The Vermont Catamounts just hung around. Despite a size disadvantage, despite Kurt Steidl going out in the first half, and a Purdue team hungry to exorcise two years of demons, they hung around. But with all the weight of those two over time losses hanging on this Purdue team, Junior Point Guard P. J. Thompson raised up and delivered a 3-pointer that put Purdue up 76-65 with just over two minutes left in the game and for the first time all game, Boiler fans were able to breathe a sigh of relief.
This year was all about proving that this team was different. The offensive liabilities were gone. This team, led by the three juniors that have felt every single one of those last second heart breaks and collapses, was ready to prove that they were for real. That they weren’t one and done.
The 4-seeded Boilermakers have a long way to go to realize their full potential, but for the first time since 2012, the Boilermakers have won a game in the NCAA tournament.
While National Player of the Year candidate collected another double-double with 16 points and 14 rebounds to go with his 3 blocks, it was Vincent Edwards that was the best player on the court. Vincent dropped 21 points on just 16 shots, making 1 of his 2 3-point attempts, while providing the all-around game that’s been his staple with 5 rebounds and 3 assists. His defense was critical, clogging passing lanes, and getting back in transition. He had 2 blocks and 1 steal.
It was a balanced scoring effort with five Boilermakers reaching double figures behind strong shooting from behind the arc. The Boilers finished 9 of 20 from three. Carsen Edwards and PJ Thompson both went 2 of 4 from deep.
Dakota Mathias had another quietly lethal game, scoring 13 points on 9 shots, including 3 of 7 from deep. He also collected 5 rebounds and 5 assists, turning the ball over just once.
Despite Vermont losing senior Kurt Stiedle in the first half to an apparent leg injury, the Catamounts were able to keep the game close throughout. They were only down 1 at half and the Boilers didn’t claim a double-digit lead till late. Despite struggling from the field, Vermont was able to force Purdue into 8 first half turnovers while protecting the rock on their end with just 3.
Their game plan the entire way was to chuck from deep, taking 27 3’s and hitting 10 of them. They made just enough to keep the game uncomfotable up until the end behind strong scoring performances from Anthony Lamb(20 points) and Trae Bell-Haynes(15 points).
But the story tomorrow will be that Purdue won, no matter how close or uncomfortable it was at times. They didn’t fold. They’re moving on to player the winner of Iowa State and Nevada in the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament.
That’s progress and tonight is a happy night for Boiler fans everywhere.