.UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) — Purdue coach Matt Painter sends Isaac Haas, a 7-foot-2 center, out with his starting lineup. Then Painter has the luxury of bringing 7-footer A.J. Hammons off the bench. If that doesn’t sound intimidating, just ask the Old Dominion Monarchs.
Haas and Hammons combined for 28 points and 14 rebounds Saturday and No. 21 Purdue (4-0) defeated Old Dominion 61-39 in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.
Hammons scored 12 of his 18 points in the first half and guard Kendall Stephens sparked a second-half run with nine of his 12 points after halftime as Purdue overcame a shaky start to win impressively.
“We did a really good job of keeping it simple, not dribbling the ball and just going straight up over the defender,” Haas said. “I think we’ve kept that philosophy because Coach Painter drills it into our mind. It definitely helped us today and I’m sure we’ll do it in the future.”
The Boilermakers, who shot 50 percent in the second half, advance to Sunday’s championship game at Mohegan Sun Arena and will face the winner of Saturday’s second game between Florida and Saint Joseph’s.
Old Dominion (3-1) trimmed a 10-point deficit to six early in the second half, but the Monarchs couldn’t keep up after Stephens got hot from 3-point range. Stephens was 3-for-5 behind the arc after halftime and Purdue’s defense locked down Old Dominion after that.
Old Dominion’s Trey Freeman (17 points) hit a 3-pointer to make it 36-30 with 14:10 to play. A layup by Hammons kept the Monarchs from getting closer and then Stephens hit three straight from beyond the arc as Purdue grabbed a 47-33 lead.
“The problem was, for a shooter like that, when he hits the first one, all of a sudden the basket looks big,” Old Dominion coach Jeff Jones said. “Stephens was feeling it after that. Those were real back breakers for us and we didn’t have much left in the tank after that.”
Purdue scored 37 points off its bench, compared to 18 for Old Dominion.
Hammons and Stephens combined to shoot 12 for 25. And the Monarchs never could get a decent run going against Purdue’s defense.
“For us to be successful offensively, we’re going to have to have a balance,” Painter said. “If Kendall Stephens doesn’t make those shots in the second half, they’re just going to stay in on the big guys. To be able to shuttle those guys in and keep a fresh body in there is a real advantage for us.”
Old Dominion plays the Florida-Saint Joseph’s loser in the consolation game.
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