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Recorder Rewind: Homegrown products shine in Purdue’s 80-53 win over Eastern Kentucky

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A Friday night, in between Christmas and New Year’s, students on Holiday break with a mid-major non-conference opponent in town -most schools in the country struggle to draw people to those types of games.  Not Purdue. Mackey Arena is one of a few places in the college basketball where fans show up an hour and a half early for that type of late December contest.  This was the case last Friday night as the Boilermakers welcomed Eastern Kentucky to one of the truly special venues in college basketball!

The Eastern Kentucky game was one that some Central Indiana basketball fans have had scheduled on their calendar for weeks.  The Colonels, members of the Atlantic Sun Conference, feature two Indianapolis natives in their starting backcourt, sophomore guards Tayshawn Comer and Leland Walker.  Comer was the head of the snake for the 2022 4A State Champion Cathedral Irish boys basketball team.  Tayshawn was a teammate of Purdue point guard Braden Smith on the ’22 Indiana All-Star team that swept Kentucky two summers ago.

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Walker played varsity for three years at North Central, averaging 19.3 PPG as a junior before transferring to Hargrave Military Academy for his senior season. Leland and Tayshawn grew up playing together, representing Indianapolis power Team Teague on the summer AAU circuit.  After being apart for a year the two reunited in Richmond, KY at Eastern Kentucky University.  Comer committed to the Colonels in November of 2021.  Walker’s late commitment in April of 2022 gave EKU their highest rated class in the internet recruiting era. Head Coach A.W. Hamilton’s 2022 class was ranked ahead of schools like Louisville, Arizona, Tennessee, and Texas A&M.  The Indianapolis backcourt made Eastern Kentucky one of three schools, including Texas and Auburn, to sign two Top 40 nationally rated point guards in the Class of 2022. 

Friday’s game represented the last non-conference game for both the Boilers and Colonels.  Two teams going in different directors. Purdue came in rated as the #1 Division I basketball team in the country while EKU had lost 4 games in a row, arriving in West Lafayette with a 4-8 record.  Eastern Kentucky’s 6’7 center Isaiah Cozart stepped into Mackey as the biggest player on the visiting roster matching up against the home team’s behemoth in the middle, 7’4 Zach Edey. 

Purdue University versus Eastern Kentucky University NCAA college basketball game on December 29, 2023. (Photo/Walt Thomas)
Eastern Kentucky University basketball player Leland Walker, a North Central High School alum, shined against Purdue on December, 29, 2023 in West Lafayette, IN. (Photo/Walt Thomas)

Regardless of the lopsided matchup 14,240 people packed Mackey Arena to watch these two tussle.  Early on the Colonels hung with the country’s top team.  A Leland Walker jumpshot at 15:56 cut Purdue’s lead to 7-6.  On the next EKU possession the aforementioned Cozart, college basketball’s leader in blocked shots, scored to tie the game at 8 apiece. But then…  Fletcher Loyer decided it was time to go.  His layup sparked a 10-2 run over four minutes that would push Purdue out to a 20-10 lead.  The Boilers wouldn’t look back.  They entertained the home crowd with behind the back passes, a lob from Ethan Morton to Cam Heide for a reverse alley-oop dunk, and Edey’s first three point miss of his career!  At halftime Purdue enjoyed a 43-24 advantage.  The second half was more of the same. The Boilermakers came out on top with a final score of 80-53.  The win capped off a 3rd straight undefeated non-conference schedule for Purdue.    

When asked about the accomplishment post-game Head Coach Matt Painter had this to say, “It’s quite an accomplishment.  It’s a players game.  You got to get guys organized. You got to get them on the same page. But to be able to get the wins that we have been able to get here in the last three years in the non-conference to help us prepare for conference play is quite an accomplishment.” 

Purdue University versus Eastern Kentucky University NCAA college basketball game on December 29, 2023. (Photo/Walt Thomas)
Eastern Kentucky University basketball player Tayshawn Comer, a Cathedral High School alum, shined against Purdue during their basketball game on December 29, 2023 in West Lafayette, IN. (Photo/David Dixon)

Leland Walker was the second leading scorer for EKU putting up 12 points on 5-13 shooting.  His Indianapolis counterpart, Tayshawn Comer, struggled contributing 3 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 assist for the Colonels.


Austin Taylor is the Executive Director of The City League. Contact him at ATaylor@thecityleague.org. For more Purdue Basketball news from Austin and the Indianapolis Recorder, click here.

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