The Big Ten Regular Season Champion Purdue Boilermakers faced off against the Big 12 Tournament champions in Milwaukee Saturday night for a spot in this year’s Sweet Sixteen. The Boilermakers came in not having reached a Sweet Sixteen since 2010 while the Cyclones had reached the second week twice in the last three years.
It was carded as a game of opposing mantra’s. The inside-out execution of Purdue, to the outside-in chaos of the Cyclones, and size won out.
Look, there’s a time for numbers. There’s a time for a cohesive recap. That time is tomorrow. Right now, just rejoice. The Boilermakers, after two straight years of utter heart break in March, has just punched their ticket to their first Sweet 16 since 2010.
The game could not have gone down any more poetic and perfect for Purdue. The Boileremakers jumped out to a perfect first half. At Half, the Boilers were up 44-31 and seemed in absolute control. Dakota Mathias hit two straight 3’s to end the half, and Purdue carried that momentum into the second half.
At one point, Purdue was up 19 points and the Cyclones looked finished. But in ten minutes, much like a certain kind of weather phenomenon, they stormed back and erased the lead and then taking it for themselves like a small house made of straw.
But the Boilermakers, behind Sophomore B10 player of the year, showed that his team is made of metal. The Boilers retook the lead and then with a 2-point lead, he grabbed one of the biggest offensive rebounds in the history of the program. It was such a perfect metaphor that it is hard to truly capture.
The player who outworked every difficult situation he had been put in, just wanted it more when Dakota Mathias missed the front end of a 1 and 1. Caleb ended up corralling the rebound with Iowa State players on both sides of him on the other side of the paint before passing it to PJ Thompson who had his own moment of poetry. The same Junior point guard who missed a vital free throw in the Big Ten Tournament, stepped up huge, knocking down both free throws to put the game away and give Purdue their 4-point edge.
Vincent Edwards continued to dominate the NCAA tournament. He scored 21 points, had 10 rebounds, and 4 assists in just 29 minutes because of foul trouble. Caleb ended with another double-double, with 20 points and 12 rebounds, but controlled every aspect of the game. His seven assists left him just 3 shy of a triple-double. Isaac Haas scored 14 points in just 15 minutes.
But those are all things you can see on paper, that we’ve seen before. The story is Purdue holding strong to a lead despite a crowd against them and a moment that was too big for them the last two years.
What a win.