 11.9 points per game last season. The absence is not expected to be a prolonged issue, with Painter saying the senior "has to take care of some things."
Meanwhile, Kendall Stephens and Rapheal Davis each scored 14 to lead six Boilermakers in double figures against the Aggies. Ryan Cline added 13 off the bench, while Haas had 12 points and 10 rebounds and Swanigan 11 points and 11 boards.
"Look at the stats," Stephens said. "We have six people with darn near the same point total. I think with this team, when we see someone else make a basket, it's like us making a basket. We've got great chemistry, and we definitely feed off each other."
Stephens and Cline were left with plenty of open 3-point looks. Stephens made 4 of 10 attempts and Cline went 4 for 6. Purdue, which shot 32.7 percent from 3-point range last season to rank 12th in the Big Ten, figures to see plenty of open shots this season - especially once Hammons returns.
"They were contesting the inside, but I was doing my role and keeping them occupied," said Haas, who added three blocked shots. "That opened shots for my teammates."
Purdue is searching for its eighth consecutive win at Mackey Arena, while Vermont has dropped four of its last five road contests.
The Catamounts' latest came after they held a three-point halftime lead before stumbling to an ugly 70-50 loss against Eastern Michigan on Friday. Vermont had 21 turnovers and went just 16 of 52 from the floor, including 8 for 30 in the second half.
Ernie Duncan scored 14 points and Kurt Steidl added 11 and 12 rebounds.
Vermont, which plays in the America East Conference, has lost six straight against ranked opponents. The Catamounts haven't beaten a Top 25 team since a 77-63 win over then-No. 14 Boston College on Nov. 13, 2006.