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The Breakdown: How the State was Won

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Has Purdue finally broken the myth that it can’t win close games?

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Much has been made this season of Purdue’s struggles in late game situations. In four of the five losses (Louisville was never really close enough despite the final score) Purdue has either been tied or within a possession with the ball in the final seconds.

There have been a handful of games this season that I would qualify as “tight games”. Let’s qualify them as games that were within a possession inside the last 4 minutes (after the last media timeout). Here is the full list of them:

Villanova – The Wildcats led 71-67 after an Isaac Haas turnover with 3:48 left. They eventually got it to 6, but Purdue got it to one at 73-72 with a minute left on a basket by Haas. Purdue traded 2 for 2 three times as Villanova was 6 for 6 from the line from up 73-70 with 1:16 left to up 79-76 with 13 seconds left. Caleb Swanigan and Carsen Edwards both missed tying three-point attempts at the buzzer, with Swanigan’s not being his best look and Edwards’ being a desperate heave. Result: Purdue loss 79-76

Georgia State – Purdue trailed 56-54 at the last media timeout, but Haas was at the line out of it. He hit both FTs as the 9th and 10th points on the game-closing 20-0 run. Result: Purdue win 64-56

Notre Dame – Purdue led 80-77 when the last media timeout hit with 3:08 left and Notre Dame had the ball. It stayed that way until 1:48 when Bonzie Colson dunked to make it 80-79 with 1:48 left. Swanigan responded with a dunk on an assist from Dakota Mathias, Notre Dame missed and fouled Ryan Cline. Cline hit two FTs, ND scored, then Vince Edwards turned it over. Matt Ryan missed a three to tie with 26 seconds left and Dakota hit a free throw. Swanigan blocked a Colson three with 15 seconds left, Matt Farrell missed a three, and P.J. Thompson hit a free throw with 5 seconds left to end it. Result: Purdue win 86-81

Minnesota – Cline hit a huge three with 3:51 left to put Purdue ahead 71-68. Amir Coffey answered with a three, then Cline turned it over, leading to a Dupree McBrayer layup and a 73-71 lead with 3:06 left. Neither team would score until Swanigan bulldozed inside for a basket with 5 seconds left to send it to OT. Purdue was outscored 18-9 in OT, mostly due to free throws. Result: Purdue loss 91-82 (OT)

Ohio State – The media timeout came with 3:28 left and Purdue leading 68-65, but it was Ohio State ball at the line. C.J. Jackson hit two free throws to cut it to one. Purdue got the lead to 72-67 with 2:15 left, but OSU scored four straight to cut it to one. Thompson had a huge triple with 1:24 left to make it 75-71, but Jae’Sean Tate and Trevor Thompson would score to tie it. Thompson was fouled on his basket, but missed the FT with 15 seconds left. He fouled out with 5 seconds left stopping Swanigan from scoring. Swanigan hit one of two for the win. Result: Purdue win 76-75

At Iowa – Purdue lead 76-75 at the last media timeout with 3:49 left. Cline and Mathias both missed open threes on the next possession. The teams traded baskets and Purdue led 78-77 before tyler Cook hit 2 of 4 FTs, the last made it 79-78 with 1:39 left. There were a lot of empty possessions here both ways, including Cline missing both FTs in a tie game at 78-78 with 2:19 left. Neither team made a field goal inside the last 2:51. Purdue had two possessions down one inside the final 1:36 plus an offensive rebound, but did not score. They should have had an additional possession with 12 seconds left after Cordell Pemsl missed a FT, but Bo Boroski mistook Ryan Cline for a black guy and we had to foul and give them two more FTs. Mathias misses a three with 6 seconds left. Result: Purdue loss 83-78

At Nebraska – Nebraska called timeout with 2:51 left trailing 72-67 after a Mathias three-pointer. Somehow we gave up 16 points in 171 seconds. Purdue led 78-75 after a Swanigan free throw with 1:21 left, but Nebraska hit two FTs and Swanigan turned it over with 54 seconds left. Michael Jacobson scored on a tip-in, then Swanigan turned it over. Nebraska hit a free throw with 25 seconds left, then Mathias turned it over. Jack McVeigh hit a free throw with 5 seconds left, but Mathias missed a three at the buzzer. Result: Purdue loss 83-80

