Stefanovic scores 23, Purdue tops Central Michigan 97-62

MARK AMBROGI

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Sasha Stefanovic set the tone early for a Purdue squad which had been lacking offensive firepower in recent games.

Stefanovic scored a career-high 23 points on 7-of-10 3-point shooting to help propel Purdue to a 97-62 romp over Central Michigan on Saturday.

Stefanovic, a sophomore guard, hit 8 of 13 shots and delivered five assists. He hit 6 of 7 3-pointers in the first half, including two 3s in the first three minutes.

“I tried to come out aggressive and be really confident in my shot,” said Stefanovic, who was a combined 3 of 14 on 3-pointers in the previous three games.

“Trevion (Williams) was making a lot of good passes and he draws so much attention, it made it a lot easier," he said.

Purdue coach Matt Painter said it’s a game-changer when Stefanovic shoots that well.

“He’s had a couple games at home when he’s shot that way and we’ve had big wins,” Painter said.

Williams scored 12 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for the Boilermakers (8-5). Eric Hunter Jr. contributed 16 points and six assists. Matt Haarms and Isaiah Thompson each scored 11 for Purdue.

The inside tandem of Haarms (5 of 7 shots) and Williams (5 of 8) helped give Purdue a 42-28 edge in points in the paint.

It was the first time Purdue had topped 70 points since Nov. 23.

David DiLeo scored 12 points for the Chippewas (7-6). Rob Montgomery and Travon Broadway Jr. each had 10 points.

The Boilermakers shot 53% in the first half en route to a 51-21 halftime lead. Purdue sank 10 of 17 3-pointers in the opening half.

Purdue, which was shooting just under 42% entering the game, shot even better in the second half, finishing at 54%.

Central Michigan shot 38% overall and 14% on 3-point shots (3 of 22). The Chippewas committed 22 turnovers, seven more than the Boilermakers.

“I think we’re a pretty good defensive team and we’re able to turn people over,” Haarms said. “Our success in points off turnovers is a good sign.”

Purdue led by as many as 40 at 84-44.

The 7-foot-3 Haarms returned to action after missing the previous two games with a concussion. Haarms hit the floor hard with about six minutes left in a loss to Nebraska. Haarms didn’t start but came in with 16:40 left in the opening half. Haarms had an immediate impact, scoring seven points in the next four minutes, delighting the crowd.

“I wouldn’t say I played awesome, there’s a lot of stuff I could do better at,” Haarms said. “I feels good to be back. I was tired after a minute of running, but I got to run myself back into shape.”

Painter said Haarms’ return went smooth.

“It was a perfect game for Haarms to come back, play 11 minutes and get some confidence and hopefully he’s ready to go (against Minnesota),” Painter said.

BIG PICTURE

Central Michigan: The Chippewas, who scored 134 points in a romp over Mississippi Valley State, were averaging 87.5 points entering the game. Kevin McKay, who was averaging a team-high 15.8 points, was limited to seven points.

Purdue: The Boilermakers, playing their final nonconference game, got a lift from returning home after a 20-day stint between home games, the longest stint in Coach Matt Painter’s 15 seasons. With a season high in points, Purdue topped its previous high of 93. “We have to be able to string together consistent play for a two to three week period,” Painter said. “We have to get more consistent shooting from our guards.”

NICE EFFORT

Purdue freshman Isaiah Thompson scored 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting and grabbed three steals in 24-plus minutes.

“I like Thompson’s effort,” Painter said. “He came up and guarded the basketball and gave us 100% each time. He wasn’t casual. It’s hard for those young guys when they first start to know how hard they need to play. I thought he played a good all-around game.”

UP NEXT

Central Michigan opens Mid-American Conference play at home against Miami (Ohio) on Saturday.

Purdue plays host to Minnesota on Thursday.

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