Purdue was down three points with just 5.7 second left and Jon Octeus at the line. Purdue's only hope was for Octeus to either make both and Purdue finds a way to get the ball back or pull the tricky make the first miss the second. Then Octeus missed the first free throw. That's okay there's still a chance. Then he missed the second and I threw my head back in disgust and audibly groaned. That's okay though because it's all part of the plan. Thanks to A.J. Hammons tipping the ball Kendall Stephens was able to grab the offensive rebound and dribble a few steps to the three point line and drain one from the corner to tie the game. Just like that. D.J. Newbill was unable to convert on the other end and Purdue and Penn State were headed to overtime in a game that by all rights Purdue deserved to lose.
In overtime it wasn't much of a contest as Penn State was defeated and deflated while Purdue looked energized and ready to go. That makes sense since Purdue was given second life while Penn State had their first conference victory ripped right from their hands. This marked Purdue's 900th conference victory and moved the current team to 3-2 with a very winnable game against a short handed Illinois coming up next.
John Wooden Memorial Player of the Game (JWMPOTG)- Obviously this is going to go to Kendall Stephens. A.J Hammons was able to carry the team in the first half, he didn't have a field goal in the second, but it was all Stephens in the second half. After hitting just one three in the first half Stephens wound up 6-12 from deep including the amazingly difficult shot to send the game to overtime. Not only did he hit it with less than five seconds to play he also had a Penn State player right there with him. Stephens led the team with 22 points and also managed to grab four rebounds.
Neither team looked very sharp today as each continued to shoot themselves in the foot just when things were looking good. Purdue found themselves down early after turning the ball over at a furious clip. Thanks to a tremendous first half from A.J. Hammons Purdue found themselves back into the game and even leading 21-18. That was pretty much enough for Purdue though as they decided to take the rest of the half off and allowed Penn State to go on a 16-4 run to end the half and Purdue went into halftime down 34-25. Fear not fellow Boilermakers as Purdue is of course (this season) a second half/overtime team!
It took just three minutes for Purdue to knock that Penn State lead to just one. I don't know where that team was for the last 5-6 minutes of the first half but it was nice to see them again. There must be something in the letter of intent Purdue players have signed recently that states they only have to give effort in one half. With just over five minutes gone by Purdue found themselves in the lead thanks to a lovely three pointer from the JWMPOTG. What does Purdue do to follow up this first lead of the second half? Did they step on Penn State's throat and increase the lead? Umm no. Instead of that Purdue went ahead and allowed a 9-0 Penn State run because why not?
Purdue wouldn't lead again until overtime. Instead the game stayed just out of reach with D.J. Newbill absolutely dominating the Purdue defense to shoot it from anywhere. Newbill finished the game 13-23 and took 23 of Penn State's 56 shots. That's 41% of the shots the team took. Crazy. He wound up with 37 points.
In overtime though oh how glorious it was. Purdue would score the first eight points of overtime effectively ending the game with 2:18 left in the game. Purdue would shoot 14 free throws in the overtime alone and made 11 of them. Quite a change from a team that made just one of their last five in regulation. That's how you turn a game around.
So where does this leave Purdue? Well, they now have a road win for the first time in over a year so we can stop hearing that stat. Purdue probably needs nine more victories if they want to be assured of reaching the big dance and it's going to be tight. They have a chance but they need to continue to play like they did in the second half and overtime. More performances like we saw in that first half would mean disaster for Purdue's chances. Purdue was extremely fortunate to win this one. If they were playing anyone but Penn State on the road there's a good chance Purdue loses this one. Purdue goes to Illinois on Wednesday and will look to win two straight on the road and continue to climb their way up the conference standings. Let's enjoy this one because there aren't many more exciting ways to win than forcing OT off a three like that.