Tears In the Locker Room
It was an emotional time for Purdue basketball, and the Boilermakers were struggling for their post-season lives. Sound familiar?
Coach Gene Keady coached 792 games as the Boilermaker boss, and to date Coach Matt Painter has logged 227. After Wednesday's events in Illinois, Painter became the first Purdue coach since Gene Keady to be asked to leave a game. For Keady, it happened in a game that Painter played in, a dramatic 70-65 win at Iowa on March 2, 1991. It was Keady's 270th game at the helm for Purdue and the lone time in his career that he was dismissed before the game's final bell.
The Boilermakers entered Carver-Hawkeye with a pedestrial 14-11 mark, and were just 6-9 in the Big Ten. That is a record that has NIT written all over it.
Yet, Keady's team overcame a 12-point defecit in the final eight minutes to stun Iowa, 70-65 before 15,500 fans. It was a victory that few saw coming, especially when Keady was ejected with 16:35 left and Purdue trailing 43-40.
Assistant Bruce Weber took over the reins with assistants Frank Kendrick, Tom Reiter and Steve Lavin lending a hand. Eventually falling behind 61-49 following a tip-in basket by Iowa's Rodell Davis with 7:56 left, the Boilers came up with their biggest gut-check of the year, outscoring the Hawks 21-4 the rest of the way.
As the story goes, the Boilermakers did it for Keady whose mother had died two days earlier. They knew Keady was watching helplessly, secluded and away from the action.
"When Coach got kicked out, it spelled trouble for Iowa," said Jimmy Oliver, a senior All-Big Ten forward on the team. "It was a motivational factor for us to pick it up a level to get the win for him. We dedicated it to him, especially considering the things that have happened to him this week."
For Weber, he knew Keady's recent tragedy was a factor.
"You have to give a lot of credit to the kids. They hung in there," said Weber, after the game. "We talked about hanging in there at the timeouts and not panicking. We talked about Coach in the huddle and playing for him because he deserved it and his mom had died.
"After the game he (Keady) was crying in the locker room. He had broken down and I had seen that only one or two times in the 11 years I've been with him. It was a special victory for him."
After the game, all Keady wanted to do was shower praise on his players and assistants afterwards.
"It was a great, great victory for our kids," he said. "They worked very hard this week. And they (assistants) always do a great job. I don't want him to leave but maybe this will help Coach Weber get a head job because he deserves it.
"I'll stay in the locker room the rest of the year if we can win them all."
Keady gave simple instructions to his team after being ejected: "Be patient." Words to live by. Words to win by.
Purdue scored 11 straight points and pulled to 61-60 with 5:50 left. Val Barnes hit a long jumper to briefly widen the gap but Oliver knocked down a pair of 3-pointers to put the Boilers ahead for good. The latter was an off-balance bank shot from the left side with 31 seconds left.
They sure did. James Moses missed a 3-pointer and Chuckie White was fouled after grabbing as rebound. White, and adventure every time he steps to the foul line, made a pair of free throws to make the score 68-63 with 16.9 seconds left.
Scoring ace Acie earl, who sat the first 10 minutes for disciplinary reasons, followed with a dunk, but no matter because Linc Darner made two charity tosses after being intentionally fouled with 7.1 seconds to play.
"I thought (Purdue) showed tremendous courage and work awfully hard to come back on us like they did," said Iowa coach Tom Davis, whose team fell to 28-10, 7-9, but will still likely be invited to the NCAA's.
Purdue's Team Effort included 21 points from Oliver, 15 points off the bench from freshman Ian Stanback, 11 points and 8 rebounds from Craig Riley, 11 points from Darner and 10 points and 11 boards from White.
Guard Dave Barrett didn't produce numbers but after Keady's departure, "Dave went off like he was Rambo," said White.
And for the second straight game, the seniors - White, Oliver and Barrett- responded to the challenge given by Keady following the second-half collapse at Michigan State a week earlier.
And as Keady's pointed out time and time again, you don't necessarily have to be in the game to be a leader. Consider Barrett.
"Dave Barrett probably deserves the game ball," said Weber. "With four or five minutes left he took himself out. He said. 'Coach, I can't hit the shot. Put in Linc, they're going to give him the open shot from the 3-point line.' And Linc stepped up and hit it.
"Here's a senior, a kid you'd think would want to be in the game, whose unselfishness is unbelievable."
Purdue fell behind in part because no one wanted the ball, period. On several occasions it could not inbounds the ball because of defensive pressure and failure of Boilers to set picks to get open.
Once they settled down and opted to execute the half-court offensive and play aggressive defense, the rally began.
"We didn't make aggressive cuts and on defense we didn't have our knees bent," said Weber. "We got after the kids but it took Coach's technical and getting out of the game to wake them up."
Keady tried to wake everyone up early as he earned his first technical a mere 1:32 into the game. To note, this is the first year coaches are ejected after receiving a second technical.
Keady's early 'T' may have been in reaction to shock of having his team score first, though officials Tom Rucker, Sam Lickliter and Randy Drury will tell you differently. In fact, so will Keady.
"You get what you deserve and I've always deserved every technical I've ever gotten," Keady said, "It's a rule so it's a rule."
Riley's put-back gave the Boilers the opening lead for the first time since the Big Ten opener at Northwestern, Jan. 3.
Purdue held leads of 14-8 and 20-16. But Iowa scored 10 straight to move ahead 26-20 at 7:08. Purdue countered with a 10-3 surge in the next three minutes and appeared headed for the locker room with the lead when Stanback hit a short jumper for a 38-35 advantage. But after two Iowa misses, Troy Skinner drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer to tie.
Purdue, tied for fifth in the league with Iowa and Wisconsin, doesn't know if it needs to win both remaining fames against Ohio State and Northwestern to get into the NCAA Tournament.
"I have no idea what will happen," Keady said. "If we beat Ohio State, I think we're in no matter what we do against Northwestern."
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