Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, February 9, 2017
It?s rivalry week in the Big Ten. And there is no grudge match bigger than Indiana vs. Purdue. The fierce foes meet tonight in Bloomington with much on the line. Boilermaker freshman guard Carsen Edwards is new to the rivalry, but he knows the intensity. He also knows the stakes.
The Boilermakers (19-5 overall, 8-3 Big Ten) are trying to stay in the thick of the league race. They are tied for second with Maryland, two games behind 9-1 Wisconsin. Indiana?s season dawned with great expectations, as the Hoosiers were looking to defend their Big Ten title. Alas, injury has played a big role in derailing those plans for IU (15-9, 5-6 Big Ten). But Indiana still has NCAA hopes, and a win vs. Purdue would look good on the resume.
The teams will meet again at Purdue on Feb. 28.
But Edwards is focused on tonight.
The 6-0, 190-pound Edwards has been a revelation in West Lafayette. The Atascocita, Texas, native is fourth on the team with a 10.9 scoring average. Most vital, he is emerging as a future go-to guy for the Boilermakers, a rare explosive guard who can take over a game late by hitting a big shot or driving to the hoop. And Edwards showed his steely nerves last Saturday in a huge win at Maryland, sinking the game-tying and game-winning free-throws with 2.1 seconds left.
Yes, Boilermaker big man Caleb Swanigan is the alpha male on the team, a Big Ten Player of the Year favorite and National Player of the Year candidate who churns out double-doubles. But often it?s the Purdue guards-led by the precocious Edwards-who dictate the fate of this team.
I caught up with Edwards as he prepped to play in Bloomington, Ind., for the first time.
Q: What was going through your head as you walked to the line with just seconds hanging on the clock to shoot those free throws last week in the 73-72 triumph at Maryland?
A: Mainly, just please don?t miss. Just don?t miss. I have been in those types of situations before, last-second shot, things like that. But it wasn?t like that environment ? in front of that many people on that level. So, it was different.
Q: Did anybody say anything to you as you walked to the line?
A: The coaches just told me to do my routine. Coach Painter said to do my routine. I tried to stay calm and knock down the shots. That was really it.
Q: Being from Texas, do you understand the intensity of the rivalry with Indiana and have any vitriol for the Hoosiers?
A: I don?t have any animosity toward Indiana. I don?t. I just want to go out and win, just like any other game. It?s a big matchup in front of a lot of people. I know some people grew up hating them. But I didn?t. I don?t have anything against them. Just go out and win. That?s it.
Q: Caleb Swanigan is enjoying a Big Ten Player of the Year-type of season. How do you keep him involved?
A: I just try to put the ball in his hands. He can score in so many ways. You see how hard he works, and you can trust him. Just keep him going. But you don?t really even have to do that. He gets himself going. Just get him the ball.
Q: Have there been times this season when you have been frustrated?
A: Yes. But I expected that coming in. My dad told me to expect that, that there would be times when I would be struggling and not be very happy with what is going on. But keep pushing through and working. I will have times I?m frustrated in the future, too. But I just have to keep working.
Q: What do you want to improve at?
A: Get better at the details on defense. Trusting in my coaches. I want to work on other ways to score the ball, finishing in the paint.
Q: Who would win a dunk contest on this team?
A: I?m not sure. We have some good dunkers on the team. I think I would have a chance to win. I don?t know. Vince (Edwards) can dunk pretty well. It may come down to him and Biggie.
Q: Who would win a 3-point shooting contest?
A: I would win that. Everyone else says they would win it. But it would be me. We have a lot of good shooters. But I still think I would win it.
Q: If you could take one teammate to help you in a back-alley brawl, who would it be?
A: I probably would take Biggie. I would think about taking Vince, too. He?s tough. Either of those guys.
Q: Who is the most underrated player on this team?
A: We have so many players who can play. P.J. (Thompson) is a really good point guard. He?s very mature and knows the game well. He may not get as much credit as he deserves. He knows the game well, can distribute the ball and can shoot. He?s a great point guard.
Q: Can Purdue win-out to claim just its second Big Ten regular-season title since 1996?
A: Yes, you have to be confident. Play the best you can. We?ll see.
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