At Maryland – The media timeout came with 3:07 left and Purdue leading 66-65 after P.J. Thompson had just hit a three-pointer to give us the lead with 3:23 left. He was in the vicinity of Melo Trimble with 3:07 left, so he was called for a foul. Trimble hit both, then Michal Cekovsky hit two with 2:29 left. Damonte Dodd would add a FT with 1:40 left to make it 70-66, but Swanigan responded with a huge three with 1:32 left. Swanigan breathed on Trimble with 56 seconds left, fouling out and sending Trimble to the line, where he made it 72-69. Justin Jackson fouled Haas with 38 seconds left, and he hit both. Trimble missed with 16 seconds left and surprisingly wasn’t fouled. Carsen Edwards drove, was fouled, and hit two FTs for the win with less than 3 seconds left. We had to survive Haas’ travel and a Kevin Huerter missed three, but we won. Result: Purdue win 73-72

That brings us to last night. Purdue was 4-4 in “close games” coming in, but it had felt like worse because of the losses to Iowa and Nebraska. Those games made it feel like the issues that cost us the season last year were not solved, but when you look up Purdue was dead even coming into this one close games. Georgia State was a bit of a surprise and an outlier, but against Notre Dame and Maryland Purdue won with defense. Against Maryland and Ohio State there was a clutch factor. Minnesota can be somewhat clutch because Swanigan did hit a shot to tie and send it to overtime, but Purdue still lost.

So what happened last night? At the last media timeout Purdue and Indiana were tied at 57-57. It is the only game where Purdue has been tied at the last media timeout. The previous 36 minutes really had no bearing. This would be completely decided in the final 3:45. Purdue 57, Indiana 57

3:45 – Indiana has the ball at the halfcourt coming out of the timeout. After working the ball around the perimeter for about half the shot clock Juwan Morgan attempts an entry pass in to Thomas Bryant. Carsen drops in on help defense and reads the pass perfectly to tip it to Vince. Vince passes back to Carsen, who goes off on the break. James Blackmon Jr. had a chance to stop the ball above the free throw line, but instead of getting in front of Carsen he attempts a poke check. Carsen blows right past him to the basket. He misses the layup, but Indiana tips it right to Vince, who scores on the putback with 3:16 left.

Carsen really made the play at both ends. His read of the entry pass was perfect and his tip can only be pulled off with his quickness. He also gets credit for forcing the ball and not letting Indiana get set. He may not have scored, but he set up Vince to score on the easy putback. Also, Morgan was getting back on defense but couldn’t contest Carsen too much because Morgan had 4 fouls. It should have been up to Blackmon to stop the ball and he failed miserably. Purdue 59, Indiana 57

2:58 – Bryant gets the ball about 15 from the basket near the left baseline. He is going to go one-on-one. He takes a dribble to his right, then lowers his shoulder and tucks the ball like a running back. Caleb stays straight up and Bryant wildly misses the shot. He gets his own rebound, but too far under the basket. Swanigan is whistled for a foul (his fourth), but it is on the floor. Bryant has a one-and-one and bricks the first off the back of the rim. Mathias rebounds. Purdue 59, Indiana 57

2:35 – Swanigan can’t do much in the high post, so he passes to Mathias. Mathias tries a challenged three-pointer after standing still with more than 10 seconds left in the shot clock. It is not his best decision. Blackmon falls down going for the rebound he should have gotten, leaving Thompson, the smallest guy on the floor, to gather it and score on an easy putback. Robert Johnson just stands there and watches instead of challenging Thompson. It is PJ’s first basket of the game. It is part Thompson’s penchant for being in the right place at the time, part Blackmon botching the rebound, and part Johnson just standing there and watching. Purdue 61, Indiana 57

2:04 – Bryant gets the ball on the block one-on-one with Swanigan. Knowing Caleb has 4 fouls, he tries to get him off his feet with the pump fake. Caleb maintains position, and Bryant hits a tough fall-away. Purdue 61, Indiana 59

1:45 – Thompson brings the ball up and finds Carsen on the right wing. Carsen makes a great bounce pass right past Johnson (who again, is doing very little) to Swanigan. Swanigan backs down Bryant and nearly scores, but is fouled. It is Bryant’s fourth foul. Swanigan misses both free throws, however. It is a questionable foul, and Caleb probably traveled as well. Purdue 61, Indiana 59

