Purdue begins life without Haas vs. Butler

By The Sports Xchange  |  March 17, 2018 at 9:20 PM
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DETROIT -- Sunday's second round game in the East Regional between No. 2 seed Purdue and No. 10 seed Butler will be a rematch from regular season non-conference play, but will feature two drastically different teams than the previous matchup.

Purdue (29-6) defeated Butler 82-67 in the Crossroads Classic on Dec. 16, and on Friday defeated 15th-seeded Cal State Fullerton 74-48 to advance to the round of 32.

But the first-round victory came with a cost in starting center Isaac Haas.

The 7-foot-2 senior, widely regarded as one of the best low-post scorers in the country, fractured his right elbow in the second half of Friday's win after colliding with the hardwood having just secured a defensive rebound.

Purdue athletics released a statement shortly after the conclusion of Friday's game confirming the fracture, and announced Haas would miss the remainder of the season.

"He's been great for our program," Purdue coach Matt Painter said of Haas. "He's worked really hard. When guys get to this moment, this is their time, and now that's been obviously taken away from him. But it's part of competition, and the next guy's got to be able to step up and play."

The Bulldogs (21-13) may also be limited Sunday as guard Paul Jorgenson is listed as a game-time decision because of an ankle injury. Jorgenson, the team's third-leading scorer at 10.3 points per game, scored only three points in 10 minutes during Butler's opening-round victory over seventh-seeded Arkansas on Friday.

The Bulldogs handled the higher-seeded Razorbacks, winning 79-62 after jumping out to an early 21-2 lead. Butler shot almost 50 percent for the game and outrebounded Arkansas 45-25.

Butler guard Kamar Baldwin, who had 24 points, nine rebounds and five assists against Arkansas, said the team still has a lot prepare for even if Haas is not on the floor.

"I don't know if he's going to play or not, but we know they're a really good team with him or without him," Baldwin said. "We're going to prepare either way and be ready to go tomorrow."

Haas averaged 14.7 points per game and 5.7 rebounds this season, and had nine points and 10 rebounds Friday. He participated in a limited number of drills during the Boilermakers' Saturday practice and is reportedly wearing a brace, but Painter dismissed the possibility of Haas returning to action.

"He's trying to convince me, but it is what it is," Painter said. "His future is more important."

Without Haas, Purdue's depth in the post is in question. The likely replacement in the starting rotation is 7-foot-4 freshman Matt Haarms, who averaged 4.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in 16.6 minutes off the bench. Haarms, more of a rim protector than an inside scorer, is fifth among the nation's freshman in blocked shots.

Approaching Sunday's rematch, Painter seemed unconcerned when discussing an adjusted game plan without Haas in the mix.

"He only plays half the game for us anyway," Painter said. "In our last game, Matt Haarms played 27 minutes in the game, so we're used to playing half the game without him anyway, so it doesn't change much."

First-year Butler coach LaVall Jordan believes his team has improved considerably since its initial matchup with Purdue in December.

"I think we are a lot more fluid offensively," Jordan said. "At that point in time it was pretty choppy ... And then I think defensively we've gotten a lot stronger, a lot more solid, a lot more aware, a lot more connected on that end of the court, where we've had from that point on, once we got in the Big East play, we've had some really solid defensive performances."

The Bulldogs seemed locked in defensively against Arkansas, holding the Razorbacks to 35.7 percent shooting, including 22.2 percent from 3-point range.

Even without Haas in the lineup, Purdue's perimeter shooting can be difficult to contain. The Boilermakers rank second in the country in 3-point field goal percentage at 42 percent -- the best among any team in the NCAA Tournament -- and with rotation changes likely to take place in light of Haas' injury, Jordan discussed the potential of facing a lineup with five perimeter scoring threats.

"The decision you have to make on our side is, are you going to match it? Or are you going to try to play advantage basketball with your post?" Jordan said. "I think we've got to prep for all of it and make a game-time call as you're in the moment and see what's best if they do do that, how you're going to counter it."

The winner of Sunday's game will advance to the Sweet 16 and play No. 3 seed Texas Tech or No. 6 seed Florida at TD Garden in Boston. Both teams advanced to the Sweet 16 last year, and Butler seeks consecutive trips for the first time since its back-to-back National Championship appearances in 2010 and 2011.

The Boilermakers made the Sweet 16 in 2009 and 2010, their first back-to-back appearances since 1999 and 2000.

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