In a season of close losses and struggles at the end of games, the Boilers couldn't close out what looked to be a sure win over Cincinnati with 48 seconds left in regulation. The Boilers led by 7 at 56-49 after Jon Octeus hit two free throws. Then the improbable happened. Kevin Johnson hit a long three-pointer. An inbounds pass to Dakota Mathias was knocked out of bounds by Cincinnati and it was questionably overturned on review. Troy Caupain scored on the inbounds and was fouled. His free throw cut the seven point lead to one in just four seconds.
Purdue would miss two free throws inside 30 seconds, one the front-end of a one-and-one. The second came with seven seconds left and Caupain went the length of the floor to barely beat the buzzer to send it to overtime with a difficult shot over Hammons that hit every part of the rim.
In the overtime he teams traded baskets, but Coreontae DeBerry's basket off of an offensive rebound put Cincy in front for good. That came with 3:17 left and neither team would scored until Farad Cobb hit a layup with 30 seconds left. Purdue had a load of chances to take the lead back, but couldn't do it. Their possessions after DeBerry's basket:
Vince Edwards - missed layup
Rapheal Davis - two missed free throws
Jon Octeus - missed dunk
P.J. Thompson - airballed three-pointer
Even then, Dakota Mathias and Vince Edwards had good looks at three-pointers in the last second, but couldn't connect. There will be a lot of second guessing about the final 5:48 of this one for a long time. I know beating Kentucky in the next round would have been very unlikely, but getting a 15th straight first round win would have been a nice cap on an up and down season.
Why didn't Purdue push it inside to Hammons more in the overtime?
Why was Thompson in there in a big spot? Why didn't Edwards attack the basket or make a pass to get a better, closer shot?
Was the timeout with 7 seconds left before Caupain's basket a good one?
Was that ball really off Mathias?
In the end it is another Purdue loss like so many others. One bad bounce (the call against Mathias) was critical, but the Boilers had dozens of other chances to take the game via free throws, a layup instead of a dunk there by Octeus, or even just a little more (or less) English on Caupain's shot. The game turned on the out of bounds call that was overturned, but it shouldn't have mattered. Purdue had plenty of chances to ice it after it.
On the bright side, this is still a young team. Only Octeus (for sure) is gone, and we are definitely grateful he became a Boiler. Tonight was a night for freshmen with Vince Edwards playing a fantastic game on 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists. Dakota Mathias and Isaac Haas each had some good moments too. The biggest question is will Hammons return, and we will know in a few weeks.
This stings now, but it was a learning moment for a very young team, most of whom were playing their first NCAA Tournament game. If Hammons returns this team can still be pretty good next season.
So let's thank Jon for his contributions. Thank Neal Beshears, the other senior who silently contributed in practice this year. The finish to this season stinks, but at the beginning of the year it was pretty much what we all expected. The expectations are now raised, however, as the Boilers will return an experienced team in 2015-16. The building for that starts now.