WINONA LAKE - The Grace men’s basketball team is no stranger to big games. The current version of the Lancers is coming off of one of the best seasons in program history and will begin this year’s campaign ranked No. 2 in the NAIA.
On Wednesday, the Lancers will play a different type of big game when they travel to West Lafayette to take on the Big Ten powerhouse Purdue Boilermakers at Mackey arena in a scrimmage.
“I think this means so much to not only our basketball program but our school and community in general,” Grace head coach Scott Moore said. “It’s been neat to see the buzz around the area around this game. They don’t have to play us, so to have that opportunity, it’s so much bigger than just a game for our team and our college.”
Wednesday night’s scrimmage has already been sold out for weeks and will be a prime opportunity for Grace to sharpen its skills against one of the best teams in the entire country. The Boilermakers were ranked No. 3 in the first AP Top 25 Poll of the season and also boast the reigning National Player of the Year in 7’4” center Zach Edey.
Moore had a few “outside-the-box” ideas on how to guard the big man.
“I’m planning on putting six guys out there and hoping we don’t get a technical,” Moore laughed. “Maybe every time he runs by me I’ll stick my foot out.”
Moore had some other ideas too.
“We’re a big team, we will match up with them pretty good in terms of size, but there’s just not a matchup for 7 '4”,” Moore said. “Obviously Elijah is our biggest guy at 6’10” so he’s going to be busy but we’re going to throw a few different things at him. You watch him play against all of these Big Ten schools and they say the same things.”
Along with the matchup on the court, Moore feels as if an underrated storyline in this game is taking place on the sidelines.
“I think one of the coolest things that nobody’s really talking about is the similarities between myself and Matt Painter’s situations,” Moore explained. “We’re both in our first head coaching job, we’re both at our alma maters and we are both following the guy that we played for that were absolute legends. There’s not many guys in the country that can say that.”
While the exhibition game will be the second for Purdue and will take place before the Boilermakers play their first regular season game, the contest will actually take place in the middle of the Lancers’ regular season. Grace begins the 2023-24 campaign with two home games on Friday and Saturday against Kentucky Christian and Madonna.
“They’re really excited, but they’re also locked in for these first two games. There’s a lot of positive buzz around this team,” Moore said. “I don’t think these guys are content though because they didn’t win the last game. Their goal hasn’t changed and it’s to raise one of those giant red banners. We’ve got a lot of neat things along the way to March, so it’ll be nice to slow it down and enjoy the ride.”
When asked about what kind of result it would take for Moore to be proud of his team’s play, the head coach thought a minute before answering.
“It’s an exhibition game so hopefully we can get them ready and give them a game that they think is worth their time. But also, it’s like having a Corvette in the garage,” Moore said “You can’t drive it slowly. These guys are going to go out there and compete. We may not win the game, but nobody in our locker room is going to believe that if you told that to them pregame.
“I don’t look at the scoreboard as much as I used to. We like to focus on doing the little things that make us better. Whether we lose by 10 or 20 or if we get crushed, I’ll be satisfied if I can look at the film and see that we’re doing the things that we preach.”
Wednesday night’s game between Grace and Purdue will tip off at 7 p.m. at Mackey Arena.