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2017 ACC/Big Ten Challenge: Purdue 66, Louisville 57

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Every win is beautiful (Yes, even this one)

NCAA Basketball: Louisville at Purdue Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

That was far from a thing of beauty.

Of course, we have a rule around here. Every Win is Beautiful. Regardless of how Purdue gets there, as long as we have more points than the other team at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how we get there.

Tonight definitely tested that theory.

Neither team shot well. Louisville was 31.7% from the field and Purdue was 33%. At one point Purdue was a dismal 1 of 16 from three. The Cardinals had a chance to open it up a bit in the second half, then Purdue came back. Good Purdue showed up for about five minutes, then it was like bad Purdue ran back into the building as a 7 point lead was erased in about 4 seconds, it seemed.

The common misconception is Purdue and coach Painter can’t win close games. Well, there we were, down 50-49 at the final media timeout with Carsen Edwards at the line. Purdue won the 3:41 17-8 by getting it done at the line and finally hitting some key field goals.

The game really turned on the next two possessions. Deng Adel scored after Carsen made both free throws to put Louisville in front 52-51, but Dakota Mathias followed with a clutch three at the top of the key to put Purdue in front for good. Adel missed a layup, then Carsen hit two more free throw to make it 56-52. After Anas Mahmoud made it 56-54 the biggest possession fo the game happened.

The Mahmoud basket came with 1:57 left and Purdue worked the clock. Mathias forced a long three with the shot clock winding down, but the blind luck went Purdue’s way as the long rebound went unchallenged to Carsen. Purdue reset its offense, ran more clock, and Vince Edwards scored on the drive.

That changed everything. Purdue managed to both score and run about a minute off the clock. From there it was free throws. P.J. Thompson forced a big turnover and hit three free throws. Vince hit a few, Carsen hit a few, Dakota hit a few, and it was over.

Really, that is what it takes too. This was an ugly basketball game by almost any measure. Nojel Eastern somehow missed two shots inside a foot from the basket. Purdue couldn’t shoot and struggled to rebound again. Not only was Purdue not shooting well, it was not taking the best shots. There were at least 4-5 unexplained 25 footers that caromed off the rim.

Fortunately, Purdue was just a little bit better in the end.

Now we start the Big Ten season a little early, and if we can take care of business against Maryland and Northwestern we have a nice, easy stretch before going to Michigan with only Butler really in the way. Purdue will probably be favored in every game until it goes to Ann Arbor. When the schedule came out there was a chance to play Arizona and Louisville in consecutive game to get huge wins. Well, the path wasn’t what we planned, but we got the result we wanted in those two.

We now have three very good wins for March safely in our back pocket outside of conference play. We have a bad loss (Western Kentucky) and a loss that may turn out to be okay (Tennessee). Last year we had one good win (Notre Dame) two good losses (Villanova and Louisville) and not much else.

The improtant thing is that these were wins. After losing to Western Kentucky there was a “The sky is falling” mentality among Purdue fans. It was an ugly 24 hours, and with Arizona and Louisville coming after that game there was an excellent chance a 4-0 hot start could trail into 4-4 with two golden chances for resumes wins gone.

This team responded, however.

Next up, the official title defense begins Friday night in College Park.