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Boilermakers overcome both circumstance and Penn State in needed win

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Pushed to its breaking point and playing without maybe its most important player, Purdue pushed back Sunday night, beating surging Penn State 76-73 to snap a three-game losing streak.

Behind 27 points from Carsen Edwards, 18 from Dakota Mathias and profoundly important bench contributions — some crucial shots from Ryan Cline included — the Boilermakers beat the upstart Lions without senior Vincent Edwards, out with a sprained ankle.

It was sweet catharthis for a Purdue team that needed to heal after a difficult three-game run punctuated by a stunning performance — the performance more so than the loss — at Wisconsin.

Sunday, Mathias suggested Purdue's not been enjoying basketball as much as usual lately, perhaps feeling pressure.

"Basketball was pretty fun today, especially when you win," Mathias said. "That's something we've been searching for the last couple games, last couple weeks. I think you could tell at Wisconsin we were very lackadaisical, weren't enjoying ourselves, weren't playing with energy, and that's not what Purdue is or what any of us on the team are.

"Today, for 40 minutes, everybody stepped up. ... That's how we've got to play all the time."

Purdue did let an 11-point second-half lead slip away — missed free throws and rebounding struggles being the root causes – but the Boilermakers steadied themselves and maintained a lead into the final moments, after Mathias' three-pointer with 1:13 to play put the Boilermakers up four.

Lamar Stevens made two free throws, though, and Purdue came up empty on its ensuing possession, putting the ball in Nittany Lion hands with a chance to tie or take the lead.

Penn State missed its initial shot, but big man Mike Watkins rebounded a subsequent miss and drew a foul. Purdue was ooutrebounded by seven and gave up 11 offensive rebounds.

Watkins, limited to nine minutes due to foul problems, missed the first, though.

After he made the second, Purdue inbounded to Carsen Edwards, who was fouled and made both with 2.8 seconds left.

It left Tony Carr (19 points) with a chance for a would-be game-tying runner from just inside halfcourt, much like the one he beat Ohio State with in Columbus, but this time, the shot was way off, and Purdue walked off Keady Court a winner, its Big Ten title hopes needing help from Michigan State's upcoming opponents, but alive nonetheless.

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It had to have been a particularly satisfying win for Purdue in the context of all it overcame. Not just the loss of Vincent Edwards, but also the nine-point first-half hole it dug itself out of.

Purdue trailed by nearly double figures before halftime, as it opened 0-for-7 from three-point range and Penn State turned seven Boilermaker turnovers into eight points.

But Carsen Edwards made a pair of jumpers in the final minute of the first half to cut a 30-23 Penn State lead down to four at halftime.

To open the second half, Purdue broke loose, with a 12-2 run right out of the locker room. It moved it toward the 53-42 lead it would hold with 12-and-a-half minutes left.

Purdue made shots it largely missed in the first half, but also blitzed Penn State passing lanes, forced many of Penn State's 15 turnovers and forced the Lions to "play too fast," as Coach Patrick Chambers put it.

"It was the sense of urgency," Mathias said. "We'd lost three games in a row, and we're at home, in one of the greatest environments in college basketball, and didn't want to disappoint again.

"(Penn State's) a good team and we knew we had to come out hot and not give them much life from the beginning. That's always a big thing for us — the first five minutes of the second half, especially when we're losing at halftime. We had to come out and hit first."

But, again, the lead wouldn't last.

By the seven-minute, the game was tied at 56 after consecutive Shep Garner threes, two of his five on the day.

But Cline's threes at 5:26 and 3:55 — he'd not scored the past three games — were particularly important in never allowing the Lions to retake the lead.

"We just focused on getting stops and getting good shots down the stretch of the game," Carsen Edwards said.

It wouldn't have been possible without a Purdue bench that this season has been needed, but aside from Matt Haarms, maybe never needed.

Against Penn State, it was, and it delivered.

Starting in Vincent Edwards' place, Grady Eifert logged 23 minutes and finished with six points and four rebounds. Eastern was on the floor in the game's final seconds at point guard as Matt Painter looked for a balance between Eastern's size and rebounding and P.J. Thompson's foul-shooting prowess. Eastern against impacted a game defensively in particular, stacking up well with Carr when guarding the Big Ten's third-leading scorer.

And Cline scored seven of nine points during one stretch for Purdue with the game hanging in the balance.

"(The win) says a lot about the guys who stepped up tonight and them just being ready," Carsen Edwards said, "and them taking advantage of the opportunity. It says a lot about us as a team, but it says a lot about Grady, 'Jel, Ryan and Matt making big plays down the stretch."


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