When Purdue plays a second round NCAA Tournament game it almost always comes down to the very end. In 2007 Purdue pushed the defending champs in Florida all the way to the end. 2009 against Washington and 2010 against Texas A&M were also classics decided in the final minute, as was the 2018 game against Butler. The 2017 game against Iowa State was the first of three straight wins in round 2 for Purdue, and it was a great game.
Purdue 80, Iowa State 76 – March 18, 2017 – NCAA Tournament, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
A 4/5 game in round two is usually among the best games you can have in that round. You get a pair of evenly matched teams, both likely in the final top 20. In this case Purdue was the reigning Big Ten champion and 26-7, while Iowa State was 24-10 with a second place finish in the Big 12. They were ranked 16th in the final top 25 poll and Purdue was 15th. They also had a slight advantage in Deonte Burton, who was playing in his hometown of Milwaukee and brought a sizeable contingent of fans. Since the game was relatively close to West Lafayette there were enough Purdue fans to make it fairly even (unlike the 2009 game against Washington in Portland), but the Iowa State crowd was loud.
Was Purdue a bit underseeded as a 4 seed and a conference champion? Maybe, but maybe not. That was a weaker Big Ten with only two teams finishing in the top 25 (Purdue and Wisconsin at No. 25). Purdue came up short against Villanova at home and at Louisville to get a signature non-conference win, but a win over Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic looked good. Ultimately, Purdue’s only top 25 wins all season were over the Fighting Irish, Wisconsin when they were 13th, a solid win at #17 Maryland on February 4th, and the rarest of rare wins: a win over No. 25 Northwestern on February 1st. What probably hurt Purdue the most was the overtime loss to Michigan in the opening game of the Big Ten Tournament.
This game ultimately became one of the most frustrating types of Purdue wins, and nearly a carbon copy of the win two years later over Tennessee. Purdue started off hot with Ryan Cline and Caleb Swanigan each hitting threes. Swanigan would add a second triple with 13:28 left in the first half to make it 15-8. Burton would cut Purdue’s lead to 29-26 with 3:51 left, but a 15-5 closing fury gave Purdue a comfortable 44-31 halftime lead. Dakota Mathias hit consecutive threes in the final minute of the half, and overall Purdue hit six first half threes while Isaac Haas had 9 points in the paint.
Purdue pushed the lead to as many as 19 at 58-39 on a Vince Edwards dunk with 14:24 left in the second half, and the Boilers were cruising. It would have gotten over 20 on the next possession, but Darrell Bowie blocked Swanigan at the rim.
That small raindrop would eventually turn into a deluge. The Cyclones would score seven straight to almost immediately cut it to 12. The run would eventually reach 21-5 at the 8:03 mark when Matt Thomas, who would finish with 20, hit a basket with 8:03 left. In a span of roughly six minutes the game went from “firmly in hand” to “great, we’re melting down again”. If I were to point out Painter’s biggest flaw it would be his teams have a tendency to basically fall apart in the 15 to 8 minute segment of the second half when it has a big lead.
The teams traded baskets on their next two possessions, then an old fashioned three-point play with 6:58 for Vince Edwards put Purdue in front by six at the under 8 media timeout. That is when Burton took over. He scored on a drive with 5:32 left, hit a three with 4:56 left, and with 3:11 left gave the Cyclones their first (and only) lead on a pair of free throws to make it 73-71. Purdue’s lead was completely erased and the Cyclones had all the momentum.
Enter Big Shot P.J. Thompson.
I have long mentioned how P.J. had a knack for only scoring about 5 points, but they would be the five most critical points of the game, usually on a huge three and clutch free throws. A prime example was the 73-72 win at Maryland that year. He had just 8 points, but they came on a three just before halftime that tied it, two free throws with 4:48 left to cut the lead to two, and a gigantic three with 3:23 left to give Purdue a one-point lead.
Iowa State’s only lead lasted 11 seconds, as P.J. struck yet again in a big spot. His three was his first points of the game and could not have come in a bigger spot. Burton finally missed on the next Iowa State possession and Purdue went inside to Biggie, who scored to make it 76-73 with 2:22 left. Biggie then got a steal on the next defensive possession and set up a layup from Vince with 1:37 left to put Purdue back in front by 5 at 78-73.
Burton would score with 54 seconds left and Iowa State got the stop it needed. Monte Morris split a pair of free throws with 24 seconds left to make it 78-76 and the Cyclones had one last chance when Burton blocked Biggie at the rim on a break with 16 seconds left. The ball was knocked out of bounds to Purdue, and Iowa State fouled Dakota Mathias with 11 seconds left. Dakota would miss the front end of the one-and-one, but Biggie did what Biggie did by getting the rebound. He then found, guess who, P.J. Thompson, who was fouled with 8 seconds left. P.J. hit both free throws to ice the game, because that’s just what P.J. did (yes, i know about the Michigan game a week earlier).
Vince led Purdue with a relatively quiet 21, while Biggie had a 20 and 12 with 7 assists in what was maybe his best game for Purdue. Haas had 14, Carsen Edwards 9, and Dakota 8 and 7 assists. Yes, this was a time where we only got 9 points in 17 minutes from Carsen on six shots. P.J. had only 5 points in 34 minutes, but they may have been the five largest points of the game and 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and a steal against a single turnover. This ended up being a total team game as Purdue had an astonishing 27 assists on 31 made field goals.
This was a really good, confidence-building win against a team with a ton of talent. Burton, Thomas, Morris, and Naz Mitrou-Long would all eventually spend at least some time in the NBA. Purdue had its own NBA guys in Vince, Swanigan, and Carsen, plus Dakota and Haas all logging significant G League time. We all know what happened next. The unthinkable happened as Purdue lost a game in which Tommy Luce played. Against Kansas in the Sweet 16 Purdue would trail 53-51 and have the ball with 16 minutes. A Cline turnover sparked an unholy beatdown as the Jayhawks went thermonuclear, outscoring Purdue 45-15 in the final 16 minutes.
So much of this game seems forgotten now because of the events of the following seasons. The Kansas game was much closer than the final score indicated into the second half, but those final 16 minutes saw Purdue get about as outclassed as it has ever been outclassed. It flipped like a switch too, because as you can see, Purdue was quite competitive for 24 minutes.
Biggie would be gone the next season but we started to see the emergence of Carsen. The 2016-17 season was ultimate the start of a golden era where Purdue would finally break its NCAA collapse hex established by Cincinnati and Little Rock. The Boilers would win two Big Ten titles and seven NCAA games, coming seconds away from a third Big Ten title and the Promised Land of a Final Four. 2019-20 was definitely a step back from this, but hopefully in the coming seasons we will see the 2016-17 season, and this game, as the beginning of a great run of Purdue basketball.
It is up to the 2020-21 team to continue it.