Dakota Mathias makes his senior day one to remember
Dakota Mathias left Mackey Arena Sunday, winner of his 100th game alongside classmates P.J. Thompson, Isaac Haas and Vincent Edwards, with the consummate Dakota Mathias game.
No. 9 Purdue’s 84-60 win over Minnesota in the regular season finale for both teams was a senior’s day, indeed, on senior day, as the Boilermaker guard left Keady Court in style, scoring a career-high-matching 25 points on 9-of-11 shooting, 7-of-9 from three-point range, the sort of torrid shooting spree he’s been known for from time to time in his career.
But scoring was part of it, only a part.
When big men slipped screens and rolled to the basket, Mathias hit them for dunks, finishing with four assists to no turnovers.
As Purdue outrebounded Minnesota 33-32 — the numbers were so skewed by garbage time, remember, after the Boilermakers led by as many as 31 in the second half — Mathias led the way with seven.
He added two of Purdue’s nine blocked shots and two its nine steals, too, in what was one of the most productive and complete games of his career.
"The most important thing was to get a win," said Mathias, flanked by his three classmates during the post-game press conference, "and go out the right way with these guys."
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Largely due to Mathias’ play, Purdue routed the Gophers much the same way it did in Minneapolis earlier in the season.
The Boilermakers opened up a 16-point first half lead, but Nate Mason’s runner just before the halftime buzzer made the lead eight.
In the second half, Mathias — complementing Carsen Edwards and his 18 points nicely — opened play with a jumper off the glass, then a three soon thereafter.
It set up the run that snowed Minnesota under.
Starting with Carsen Edwards’ three that put Purdue up 13 less than two minutes into the half, the Boilermakers connected on seven consecutive threes, a 14-0 scoring run mixed in there. By the time the run of shot-making was over, Purdue led by almost two-dozen and the game’s remaining intrigue lied solely in how Matt Painter would sub out the four seniors.
It was a very similar pattern from Purdue's win over Minnesota at the Barn weeks ago, when the Boilermaker got up big, Minnesota made a modest run to keep it close at halftime, then got its doors blown off after halftime.
"It was just us getting some stops and being able to knock down some shots," Painter said.
Pretty simple, really.
And so much of it had to do with Mathias, and the "quintessential game for him," as Painter called it.
But it was a strong all-around performance for Purdue, closing the regular season well, albeit against a team just playing out the string to finish out a lost season, but a strong all-around performance nonetheless.
The Boilermakers set a defensive tone early, forcing Minnesota into several turnovers. The Gophers finished with 13, which Purdue turned into 15 points. Purdue committed just five itself, against 16 assists, seven of them by Carsen Edwards on the eve of him likely being crowned first-team All-Big Ten come Monday.
Purdue's centers made impacts, Isaac Haas scoring 13 points in his final appearance in Mackey Arena and Matt Haarms chipping in eight points, five rebounds and two blocks off the bench in one of his more productive games lately.
And Vincent Edwards was back for senior day after missing the past two games with a sprained left ankle.
He was just 3-of-10 from the floor, but active on the offensive glass and made a three during Purdue's game-deciding run, finishing with 10 points.
"P.J. (Thompson) was like, 'You ain't hurt, you ain't hurt,' to try to psych me out a little bit," Edwards said. "He really knew (I was) but he was trying to push me, and honestly that kind of helped to break the mental (part), because when you're hurt, you want to baby your injury or whatever it or be gentle with it.
"These guys didn't let me. They made sure I was in here getting treatment, asking me how I was every day, and that showed how much they cared about me. How else can you return the favor except for playing for them, not only for myself, but it's bigger than me. It's all of us, the community and the future of the program. I knew everybody wanted to see me out on the court in one of my last games.
"The healing process went amazingly quick. It was unbelievable. It's not where I want it to be, but it's going to get there and I feel like I'll be fine when tournament time comes."
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