1:35 – Blackmon nearly gets trapped in the left corner and fails to see Johnson in the right corner with no one within 15 feet of him. He manages to get out of trouble. With 1:21 left Bryant sets a high screen for Josh Newkirk. Newkirk has nowhere to go and dribbles under the basket and out. He passes to Blackmon with 4 seconds left in the shot clock. Blackmon is 25 feet from the basket with Thompson on him. As he loads up for a three Thompson strips him clean. Carsen comes off of Johnson (once again, still just standing there watching it happen) and collects the steal. Blackmon fouls him, but it is a good foul, as IU had one to give and it stops an almost certain runout with 1:12 left as Mathias was already streaking ahead. Purdue 61, Indiana 59

1:07 – After Purdue brought the ball into the frontcourt and called timeout Painter drew up the play of the game. Purdue is inbounding on the right wing in front of the scorer’s table. We run a weave from Thompson to Carsen, who finds Dakota on the left wing. Swanigan draws Bryant out like he is going to screen for Dakota, then dashes into the paint. Dakota sees him the instant he breaks, passes over Zach McRoberts, and hits him perfectly. Juwan Morgan crashes down from guarding Vince on the right wing. Johnson is vaguely aware a basketball game is happening as he guards Carsen on the left wing (and he is closer to Biggie than Morgan). Swanigan scores, Morgan has position, but well inside the charge circle, so he gets called for his fifth foul. It is Caleb’s first field goal attempt in 15 minutes. Swanigan hits the free throw. Purdue 64, Indiana 59

0:49 – Blackmon dribbles around and eventually gets it to Bryant after Bryant and Swanigan jockey for position. Bryant gets it 18 feet from the basket and faces up Swanigan. He tries to jab-step him, then takes one dribble to his left before again lowering the shoulder and tucking the ball like a running back. Swanigan has position as Bryant barrels into him (and also travels). After four step Bryant flings the ball up and it does go in. One official calls an offensive foul (right because Bryant did lower his shoulder and Swanigan had position) and the other calls a foul on Swanigan (whose feet were moving). After a lengthy discussion a double-foul is called.

Now, there were multiple tweets with an explanation given and an actual rule cited that yes, you can have a double foul when two officials disagree on the block/charge thing. In all my years of basketball I have never seen it happen though. Swanigan has good defensive position and is knocked over. Bryant definitely lowered the shoulder. At the same time, Swanigan is moving. It is a very unsatisfying call that removed the best player on both teams at the same time. It is almost like they defaulted to that because they knew one team would have a major advantage if it was called one way or the other. Here is the explanation given:

I understand it, but it is still not right. I thought the third official was there for specific instances like this one to break a deadlock. Purdue 64, Indiana 59

0:39 – After the blarge both sides were frustrated. Even Dick Vitale called it a cop-out. Swanigan both fouled out and we returned to the point of interruption. Indiana had the ball. Johnson finally does something other than stand around and draws a bump from Mathias. He hits both free throws. Purdue 64, Indiana 61

0:39 - Here Indiana had a choice to play defense, get a stop, and get the ball back with 9-10 seconds left down three or foul and extend the game. They chose to extend the game. PJ gets fouled and makes 1 of 2. Purdue 65, Indiana 61

0:31 - Newkirk drives and misses. Mathias looks to have the rebound and Blackmon goes over his back, but they call a foul on Mathias. Ball doesn’t lie as Blackmon only hits one of two. Purdue 65, Indiana 62

0:26 – Thompson is fouled by McRoberts on purpose. He hits both. Purdue 67, Indiana 62

0:23 – Down 5, Indiana runs off about 8 seocnds before Johnson misses on a drive. Freddie McSwain gets the rebound and scores. Purdue 67, Indiana 64

0:12 – Carsen gets loose on the inbounds and dribbles out about 3 seconds before he is fouled. He hits one of two. Purdue 68, Indiana 64

0:04 – Johnson misses a three. Vince rebounds it and is fouled with a tenth of a second left. He hits one of two for the final margin.

It was the second straight game where Purdue had to be the better team when it mattered most and it got it done. Yes, there will be the ghosts of the last two NCAA games until this year’s first round game is over, but Purdue is growing. It has won these last two by making plays (the Dakota to Biggie and-1 and Biggie’s three at Maryland) and by hitting clutch free throws at the line. If anything, it struggled at the line in this one as we missed three free throws in the last 39 seconds.

But this team is growing. These last two games showed they have confidence to go into raucous venues and win when the chips are down.

Let’s keep it going.