Samford Men’s Basketball started their 2023 campaign Monday night against the third-ranked Purdue Boilermakers, where the Bulldogs were blown out 98-45. The game could ultimately be summed up by the opening tip-off between 5’8 Dallas Graziani for the Bulldogs and 7’4 Zach Edey for the Boilermakers: a total mismatch.
Following a series of Instagram reels featuring Head Coach Bucky McMillan hyping up the undersized point guard to take on the Big Ten behemoth, there was a lot of excitement for the opening tip-off. What seemed to be a marketing scheme was almost executed to perfection.
“So the plan almost worked perfectly; we talked about me trying to read where Zach would tip it and me and whoever was closest to the ball would trap them right away if we didn’t come up with the ball initially and had a good trap and was almost able to force a backcourt violation so we were there,” said Graziani.
However, after the tip-off, things became difficult for the Bulldogs. The Boilermakers quickly took an 11-0 lead, with Samford having extreme offensive difficulties.
“Playing against someone like Zach Edey is hard, mainly just because of how different we had to play,” said Graziani. “It just makes it a lot more difficult to try to get to the basket when they have Zach down there; we were still able to get some good looks on the perimeter like I said, but just didn’t shoot it well.”
After a foul, graduate guard Rylan Jones scored the first points for the Bulldogs, though they would continue to struggle to make a field goal from the floor. It wasn’t until Purdue had put up 21 points on the Bulldogs that a jumper from freshman Lukas Walls made the score 21-4.
From there, the game continued to be a blowout, with Purdue leading 51-17. The chances of a comeback waned as the score grew and the hostile Purdue crowd seemed to grow more fervent with each basket, shaking the rust and bad taste from a shocking upset loss to Fairleigh-Dickinson in March Madness.
With the final score being 98-54, there were very few positives to take away for the Bulldogs and Coach McMillan, but one player seemed to take a positive step forward.
Jaden Campbell seems healthy for the first time in a Samford uniform. Campbell, who transferred to Samford after his freshman year with Florida Southwestern, hasn’t had a firm starting role with the Bulldogs but got the start in the opener. He led the Bulldogs in scoring with 11 points, and he will likely take on a big load of offensive weight alongside Jermaine Marshall after the departures of stars Ques Glover and Logan Dye.
“I went into the game with an aggressive mindset, and my shot was falling, so that helped me out a lot,” said Campbell.
The Bulldogs’ next contest against VCU was much closer but still resulted in a loss after the Rams used a late fourth-quarter run to win 75-65. Jermaine Marshall and A.J. Staton-McCray shook off their rough games against Purdue with 20 and 16 points, respectively. The offense looked more fluid, and hopefully, a close loss to a formidable opponent will propel Samford in future games.
The Bulldogs will look to improve on their 0-2 start when they open home play against Mississippi College on Tuesday, Nov. 14 at the Pete Hanna Center.