WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — It’s probably Purdue sophomore forward Caleb Swanigan’s final college season, but for now, Boilermakers coach Matt Painter is enjoying this likely future NBA player.
Swanigan had a career-best 32 points and 20 rebounds — his fourth consecutive double-double — and No. 15 Purdue defeated Norfolk State 91-45 on Wednesday night, Dec. 21, the Boilermakers’ sixth straight victory.
Swanigan, who is averaging 23 points and 15.3 rebounds during the past four games, had 20 points and 14 rebounds in 17 first-half minutes, when the Boilermakers (11-2) built a commanding 53-25 lead over the Spartans (3-10).
“Basketball is his craft,” Painter said, noting Swanigan’s big Wednesday numbers were achieved in only 30 minutes. “He is a breath of fresh air. He is excited to play basketball, and he plays like it each and every night.”
A layup by Swanigan with 8:44 remaining gave the Boilermakers a 75-35 lead and established his career high, replacing the 27 points he scored in a March 2016 victory over Wisconsin in Mackey Arena.
“I feel like I played by playing hard,” said Swanigan, who made 11 of 15 field goal attempts and 9 of 10 free throws. “That’s what I do – play hard and give my best effort. That’s what I try to do every game.”
Norfolk State coach Robert Jones likes Swanigan’s complete game.
“Swanigan is a very good player because he has a knack for rebounding,” Jones said. “He’s just so good at it. You can do all the rebounding drills in the world, but some players just have it. He is definitely one of those players.”
Purdue, which also got 14 points and seven rebounds from center Isaac Haas, made 19 of 34 first-half shots (55.9 percent) and outrebounded Norfolk State 26-9 before halftime. Swanigan and Haas were a combined 12 of 14 from the field before intermission and 7 of 9 from the free throw line.
“It’s cool to be in that kind of presence,” Haas said of being Swanigan’s teammate. “It’s nice to get that kind of help on the block.”
The Boilermakers led 8-7 with 15:26 left in the first half but countered with a 12-0 run over the next 2:58 to lead 20-7 and continued to pull away.
Purdue is 11-2 or better through 13 games for the fifth time in Painter’s 12 seasons at his alma mater, led by a 13-0 start by the 2009-10 team.
Jonathan Wade had 13 points to lead the Spartans. He came in averaging 20. The Spartans are 0-10 against current members of the Big Ten.
Norfolk State: The Spartans have beaten only Division I opponent – Eastern Kentucky – and are woefully undersized when playing a Power 5 conference opponent with the size and strength Purdue features.
Purdue: As it has done throughout its six-game December winning streak, the Boilermakers continue to pound the ball inside to the 6-foot-8 Swanigan and the 7-2 Haas, whose size is too much for almost all mid-majors.
Having won six in a row, including this past Saturday’s victory over No. 25 Notre Dame, Purdue likely is positioned to move up several spots in the next AP Top 25. The Boilermakers have lost only to No. 1 Villanova and to No. 10 Louisville.
COMPARISONS TO GRIFFIN
Leading the Big Ten in rebounding and ranked fifth in scoring, Swanigan is being compared by some as a similar player to the Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin.
“It means that he played hard while he was in college, and I do, too,” Swanigan said. “I’m not even trying to be in the same conversation as he is. I’m just trying to work hard every day and work hard on every play.”
Swanigan and Haas combined for 46 points and 27 rebounds on Wednesday night, making 18 of 23 field goal attempts and 9 of 12 free throws. In the past two games, Swanigan has 53 points and 41 rebounds, and Haas has 32 points and 13 rebounds.
Norfolk State: The Spartans do not play again until a Dec. 30 trip to Bowling Green.
Purdue: The Boilermakers are off until Dec. 28 when they begin Big Ten play against Iowa in Mackey Arena.
More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25.
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.