Penn State, fresh off their second upset over Ohio State and hungry for an NCAA birth came into Mackey Arena with adding to their resume. Purdue, losers of three in a row, found themselves without their starting forward, senior leader, and best all-around player Vincent Edwards for just the second time in the last four years.
We were in for a good one, and both teams knew it.
A brutal, physical game came right down to the wire as teams traded baskets and free throws in exciting fashion.
After trailing going into the half, home team Purdue turned it on with a 10-0 run that gave them the lead. But poor free throw shooting and defensive rebounding kept them from securing a big lead.
With rotations thrown off, it was up to Purdue’s role players to step up and make big time plays. After a thunderous left-hand dunk by Carsen Edwards with 6:06 on the clock, Ryan Cline knocked down two huge threes just as Penn State was making a run for the lead. The first with 5:34 on the clock gave Purdue a 61-58 lead. The second with 4:02 on the clock gave Purdue a 4 point advantage.
But Purdue could not hit free throws and they could not grab rebounds. An offensive rebound led to a Shep Garner 3 from the corner that pulled the game to 1, 69-68. From there, Purdue went to two of their seniors. Haas got a clean look in the post, spun baseline and laid it in. Penn State’s Satchel Pierce would respond with a lay-up of his own.
Dakota Mathias then found nothing but net as he curled off a screen and flushed a three-pointer that gave Purdue a 4-point lead. One they desperately tried to cling to as Mackey roared, remembering the late collapse less than two weeks ago against Ohio State.
When Lamar Stevens grabbed another offensive rebound and then fouled, he had a chance to tie the game up at 74, but Stevens missed the first one long and sank the second. Carsen Edwards retrieved the inbound pass and went to the line with a 1 point lead, sinking the first and then the second.
A half court pass would find Tony Carr where he dribbled and from nearly the same spot that he sank Ohio State with a banked in 3-pointer, he saw his ball float up in the air and bang harmlessly off the side of the backboard.
Purdue survived without Vincent Edwards, winning 76-73.
When Purdue lost at Wisconsin on Thursday, they immediately set their sights on coming back home to face the Nittany Lions. Their play of late had created questions it what used to be a certain #1 seed caliber team.
Not sure anyone thought starting Grady Eifert would be part of the answer, but when Vincent Edwards twisted an ankle in practice yesterday, the former walk-on got his number called and his first career start.
Eifert’s energy and defense has been a nice splash of energy for Purdue the entire year, but asking him to fill the shoes of Purdue’s most well-rounded player and leader was something different. He was never going to score the ball like Vincent, but Eifert’s energy helped a Purdue team find the hard-nosed identity and effort Mackey Arena feasts on. But his contributions weren’t just about narrative, he was able to cut and draw fouls, grab rebounds, and move the ball against a tough Nittany Lions defense.
Eifert would finish the game with 6 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and a block.
But Carsen Edwards continues to be the star for this Purdue team and one of the best players in the nation. He scored 27 points, 9-19 from the field, 3-8 from three, 6-7 from the line, and grabbed four rebounds to go with his 3 steals. He did not have a turnover.
Purdue finally got some production off the bench. Ryan Cline had 7 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists. Nojel Eastern had just 2 points but he grabbed 3 rebounds and was Purdue’s best perimeter defender for most the night. Dakota Mathias got back on track again, finishing with 18 points on 7 of 11 shooting, 13 of those points coming in the second half. He also had 3 rebounds and 3 assists to go along with 2 assists. P. J. Thompson continues to struggle, going scoreless for the second straight game. Isaac Haas had 12 points.