Wow. That is all you can say about an 81-78 roller coaster win for Purdue that was capped off by an insane Jaden Ivey game-winning three with 0.6 left on the clock.
Purdue was on the verge of a monumental collapse yet again after Ohio State’s EJ Liddell connected on back-to-back three-pointers in the span of 14 seconds to tie the game at 78. It was a broken play on the Boilermakers’ final possession that left Eric Hunter Jr, nowhere to go with the ball. The Buckeye Killer himself then stepped in front of Mason Gillis to catch the pass and rise up to hit the game-winner.
At the end of the day, a win is a win, but it was definitely one of the more nerve-wracking games for Purdue fans to suffer through. It seems like every time these late-game situations happen, Purdue is on the wrong side of it like in the Indiana and Rutgers games this season and countless others previously that have scarred Purdue for life.
This team needed a game to go their way that came down to the final shot, even if just for confidence’s sake.
Now, how did the Boilermakers end up in that scenario after blowing a 20 point second-half lead? That is an entirely different story. It appeared that Purdue was going to coast to an easy double-digit victory and pick up one of their most impressive wins of the season. The same issues that plagued the Boilers in their losses this season, came back to make an appearance late this afternoon.
Situational basketball has been poor this season. When things are tight, Purdue hasn’t shown their ability to grind it out and come out with a win as much as Matt Painter and staff would like to see. Free throw shooting was also an issue once again tonight as a team going just 15-26 (57%) from the charity stripe. In particular, Zach Edey and Trevion Williams will need to clean that up as soon as possible.
Purdue should be thanking their lucky stars for not only Jayden Ivey, but for Eric Hunter Jr. and Mason Gillis who both stepped up big time in today’s win. If not for those two making huge plays down the stretch, Purdue might have been down going into those last 20 seconds.
Gillis scored all 7 of his points and grabbed 10 of his 11 rebounds in the second half today. Maybe the most important coming with less than a minute, snagging an offensive rebound and hitting two shots from the line after getting fouled. Gillis was flying all over the place on the offensive boards and did a great job on EJ Liddell for much of the game before the Buckeye’s star got hot.
Eric Hunter Jr’s emergence over the last handful of games is one of the best stories of this Boilermaker team. The senior guard finished with 10 points on an efficient 4-7 shooting, dished out 5 assists, and played a great game defensively as well. That was huge with Isaiah Thompson going scoreless and the skill of Ohio State’s backcourt.
This guy has seen highs and lows throughout his career and has taken on a multitude of different roles. All of those times have turned him into a phenomenal leader for the program and someone that will be a key piece if they have any chance at a run in March.
Although they played well, Purdue’s main one-two punch today was Jaden Ivey and Zach Edey. That duo combined for just over half of Purdue points today and were the go-to options late in the game when nobody else could get things going offensively. Zed Key, Kyle Young, and EJ Liddell are one of the better frontcourts in the Big Ten, and they were manhandled by Edey today. Nobody who was on the floor for the Buckeyes was going to have success on defense it felt like.
Finally, the man of the hour, Jaden Ivey. What else can you say except this is one of the most special players to ever put on the black and gold. He affects the game in all aspects, has the highest motor, and can simply take the game over whenever he wants to. It wasn’t the most efficient shooting game, but Matt Painter would prefer Ivey to shoot more often than not. The Buckeye Killer strikes again after he splashed a dagger in Columbus last season to secure an upset win for the Boilers. This year he comes back to save the day in Mackey.
This was a game Purdue needed if they wanted to keep pace for a potential Big Ten title run later on this season. The second half defensively more than anything was the main issue, but runs in college basketball are just part of the game. Nobody, especially the No. 16 team in the country is going to fold. You have to weather that late storm in these types of games, and that’s what Purdue did today. Matt Painter will take the same lessons they would have learned in a loss, but instead, sneak out of Mackey with a thrilling win over a Top 25 squad.
This win moves the Boilermakers to 18-3 on the season overall and 7-3 in conference play which is good for the fourth spot in the Big Ten.
Next time out, Purdue will travel up north to take on a struggling Minnesota, who is 11-7 overall and 2-7 during conference play this season. They have also lost 6 of their last 7 since this portion of the Big Ten slate started, winning only against Rutgers. This could be a trap game for Purdue, similar to how Indiana could have been after beating Illinois in a double-overtime thriller. That game will be on February 2nd from “The Barn” in Minneapolis at 7:00 p.m.