After watching Illinois' amazing comeback last night against Indiana, and pondering whether this year's Purdue team can compete tomorrow night at home against No. 12 Michigan State, it caused us to look back at the five times (dating back to 1982) that "win-challenged" Boilermaker teams have pulled up the big upset over a team ranked in the nation's top dozen dating back to 1982:
March 6, 1982: Purdue 66, No. 11 Iowa 65
This game still goes down, especially to Iowa fans, as the "phantom call"by referee Jim Bain. With the game coming down to the wire, the Hawkeyes missed a last-second game-winning shot attempt that was promptly followed by a Bain's controversial foul call on Kevin Boyle on the rebound.
Freshman Dan Palombizio, the 1981 Indiana Mr. Basketball, went to the free throw line with no time remaining and with a winning season and a NIT bid on the line. Palombizio, who transferred to Ball State after two seasons, stood alone at the Mackey Arena free throw line and scored his only point of the game hitting one of two free throws. Iowa fans were so irate at the call that Bain, for his own safety, was relieved by the Big Ten office from having to officiate games in Iowa City for several years. The Boilermakers, under second year coach Gene Keady, advanced to the NIT title game before losing to Bradley and finished 18-14.
Feb. 2, 1989: Purdue 76, No. 2 Illinois 72
In another controversial finish, the Boilermakers eked out a win over the second-ranked "Flying Illini"under Coach Lou Henson, much to the delight of a sellout Mackey Arena crowd. Illinois, playing without one if its stars Kendall Gill never could put Purdue away, and it bit them in the end.
Junior Tony Jones practically willed his team to victory with 22 points, but it was senior Melvin McCants' clutch free throw shooting (he hit 11-of-12) that helped the Boilermakers pull the improbable upset. After all, the 1989 Big Ten conference was arguably as loaded as it is this year. Illinois and Michigan earning a trip to the Final Four (Steve Fisher's Wolverines won it all) and Indiana, the conference champion, and Minnesota, earning a trip to the Sweet 16. Iowa also was ranked in 15th in the final poll of the year.
Purdue finished 15-16, the first losing season under Coach Gene Keady. The Boilermaker boss nearly left for Arizona State after the last game of the season, but re-upped for Purdue instead.
March 15, 1992: Purdue 61, Indiana 59
One could put the Boilermakers win at No. 15 Michigan, and the Fab 5, on the list as well (who could forget Cornelius McNary's performance against Chris Webber?), but the two-point win over Bob Knight's Hoosiers on Senior Day remains one of the great wins ever in Mackey Arena. Senior Woody Austin's second-half shooting clinic put an arrow in the heart of IU, who thought it was destined for a No. 1 seed and the opportunity to play close to home, but instead was sent to Boise for the Big Dance.
Austin scored 20 points and carved up the Hoosiers at critical times in the final period, but fans forget the play of fellow senior Craig Riley. The Fort Wayne native had 15 points and seven rebounds and made a key recovery of a loose ball in the game's final minute to help seal the win. The victory erased memories of Purdue's worst loss ever to Indiana, a 106-65 defeat in Bloomington six weeks earlier. The Boilermakers finished the regular season with a 16-14 record, 8-10 in the Big Ten.
Nov. 25, 2000: Purdue 72, No. 1 Arizona 69
I don't think anyone saw this coming. After all, the Boilermakers had opened the season with a home loss to Central Michigan and no one, and I mean no one, thought that Purdue would be able to handle Lute Olson's top-ranked Wildcats.
Purdue was trying to reload after the graduation of a senior class of Brian Cardinal, Mike Robinson, Jaraan Cornell that had made it to the Elite Eight the year before. The Boilermakers got off to a fast start with a 15-3 lead, but Arizona managed to tie the game at halftime and even had a seven-point lead with 11:50 left. Transfer Joe Marshall had a memorable dunk in the game and came off the bench for arguably the best game of this career with 16 point. But it also took a career-best (at the time) performance by Rodney Smith (20 points) and Willie Deane (16) to get it done.
It also took a play by someone that didn't score a point, freshman Brett Buscher, who blocked a Lamont Frazier shot late in the game. The ball was retrieved by Deane who hit an easy layup to secure the improbable win at Indy's Conseco Fieldhouse.
The Boilermakers finished the 2000-01 season with a 17-15 mark before being eliminated at home by Alabama in the NIT.
Jan. 9, 2002: Purdue 84, No. 9 Illinois 75
The Boilermakers took advantage of a comatose Illinois team to pull the improbably upset. Purdue had lost its first two league games, and more of the same was expected in this one.
Once again Marshall played a key role off the bench for Purdue. Marshall scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds. His play in the first half gave the confidence-challenged Boilermakers hope to pull the upset. In the end, however, Smith led ass Purdue scorers with 17 and Austin Parkinson nailed nine consecutive free throws to post a career-best 13 points. .
Purdue won the game at the line hitting 35-of-46 charity tosses, and earning twice the free thrown attempts then the visitors from Champaign under Coach Bill Self.
All-American guard Frankie Williams scored 23 points, but the Boilermaker defense, one of the most porous in the Big Ten, limited Illini big man Brian Cook to just five points, which helped seal the win.
Purdue only won 13 games under Keady in 2001-02, his low-water mark until his final season at Purdue three years later.
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