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Purdue Basketball is Clutch

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After two heartbreaking losses Purdue needed to prove this March was different. It is.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Purdue vs Iowa State
Admit it: We all wanted to hug PJ after he came through on Saturday night.
James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

If you monitor Twitter during games, as the staff here does, you’ll eventually see Purdue as a verb. It is part of our history as a program in so many sports. If Purdue struggles, blows a lead, loses as a favorite, it is “Purdueing”. At this point it is beyond “Purdon’t”. The “Purdon’t” moniker is more the past tense, as something that wasn’t done or never gets done. “Purdueing” is the active act of falling apart itself. Some famous examples:

· The Fumble

· The 2012 NCAA Tournament loss to Kansas

· The 2015 NCAA Tournament loss to Cincinnati

· The 2016 NCAA Tournament loss to Little Rock

· The football loss at Ohio state in 2012

I would list more, but we don’t need to. Purdue has a knack for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory (and it seems to go across sports). It is a trait of being anti-clutch that has comes to define our athletic teams far too often.

Saturday night Purdue was “Purdueing” again. With 14 minutes Purdue was leading Iowa State by 19 points at 58-39 and had the basketball. Not only that, it was looking completely and utterly dominant while Iowa State looked clueless to stopping us when we had the ball.

With 3:11 left Iowa State took a 73-71 lead.

It was a classic Purdueing. The Boilers were outscored 34-13, starting with a three-pointer from Nazareth Mitrou-Long. It was the first of seven straight points in 1:03 that immediately ignited the comeback. Over the total 34-13 there were mistakes. Purdue missed shots. Matt Painter missed a couple substitutions. The bulk of the run took only five minutes as it was 63-60 with 8:03 left. That was a 21-5 spurt where Monte Morris showed why he might be the best point guard in America.

Iowa State was a good team, and they flipped a switch to execute extremely well for five minutes to seemingly save their season. People will get on Painter (and he wasn’t perfect), but if Purdue can be credited for the stretch from 3:51 left in the first half (leading only 29-26 at this point) until it took the 19 point lead with 14:24 left in the game then Iowa State deserves credit for their own run.

It was after Iowa State took the lead that impressed me the most. How many times have we seen Purdue complete the cave-in after the big lead has been lost? How many times has Purdue’s opponent crossed that threshold to finally get in front (the lead with 3:11 left was Iowa State’s first of the entire game) and it provides that last surge of momentum to carry them to the finish line and crush our own will?

I admit, when they went in front, I thought it was over. I had seen it too many times over the years.

But this Purdue team is different. Let’s break down the ending, following the two free throws by Deonte Burton (who was a wrecking ball for a five minute stretch from 8:03 to 3:11)

3:11: After Burton gives Iowa State the lead with two free throws. The pro-Iowa State crowd is roaring as Purdue brings the ball up the floor. Dakota Mathias gets the ball at the top of the key and for some reason Iowa State decides to double him. Dakota sees this and kicks it over to P.J. Thompson, who is wide open after his man left him. PJ launches a three and gets it to rattle in. Just like that, the lead Iowa State had fought to gain for 37 minutes was gone in only 11 seconds. PJ was scoreless to this point too. We saw PJ take and miss similar shots in his first two years on campus and I said then that even though he missed them, it would pay off because he at least had the guts to take them. PJ never hesitated here. No one was within 10 feet of him, and while he had to rattle it around, he hit the shot. It saved the season. Purdue 74, Iowa State 73

2:43: Trying to get the lead back Iowa State pushes the ball up the floor. Burton has been hot to this point and he would finish with 25 points, but he misses a challenged jumper. Vince Edwards grabs the critical rebound and suddenly Purdue has the lead and the ball. Purdue 74, Iowa State 73

2:22: Ryan Cline scored three points all night. It was the first three points of the game. He struggled defensively and his shot never truly got going, but he still contributed here. He got the ball to Caleb Swanigan on the left block and Swanigan went to work from there. He puts Burton in a blinder and scores one-on-one. Purdue 76, Iowa State 73

2:12: Iowa State calls timeout after five quick points flipped the game back in Purdue’s favor. They still have the ball down only three points, however, with 132 seconds to go. What follows is, quite honestly, luck. Monte Morris is a great, great point guard because he rarely turns the ball over. He turns it over so rarely that he set the Division I mark for assist-to-turnover ratio. In 142 games as a four-year starter for Iowa State he committed a TOTAL of 165 turnovers. It is his 165th, and last, that may have cost Iowa State its season. He turns it over with 1:54 left and Purdue gets the ball up 3.

