BLOOMINGTON — So this, this was another glowing example of the value of the experience Purdue has all season relied up on as its foundation. Beyond the stellar three-point shooting, its overwhelming nature in the post and the surprisingly stout defense has been that simple starting point: Purdue’s players have played what seems like a lifetime of basketball together, seasoning it can always fall back on when things get difficult.
Sunday afternoon at Indiana, in a game that could have been the Hoosiers’ jumping-off point for its new beginning, things became difficult.
And again, Purdue didn’t flinch.
Riding big man Isaac Haas to the finish line as part of his career-high-tying 26-point showing, the third-ranked Boilermaker won in Bloomington for the third time in four years, this time 74-67, this time to set a new school record with their 17th consecutive win.
"(I see experience) being there in not committing silly fouls at the end, not allowing them to steal points from you because the noise is too loud," Coach Matt Painter said, "and then just executing at the offensive end.
"That just comes from being in games and being able to handle some adversity. Everybody has adversity and fails, but you have to be able to learn from it and our guys throughout the years have been able to learn from it."
Facing the best its opponent had to offer for the second time in as many outings, Purdue trailed by double-figures quickly in the first half — it took IU less than five minutes to put the Boilermakers in their deepest hole of this Big Ten season, eight points down, then trailed at halftime and found themselves down five with 11:38 to play, following Aljami Durham’s acrobatic and-one shot over Haas.
"We stuck with it," Purdue point guard P.J. Thompson said. "We got off to a rough start to be honest. We let Rob Johnson get going and (Juwan) Morgan played a great game and fought hard. But we knew that if we kept sticking with it, we'd get our defensive stops and finish the play with the rebound, and then it would be picking your poison whether they'd double Isaac or leave us (guards) open. We executed down the stretch and were able to finish the game."
After IU went up five, Haas scored next time down, Dakota Mathias nailed a pull-up three, Purdue tied it back up and never trailed again. Five times from there on out Purdue led by one. Indiana never moved back in front.
Purdue later trailed 57-56 with 7:37 to play, but Vincent Edwards drove and made a turnaround over Justin Smith for the and-one that gave the Boilermakers the lead back. They never trailed again.
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With three minutes to play, Purdue led just 65-64 when Mathias’ wide-open three-pointer from just in front of his own bench missed. Haas rebounded the miss, though, to put the Boilermakers up three.
With 1:26 left, Haas made amends for a missed dunk on the trip prior by scoring over Juwan Morgan, putting the visitors up five.
Morgan answered for IU — it would be its lone field goal over nearly the final four minutes — but after two Vincent Edwards free throws for Purdue, P.J. Thompson swiped the ball from driving Robert Johnson and Carsen Edwards’ two free throws pushed Purdue’s lead to an insurmountable seven with 37 seconds to play.
"When Rob was coming off, I just jumped to the ball," Thompson said. "It was our defensive principles, little things that start adding up."
Purdue did everything right when it mattered most.
And because of it, it won on a day things did not go as planned.
Purdue’s constant — its nearly NCAA-best three-point shooting — failed it, as it made just 5-of-18. And the defense that’s buoyed it throughout this extended winning streak again took on water, as Indiana shot 50 percent for the game, 57 in the first half.
Didn’t matter. Purdue just keeps winning, by any means necessary.
Today, just like the game prior, it was Haas, who made 10-of-17 shots and carried the Boilermakers when it mattered most.
Not only that, but he handled IU's defensive plan masterfully, finishing with no turnovers, a pair of assists and at least two hockey assists. In the final two minutes of the first half, his ball reversal out of a double team led to Dakota Mathias' three; with 52 seconds left, Haas dribbled out of a double, allowing Vincent Edwards to fill in behind him in the post. Carsen Edwards found him for the foul, which led to two made free throws in a crucial moment.
"I enjoy watching these other guys score when (defenses) try to take me away," Haas said.
Vincent Edwards missed all six of the threes he took and committed five of Purdue’s seven turnovers, but finished with 19 points nonetheless, on 7-of-15 shooting, with seven rebounds. Carsen Edwards was only 3-of-10 from the floor, but one of the three was a doozy, a left-handed and-one dunk over Josh Newkirk, coming off a steal, in the first four minutes of the second half.
Purdue players joked about seeing such things from their dynamic sophomore before.
When asked if any had ever been on the wrong end of such a play, Haas sheepishly raised his hand, a nod to the dunk Edwards threw down on him shortly after he enrolled last summer, when the guard split a ball screen during a workout and stuffed it just as Haas had arrived.
Haas' admission was the lone sign of vulnerability he showed all day.
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