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Purdue Overcomes First Half Deficit, Stuns Minnesota 72-68

Purdue's second half is too much for the Gophers. Purdue wins conference opener 72-68.

Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

In what can only be described as improbable Purdue somehow found a way to use a strong second half to defeat the high scoring Golden Gophers by the final score of 72-68. Purdue fell hard and fast for in the first half. After jumping out to a 4-2 lead Purdue wouldn't lead again until just under 4:56 left in the game. Three returning players and one newcomer were keys to get Purdue back in the ballgame, but more on that later. At the end of the day what matters is Purdue took an 11 point halftime deficit and turned it into a four point victory. It should've been a seven point victory but Minnesota heaved a half court shot at the buzzer that banked in and cut the lead to four as time expired. Purdue now sits at 9-5 but more importantly 1-0 in the B1G.

John Wooden Memorial Player of the Game (JWMPOTG)- This is a tough one because as I said above there are four players that truly deserve the award today but I've got to go with A.J. Hammons. Hammons had 11 points, 9 rebounds, two assists, a steal, and a block to go along with just one turnover. This was Hammons best game of the season on both offense and defense. Purdue needs this guy to keep playing at this level. Honorable mentions go to second half Kendall Stephens who lit up Minnesota for a total of 19 points, Rapheal Davis who went 10-10 from the line, and Jon Octeus who had 10 poins and four assists.

In the first half Purdue fell into the same traps they've fallen into all season. On defense they looked slow, tired, and generally disinterested. On top of an already slow defensive performance Purdue allowed Minnesota to light them up from distance going 5-7 in the first half. That's 71% and is roughly 30% better than you want opponents to shoot. Purdue simply could do little right in the first half. On the offensive side of the ball Kendall Stephens continued his major struggle and wound up just 1-5 from the floor. The only only Boilermaker who actually made more than one bucket was AJ Hammons who played like a man and went 4-5. He was all Purdue had in that first half almost singlehandedly keeping Purdue in it. It looked like a tailor made Purdue loss as we headed to halftime with Purdue down 36-25. Oh what a treat we were in for.

To come out of the second half Minnesota's offense just looked off. The shots they were taking weren't smart. They weren't moving as quickly as they did in the first half and the passing that had hurt Purdue wasn't quite as crisp. For Purdue's offense Kendall Stephens came to life with five points in the first four minutes. Add in an easy bucket from Haas and a pair of free throws by Davis and the Minnesota lead was just to just four with 16:29 left to play. This was the Purdue team we were hoping to see since Maui. Then poof they were gone. Minnesota used some great shooting and suddenly the Purdue deficit that was cut to three jumped up to eight and then ten. It looked like Purdue might let the game slip away. Each time Purdue cut the deficit down to four or less Minnesota answered and pushed it back closer to double digits. Purdue was down nine with just over 9:00 to play in the game when it all started to click for our Boilermakers. Purdue scored on three straight possessions with buckets by Stephens, Davis, and Haas respectively and cut the lead to just six. After forcing a turnover Kendall Stephens decided he had had enough and scored back to back three pointers to tie the game at 56. At this point I'm jumping off the couch and my dog is terrified of what's happening. We had ourselves an honest to God ballgame.

In the final 5:28 of the game Purdue won the game with smart passes, easy buckets, and 8-8 from the free throw line. Those aren't three things you think of when this Purdue team comes to mind of late. It was a nice and refreshing change. Davis was clutch down the stretch scoring eight of Purdue's last 12 points. So what was the difference from the first half to the second half you ask? Well that's take a look at some stats shall we?

  • First half Purdue gets out-rebounded 19-14. In the second half Purdue won the rebounding battle 18-12 to win the overall rebounding war 32-31. That's a pretty big swing from half to half there. Most of that is just effort on Purdue's part. AJ Hammons in particular showed great effort in the second half grabbing six rebounds in the second half which was double his first half total.
  • Free throws were a huge help for Purdue which again is unusual. Purdue was 8-11 in the first half and 14-16 in the second half. Great percentages in both halves but the sheer volume in the second half made the difference. It bears mentioning again that Davis went 10-10 from the line. That's ice water in the veins type shooting.
  • Three point shooting on both offense and defense is the third thing I want to highlight. After going 5-7 in the first half from deep Minnesota could manage just 3-9 in the second half. That's more in line with what you'd hope to see from an opponent. On offense Purdue went 1-6 from three in the first half. In the second half with better shot selection and Kendall Stephens being on fire Purdue went a much more respectable 3-5.
That's how you turn an 11 point deficit into a four point victory. It's not something I expected after seeing the way Purdue played in the first half but I was definitely pleasantly surprised. The question now is can Purdue not make this an outlier? Can Purdue make this game a turning point where they see what they are capable of and turn the season around? That I don't know but they sure played one hell of a second half today. Purdue showed crisp passing and great movement through the lane to help out when Hammons and Haas were doubled. Purdue wound up with 20 assists on their 23 made baskets. That's the sort of teamwork this team is capable of. Again though does this become a turning part of will we look back on this game as a what might have been? Purdue gets to play a struggling Michigan team at home on the 3rd. It's a winnable game and would put Purdue at 2-0 in the conference. Let's savor this victory for now and all get our expectations ridiculously high before they are inevitably crushed. Just kidding. Damn that was a fun game huh? Happy New Year Everyone!