Exciting Finish Secures Purdue Win
by: Shawn Martin
Purdue All American Jaden Ivey has another gear that he can shift into that almost no other college athlete has.
With Purdue clinging to a precarious three-point lead with under a minute left in regulation, Penn State guard Jalen Pickett missed on a short jumper. The miss got tipped long out towards half court, where two Penn State players went to retrieve the ball.
Ivey darted from near the free throw line and split the two Nittany Lions, grabbed the ball, and raced at warp speed down the court, hitting a driving layup that essentially sealed Purdue’s 69-61 victory.
The exiting finish delighted the predominately black and gold clad attendees packed into Gainbridge Fieldhouse just an hour South of Purdue’s campus.
That wasn’t how the game began though.
As Purdue has done many times this season, they just kind of coasted into the game, nonchalantly going through the motions waiting for a switch to be turned on.
That went on for about 11 minutes Friday night before the Boilers decided to play some defense – some – resulting in a 14-5 run that brought Purdue storming back.
Penn State came out and confidently moved the ball and shot themselves to a quick 12-2 lead at the first media timeout. Purdue’s 7-foot four-inch Center Zach Edey touched the ball on offense once in that 4:36 – on Purdue’s second possession where he scored from deep in the lane.
The Boilers shot, and shot, and shot from out – many times early in the shot clock. Purdue also struggled mightily to defend the perimeter shooters of Penn State, who hit four of their first five shots – including two from beyond the 3-point arc.
When Trevion Williams entered in his customary time slot after the first media break, he scored almost immediately on a layup. After a Penn State offensive foul, Mason Gillis made a layup off a nifty pass from Williams and Purdue trailed 12-6.
The Nittany Lions rebuilt a nine-point lead (18-9) on a Sam Sessoms layup with 11:44 remaining in the first half.
Purdue still trailed by nine when Ivey hit a layup and was fouled at the under-eight timeout (6:39). After the break, he completed the old fashioned three-point play. That began 20-7 run by the Boilers over the remainder of the first half and they led 35-31 as they went to the locker room.
During that stretch, little used Purdue guard Brandon Newman – he hadn’t played in a game since February 10th – was inserted by Purdue Coach Matt Painter, hoping for someone – anyone – to hit a shot.
Newman did that. Oh, did he do that.
The sophomore from Valparaiso, Indiana scored seven points, was 3-3 from the floor, including one 3-pointer. His shooting ignited the crowd, which in turn motivated the Boilermakers.
During the halftime interview on TV, Painter was asked why Newman hadn’t been playing lately. He jokingly answered, “bad coaching”.
Newman got early minutes in the second half and delivered there too. He finished the game without missing a shot and totaled 12 points.
Ivey had 17 – many on electrifying drives – and also led the Boilers with seven rebounds. Edey dominated the inside with 15 points while Williams added nine.
Purdue (26-6) shot 50% from the field and took a decidedly different approach to shooting from 3-point range after the opening ten minutes. They fed the ball inside and slashed to the basket and drew fouls. They only took 14 three-point shots for the game.
Penn State is in the first year of Micah Shrewsbury’s Head Coaching era. Shrewsbury spent the last two seasons as Painter’s Associate Head Coach. He knows all the Purdue players very well.
The Nittany Lions finish the season at 14-17 but had a positive finish to the season, playing very competitively for most of the last month of the season.
Pickett had 16 points and six assists to lead Penn State. Forward John Harrar contributed 15 points and 12 rebounds. Sessoms finished with nine.
Purdue advances to face #7 seed Michigan State in Saturday’s second semi-final game. That game will follow the game between fifth seeded Iowa and ninth seeded Indiana.
Purdue staved off history with the win. The last time the top four seeds in a Power Five conference basketball tournament had all lost in their opening game of the tournament was in 1983, when it happened in the Southeastern Conference. That streak still stands.
Purdue Post-Game Press Conference
Penn State Post-Game Press Conference