Purdue slips past Louisville to score one for the Big Ten
Matt Painter was clear after his team rolled Arizona in both teams' finales at the Battle 4 Atlantis: That one win did not undo what had transpired before, when Purdue lost a couple games it probably shouldn't have, in large part because it didn't shoot well.
After the Boilermakers blitzed Arizona with threes, Painter said the "tell" for his team then would be how it fared when it once again did not shoot well.
He didn't have to wait long.
The Boilermakers made 5-of-23 threes Tuesday night against No. 17 Louisville. They missed two-thirds of their shots overall. Nevertheless, they won, 66-57.
It wasn't pretty — hideous, actually — but in beating the Cardinals, Purdue not only scored one for its league in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge but also maybe took a step toward exorcising one of its demons from Atlantis.
"We learned a hard lesson in the Bahamas," guard Dakota Mathias said. "We let our outside shooting affect our defense and we took two losses over there. I think we learned from that. I think we started 1-for-16 from three — we weren't shooting it well — but our mentality on defense remained solid and we were still getting up and disrupting them.
"I think we matured from those losses and that's what good teams and experienced teams do."
It was not easy.
In fact, Purdue trailed with a little more than three minutes left, shortly after rallying for a seven-point lead, then blowing it in roughly a minute.
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Mathias — bloodied over his right eye and stitched up at halftime — made the third of his three crucial second-half three-pointers with 2:54 to play, triggering the 15-5 run Purdue closed the game with.
"We've been there before. So when you're playing at home and have the crowd behind you and you've been in this situation before with a veteran group, you know what you have to do," guard P.J. Thompson said. "We're one of the best shooting teams in the country. You go 5-of-23 and go through adversity during the game, but you just stick with it. I thought we did a really good job of that. You saw no one get their heads down when they missed a shot. It was on to the next play, getting a stop, knowing (shots) would eventually fall and Dakota hit some big ones."
Purdue cobbled together just enough offense, leveraging Isaac Haas' presence early in the second half to pile fouls on the Cardinals, leading to some free offense and foul trouble for the visitor. Haas made two field goals for the night, but affected the game considerably, before being sent to the locker room early after taking a late shot to his elbow. (There was no immediate update on his condition.)
Thanks in part to Haas, Purdue scored 23 points at the foul line — many in the final minute.
"When you're struggling to shoot the basketball, you need to be able to steal some points from the free throw line," Painter said. "We were able to do that. That ends up being the difference."
Vincent Edwards, severely limited by foul trouble, same as he was at Marquette, played through the game's decisive sequences carrying four fouls, and came up big.
After Louisville cut a four-point lead to two with less than two minutes to play, Edwards came off a screen, took Carsen Edwards bounce pass in the lane and scored a key basket, capping what wound up a 15-point, seven-rebound evening, joining only Ryan Cline as Boilermakers who didn't miss more than half their shots.
Backup center Matt Haarms again came up big.
With Haas, too, limited by fouls. Haarms blocked four shots in 22 minutes, a key piece of a defensive effort that held Louisville to just 32-percent shooting and stymied the two players who topped its scouting report — point guard Quentin Snider (1-of-6, four turnovers) and wing Deng Adel (5-of-15, four turnovers), credits in particular to the efforts of Thompson and Mathias, respectively.
"Matt Haarms really helped us from a defensive standpoint," Painter said. "How they bother you with their length, he bothered some people with (his)."
Purdue was outrebounded again, but barely, overcoming a 7-1 hole on the glass to start the game and a 7-0 Louisville run on the scoreboard to open play.
"I liked the fight from our team," Painter said. "Our execution wasn't always great … but I thought our guys played hard and defended and gave a good fight."
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