After two straight buzzer beater losses that cost Purdue a chance at a Big Ten championship the Boilers survived what was nearly a third. Trevion Williams could not ice the game with 6 seconds left, missing two free throws with Purdue up two, but Xavier Johnson’s heave from near half court was found wanting and Purdue barely hung on to beat Indiana in the regular season finale.
Purdue looked like it was in control in the first half of this one. The Boilers led by 13 with 2:44 left in the first half, but the Hoosiers closed it on a 9-0 run. Indiana then had an 11-0 run midway through the second half and took a 56-52 lead with just under 7 minutes left thanks to Xavier Johnson, who smoked Purdue with 18 points and 12 assists.
The loss for Indiana will be defined by three wide open threes missed. Race Thompson, Rob Phinisee, and Miller Kopp all had wide open looks come up short in the last 6 minutes. Kopp’s with 3:40 left and Purdue leading 63-60 was especially critical.
Purdue’s late game struggles have been documented, but it did enough in this one to win. Sasha Stefanovic hit a big three with 5:10 left to give Purdue a three point lead and a big 7-0 run after it had trialed by 4. Trevion Williams got a second chance basket with 2:36 left to make it 67-63. Indiana had plenty of chances after that, but could not convert, as Purdue extended the clock until Kopp had a critical turnover on an inbounds with 12 seconds left and Purdue leading 67-65. Williams then hit two free throws, Johnson would be fouled and hit two, and Williams missed twice to set up the end game.
Eric Hunter Jr. played especially well in his final career game in Mackey. He had 17 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists with several key buckets, including a big drive with 4:31 to put Purdue up 3.
It was not pretty. It should have never been this close. Purdue is shaky as hell and does not look like the team it should be right now. Still, it beat Indiana and likely sent the Hoosiers to the NIT barring a run in the Big Ten Tournament. The Boilers now get their next 2-5 games likely at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, as the real season is here.
This is what we have been building for, and right now they do not look ready. Still, maybe today provides a much needed confidence boost. Purdue will play Friday night in the Big Ten Tournament as the 2 seed if Iowa beats Illinois tomorrow, or the 3 seed if Illinois wins.