I’m still shaking. I can barely type this.
For a moment, it looked like good ol’ Purdue losing the lead in the final minutes of a game.
But these seniors did not give up. This was not going to be their last game. Their journey would not end in the Motor City. They had to win. For themselves. For Purdue. For Haas.
After a Ryan Cline 3 gave Purdue 73 points, the offense stagnated as Butler scored 6 straight points to cut Purdue’s lead down to 2. In that span, Purdue could not get anything done. They had some good lucks, but overall played sloppy.
And then Dakota did what the Midwestern Cowboy does best: shoot and make the dagger. His last minute three put Purdue up 5, and Purdue could almost taste victory. Almost.
Butler was able to drive down the court and get the 2 point bucket to make it a 3 point game. After fouling PJ with 2 seconds left, all he needed was just 1 free throw to ice this game, but it was a one-and-one situation. As the front end bounced off the rim, my heart sank.
Butler, down three, with 1.6 seconds left, in March.
But somehow, perhaps with Lil B’s blessing, Butler’s last second three bounced off the rim in a painful fashion for the Butler faithful. But what a relief it was for Purdue.
The win gives Purdue their 30th win of the season, and it is Matt Painter’s first career 30-win season as a head coach, and Purdue’s first ever 30-win season. They will now head back to the Sweet 16 to face Texas Tech.
The player of this game was Vincent Edwards. He picked up two early fouls less than 5 minutes into this game. Nevertheless, he came back in the game as soon as McDermott picked up his 2nd foul and LaVall Jordan kept him in the game. By subbing in and out with Grady Eifert (who also had a good game), he was able to stay out of foul trouble until the end of the 1st half, when a Butler player bulldozed his way into him and Carsen.
Vincent finished with 20 points on 6-8 from the floor, 2-2 behind the arc, and 6-6 from the charity stripe. He played tough the whole game, and you could tell that he would not let this be his last game.
We have been wondering where PJ has been for the latter half of the conference season, but he has shown up in Detroit, scoring 14 points today on a nice 6-9 from the floor, and 2-5 from three. I’m glad Purdue won, because he played well today, and had Purdue lost, all we would have remembered was the missed free throw, and he deserves better than that.
And of course, there was the other senior, Dakota Mathias, who hit the three mentioned early to all but seal the game for Purdue. He contributed 11 points on 4-8 from the floor and 3-6 from beyond the arc. These seniors made sure that this would not be their last college game, and played hard to secure this win.
With Haas unable to play due to his injury and the NCAA banning his brace, Matt Haarms and Jacquil Taylor played decently at the five, combining for 9 points on 2-5 from the floor and 7 rebounds. Grady Eifert played significant minutes at the four, getting 2 points while being fouled and nabbing 5 rebounds. He could have had more rebounds, but was often outmatched under the basket. Cline also contributed with 5 points on a 3 and a 2 point drive to the basket (weird, I know). It looks he was fouled going to the basket, but rumor has it that he met his free throw quota for the season.
Carsen Edwards contributed 13 points, but was not pretty and overall did not play well. Going 4-17 from the field and 3-10 behind the arc. There were times he was getting shut down by Butler’s defense, but towards the end you could tell he was frustrated. Ultimately, after holding on to the ball for too long, leading to a shot clock violation, Painter had to bench the super sophomore. Now that defenses think they can ignore Purdue’s 5, they are doubling down on Carsen and making his life difficult.
Butler played well today, and it could be argued that having Haas might not have made a difference at first. They started the first half hot, especially beyond the arc. In the first half, they went 5-10, but then went 1-10 in the second half as Purdue went with a smaller line up. It was during this time that Purdue was able to build their lead, but also allowed Butler to climb back up and cut the Purdue lead down to two. It was during this span that Purdue went small, with Vince at the 5. Perhaps if Haas was playing, he could have slowed down Butler in the paint. Kelan Martin was able to get 29 points on 9-18 from the floor and 3-10 behind the arc, while Kamar Baldwin offered a supporting role with 14 points on 5-16 from the floor. No other Bulldog scored double digit points.
Ultimately, any win in the NCAA tournament is a great win, and this is a great win for Purdue, especially over an in-state foe that has been problematic for Painter during his tenure. As mentioned earlier, Purdue will now face Texas Tech in the Sweet 16 this Friday in Boston. This is the first time under Painter that Purdue will not face the 1 seed in the Sweet 16, as Texas Tech comes in as the 3 seed.