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February 15, 2014

Rivalry newbies come up big

Surprisingly, they found themselves together alone in the locker room before Purdue's game against Indiana Saturday.

All the newcomers to the rivalry, the first-year Boilermakers who'd yet to experience how brutal, how chippy, how emotional it could get.

And they came to an agreement: They were going to do whatever it took to help Purdue snap its four-game losing streak to the hated Hoosiers.

"It was a good moment," freshman Bryson Scott said of the gathering in the locker room. "All of us first-year guys, we really wanted to help. We just put our individuals aside and came together as a unit.

"We really wanted to help them from last year after they kind of gave it to them. We wanted to try to give it to them. We really wanted to try to come out there and have a good game."

Did they ever deliver, fueling an 82-64 rout.

Fifth-year senior transfer Sterling Carter "showed out" with a season-high 19 points, including scoring the team's first 10 in the second half.

Scott had four assists, three consecutive in a spurt in the first half, and never stopped fighting, highlighted by a physical tie-up in the second half.

Fifth-year senior Errick Peck helped clear space to facilitate freshman Basil Smotherman's key momentum play at the end of the first half on the free-throw-miss putback.

Freshman Kendall Stephens, known for his pinpoint perimeter shooting, blocked a team-high three shots and had a three-point play after an offensive rebound tip-in.

"Our first-year guys did a pretty good job," Coach Matt Painter said. "It was good for our guys."

Carter was the lone player of the group who didn't know much about the rivalry before joining the team this season. Even Peck, the other transfer, is an Indianapolis native whose roots with the rivalry run deep - as in, his entire family are Hoosier fans.

But it didn't take long for Carter to summon the emotion needed in such a big game.

Less than one minute into the game, Carter raced to tip a pass and then dove to try to save it, ultimately forcing an Indiana turnover. About one minute later, he drilled a three-pointer from the wing. Another minute later he snatched a steal on a deflection.

He lit the fuse to start the second half, too, sticking a three-pointer from the corner after a quick pass on an inbound play. Then he slipped through the lane on a drive and got a lefty lay-in. Then another three-pointer from the wing - off a pass from Peck against the zone - to give him 14 points, surpassing his previous season high of 13.

Carter had only made 3-of-22 three-pointers in his previous eight games. Against the Hoosiers, he made five of six.

"I was real comfortable. I was in rhythm, just playing hard, and my shot started to fall, so why not keep shooting?" Carter said. "I'm not from Indiana, but these guys allowed me to see how passionate this rivalry was, and I'm just glad to be here to help them get the victory."

Indiana native Scott knew plenty about the rivalry, and he admitted to some nerves before the game to play in it. But he shook them pretty quickly and got focused.

It paid off during a spurt that started with five minutes left in the first half, with Purdue trailing.

After taking a bad jump shot - something he's been trying to do less of as the season has progressed - Scott snapped back into "sacrifice" mode and dished to Terone Johnson for a three off a drive. Less than one minute later, Scott drove hard middle again but pulled up near the free throw line, turned and scooped another pass to Johnson, who had the space to hit another three-pointer while Scott screened out a defender.

After Scott grabbed a rebound off an Indiana miss, he pushed and got the ball to Smotherman on a no-look pass under the basket for a 31-29 lead.

"I was real happy. That was something that's never happened before," Scott of the three-consecutive-assist stretch. "They weren't getting back on defense, so my goal was just to attack and if I could get a layup, get a layup, but I saw other people open. I just wanted to get them involved if I could and get myself involved if I could, but they happened to make me look good with the shots they made."

Perhaps Scott's defining moment, though, will be what happened at 13:27 of the second half.

After Indiana's Will Sheehey missed a shot, Scott went to track down the rebound and got tied up with Robinson. The two yanked at the ball, but it was Scott who ultimately ripped it away, drawing praise from the packed house in Mackey. Some jabbering ensued, and Scott was pulled away by teammates.

But the message was sent: Scott wasn't going to give up the fight. Not against that team.

"I just didn't want him to have the ball. By any means, I wanted to get that ball," Scott said, smiling. "I was extra pumped out there.

"This was real big for us. We really enjoyed this one. It was a real good one."

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