First things first: Iona is a good team. Guard Scott Machado is the real deal, forward Taaj Ridley is a big man with soft touch, and the offseason addition of former Arizona guard MoMo Jones gives the Gaels the best combination of offensive weapons at the mid-major level.
Second things second: Iona is not a good defensive team. Nor, for that matter, is Purdue.
That might change in the coming weeks. In Purdue's case, you might as well expect it. By the time Big Ten play rolls around, Matt Painter's teams almost always shore things up. And Iona should get better on that end of the floor, too. But today's game -- a 91-90 Purdue win in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off -- was less an offensive explosion than a demonstration of mutually assured defensive ineptitude.
In a way, the numbers don't tell the story. Sure, a 91-90 scoreline is obvious. Both teams' high shooting percentages and points per possession averages -- both teams scored well above a point per trip -- are obvious. But if you missed the game, you could chalk it up to a high tempo (which is true) and efficient secondary break offense.
That would only be partially true. In reality, both teams guarded horribly. Close-outs on shooters, in so far as they existed, were haphazard and lazy. Rotations in the half court were nonexistent. When either team had a break, it was far too easy for guards to get into the lane and finish. There were few boxouts. Offensive boards were plentiful. When I tweeted about the ugly defense from both teams, Ken Pomeroy replied that both teams were playing D at a "pickup-game level." That's a perfect description, actually: It was pickup defense. Much of the game felt like an exhibition.
Which is not to say the game wasn't exciting. Robbie Hummel's late 3 gave Purdue a crucial bucket. At the end of the first half, Purdue guard Kelsey Barlow drained a half-court 3 to tie the game at 50. (Yes, the score was 50-50 at halftime.) Without that 3, Purdue's slimmest of winning margins would have been a two-point deficit, and the Boilermakers would be 2-1 rather than 3-0.
Other good news for Purdue: Robbie Hummel played well yet again, scoring 24 points on 10-of-21 from the field (including 4-of-9 from three-point range) and grabbing 10 rebounds in the process. Hummel had one slip in the first half when he lost his shoe, and I held my breath for about three seconds before Hummel smiled, picked up his sneaker, and walked off the court. He looks good.)
Both teams might be encouraged by their offensive explosions. Iona fans have a lot to look forward to; this team can pour it in. Purdue should be pleased, having lost its two leading scorers from a year ago (JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore) that it could score so easily against a top mid-major outfit. But Painter's trademark Purdue defense was nowhere to be found, and his team seems a long way from finding it. Good thing it's only November.