1:37: With the lead and the ball Purdue can be patient coming out of the media timeout. Purdue is able to run some clock before Mathias finds Vince for a layup with 1:37 left. In a span of 83 seconds Purdue has gone from down two with its world ending to up 5 after a critical and clutch 7-0 run. Purdue 78, Iowa State 73

1:31: Iowa State, desperation beginning to set in a bit, hustles up the floor, but who is there again? Mitrou-Long turns the ball over as Cline gets a huge steal just six seconds after Edwards’ basket. Purdue 78, Iowa State 73

1:09: Now with a five point lead and the ball Purdue can be even more patient. We get it to Swanigan, who misses a jumper. Donovan Jackson gets the rebound for Iowa State, but Purdue is able to bleed 22 of the 91 seconds remaining here. While getting the basket would have been huge, time is becoming an enemy for the Cyclones. Purdue 78, Iowa State 73

0:54: Burton scores on a layup as the Cyclones finally break the drought. After scoring 34 points in toughly nine minutes to take the lead they have gone dry for the last 2:17 before this basket. In that stretch they had a missed shot and two critical turnovers. Since they had only seven turnovers for the entire game, they are huge. Purdue 78, Iowa State 75

0:33: After Iowa State had called a timeout they elect to play defense. Because of the shot clock situation, if Purdue scores near the 30 second mark it can then make it a 2 possession game where the Cyclones would have to foul after its next possession. Mathias goes for the jugular with a good look at a three, but misses with 33 seconds left. The ball goes out of bounds, last touched by Swanigan on review.

0:24: Down three, Iowa State takes its time with very little of it left. In fact, Thompson is called for a foul as Morris nearly turns it over again. With 24 seconds left he goes to the line and hits the first, but misses the second. Swanigan rebounds because that is what Swanigan does. Purdue 78, Iowa State 76

0:16: A bizarre situation happens as Purdue breaks the press and Iowa State chooses not to foul immediately even though the shot clock is off and they lack the ball. Swanigan gets loose for a dunk attempt, but Burton comes out of nowhere to make a great defensive play and block the ball out of bounds. Also credit Cline again for seeing the open Swanigan. Purdue 78, Iowa State 76

0:11: Purdue inbounds and gets it to Mathias, the best free throw shooter on the floor. Iowa State fouls him with 11 seconds left, but he misses the front-end of a one-and-one situation. Let’s face it, I think the collective dread of Purdue fans caused the miss. What happens next is why Caleb Swanigan is a National Player of the Year candidate. I was watching the replay of the miss and when the ball hits the rim Caleb is behing boxed out by his own guy, who is being boxed out by Vince, who himself is being boxed out by an Iowa State guy. That’s right, It is a box out inception where Caleb is three levels deep. The shot is long, so it caroms off the rim straight back at Mathias. Burton and Matt Thomas both go for it with Morris right behind Caleb. At this point Dakota hasn’t even moved from the line. Burton and Thomas are in the air with their bodies both blocking Swanigan out. The ball is just above the outstretched arms of all three, and everyone lands. Thomas’ arms drop, Burton lands awkwardly and falls backwards. Swanigan lands, arms up, and corrals the grown-assed man’s rebound as it pinballs between him and Thomas.

Not only does Biggie do all of this within half a bloody second, he has the presence of mind to take one dribble and pass it back out to PJ, who is far enough back that he can’t be fouled until 7.7 seconds remain. Purdue 78, Iowa State 76

0:07.7: it is still a one-and-one situation, and pretty much the exact same situation PJ was in a week before against Michigan. He has only scored three points to this point, but PJ calmly hits both free throws, redeeming himself for the one-and-one miss against Michigan that cost us the game. Iowa State gets a desperate three off at the end but misses. Ball game. Purdue 80, Iowa State 75

What else can you say? Purdue got clutch for once in the NCAA Tournament. It was a clutchness that was forged throughout the season, too. Yeah, Purdue was unable to come through against Villanova, Iowa, Michigan, and Nebraska, but what about at Maryland? What about at Ohio State? What about Notre Dame? What about at Indiana? What about at Penn State? The Boilers have had their share of close calls this season. Yes, it has not been perfect, but when faced with the same scenario that led to an exit from the tournament in the last two years Purdue flipped the script. This time it calmed down and performed, doing what it needed to do when it mattered most.

In the last three minutes Purdue committed no turnovers, hit three huge field goals, allowed just one field goal in return, and forced two critical turnovers. It also went 2 of 3 at the line while its opponent was 1 of 2 at the line. That all of this happened in the pressure cooker of the NCAA Tournament makes it the anti-Purdue.

Does it pay off going forward? I have no idea. It is very possible Kansas goes crazy on offense, drop a 100 spot on us because of their athletic guards, and we gracefully bow out in a 20 point loss. What’s important is that, for once, Purdue actually delivered against the pressure in March. We haven’t seen anything like this since Chris Kramer hit the layup to beat Texas A&M seven years ago. Much of this team will be back in 2017-18 as well, so even if we lose to Kansas, the junior class that is coming back will know it can do this in March.