Purdue coach Matt Painter isn’t dumb, and the junior swingman is way too valuable to spend much pine time. But for the last three games, since the Louisville loss crystallized things for Painter, Edwards has assumed a sixth-man role while freshman Carsen Edwards starts.
“So far, it’s been good,” Painter says. “Sometimes when you make a move like that, somebody else struggles. That hasn’t happened. Everybody that it’s affected, it has helped.”
In the last three games, Vince Edwards has averaged 11.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists in basically 23 minutes. For the season, it’s 10.8, 4.7 and 3.9 in 27.5 minutes.
“He’s done a good job of being aggressive and also picking his spots,” Painter says.
More importantly, the No. 15 Boilers (8-2) are playing better, which is big heading into Saturday’s Crossroads Classic showdown with No. 21 Notre Dame (9-1). They’ve won by 34, 33 and 24 points, and have found their offensive and defensive stride.
“(Against Arizona State), he played his best game of the year,” Painter says. “(Against Morehead State), he had eight assists.
“He’s done a good job of coming in … He’s played better and we’ve played better. That’s the key.”
Edwards has embraced his new role.
“Whether I’m starting or coming off the bench, whatever is better for the team is better for the team,”he says. “I’m just trying to fulfill my role and help the team win.”
The bench is not where you expect to see him. He had started 71 of his first 75 career games until this recent stretch.
He’s one of the Big Ten’s best players, an all-around player who can score, rebound, pass, handle the ball, defend and, in short, do what winners do — make a difference.
“He’s such a versatile guy,” Painter says. “He gives you a little bit of everything. He can drive. He can rebound. He has a good immediate game. He knows what’s going on out there. He has experience. Those intangible things really help us and increases his value for us.”
At the start of the season, Vince Edwards didn’t play to his value, and Painter tried talking him through it.
“When you’re struggling, don’t try to do more. Be simple and do less. Put your effort into hustle, the scouting report, guarding your man. It’s the things I talk about before every game — run, rebound, defend. Those are three things you can do every game. Keep everything else simple. Get things going for yourself and build off of that.”
It bottomed out at Louisville. Edwards went 0-for-4 from the field for one point and three rebounds in 21 minutes.
That was enough to convince Painter that something had to change. That meant Carsen Edwards, a natural scorer with high-level quickness and athleticism, would get a starting role. Vince Edwards would come off the bench, with Painter providing more guidance.
“It’s important to do well early. Not necessarily doing great things, but not doing bad things. Just being solid. Doing things that helps the team win.”
Vince Edwards did, and it was instant impact.
“It gives you a lot of flexibility as a coach,” Painter says of using Vince Edwards as a sixth man. “It’s one of those things that you make a change because you know what’s in front of you is not working.
“Sometimes as a coach you think this will work, and sometimes that hunch isn’t accurate. But so far this has been.”
The change has also helped Carsen Edwards, who has averaged 11.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists in the last three games. For the season, it’s 11.3, 2.6 and 2.0. Beyond that, he’s improved Purdue’s quickness and explosive scoring potential.
“He’s going to compete and play hard,” Painter says. “He showed he was ready to play on the road (at Louisville) for the first time. Not everybody could say that.”
As for how long the currently lineup will last, Painter says, “This doesn’t mean it will continue. You’ve got to monitor it. You always try to look at the rotation and what’s best for the team.”
UP NEXT: Purdue vs. Notre Dame, Crossroads Classic, Indianapolis
Tipoff: 2 p.m., Saturday
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