The Boilermakers followed up their most impressive first half of the season with a lethal surge to begin the second en route to an 87-62 victory.
HARTFORD, Conn. – Emphatically, dominantly, Purdue basketball booked another trip to the Sweet 16.
The 3 seed Boilermakers simply obliterated defending national champion and 6 seed Villanova 87-61 on Saturday night at XL Center. On the biggest stage, and in the most pressure-filled environment, Purdue had all but assured a victory early in the second half and never took its foot off of the Wildcats’ throats.
Purdue advanced to its third consecutive Sweet 16 — the program’s first such run since 1998-2000. The Boilermakers now head to Louisville, to face either 2 seed Tennessee or 10 seed Iowa in the South Regional semifinals.
“We knew it was a prove-it game for is,” sophomore center Matt Haarms said. “To get to the Sweet 16, you have to beat a team like that. We had to do it in a big way to show everybody what this team is made of. I’m just really proud of all our guys and what we did tonight.”
Carsen Edwards, scuffling through inefficient production for weeks, erupted with one of the great games of his career — perhaps any Boilermaker career. The junior guard scored a career-high 42 points on 12 of 21 shooting, making 9 of 16 from 3-point range in the process.
Edwards joined Glenn Robinson, Joe Barry Carroll and Rick Mount as the only Boilermakers with multiple 30-point NCAA tournament games.
Ryan Cline also bounced back from an off shooting night in the opener against Old Dominion to make 4 of 8 for 12 points. When Villanova overcompensated for the Boilermakers’ 3-point prowess, Matt Haarms exploited that choice repeatedly for dunks en route to 18 points.
Cline and Grady Eifert became the winningest senior class in program history with their 108th victory. That includes six in the past three years in the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament.
Purdue locked into control with a 24-2 run that intersected the first and second halves. After a 13-0 run to open the second half, the Boilermakers held an unheard of 1.647-0.686 advantage in points per possession. That is the sort of differential one might expect in a non-conference “buy” game against a low major — not the second round of the NCAA tournament against one of college basketball’s elite programs.
“It felt good to have that cushion,” senior forward Grady Eifert said of a 43-24 halftime lead. “But we knew, obviously, they were the defending champs. We didn’t want to relax. We wanted to keep our foot on the pedal.”
Purdue’s opening-round victory over 14 seed Old Dominion, while comfortable, carried a vibe similar to the grind-out-out victories that characterized much of its Big Ten championship run.
Saturday night, the Boilermakers came out with, in context, their best half of basketball this season.
Purdue hit five of its first seven from 3-point range while jumping out to a 19-10 lead. The barrage came off of some of the Boilermakers’ best ball movement in weeks, both via ball screen action on the perimeter or from kick-outs off of offensive rebounds.
Villanova coach Jay Wright had called his team’s defensive rebounding “non-existent” after a tournament opening victory over St. Mary’s. Purdue beat the Wildcats 21-11 on the glass in the first half, and 10 came on offense.
To extend that early lead, Purdue turned up the defensive pressure. Villanova scored only once in the final five minutes — when Eric Paschall fought through traffic in the lane to beat the shot clock. Meanwhile, Purdue continually exploited Villanova’s tendency to over-help on the post and inefficiently attempt to jump passing lanes.
Three easy baskets by Haarms, and three Villanova turnovers on its final four possessions, keyed Purdue’s 11-2 closing run to a 43-24 lead.
The points per possession testified to the first half’s lopsided nature: Villanova 0.857, Purdue 1.536.
Back in December, when Purdue sat at 6-5 after failing to break through against a tough early road schedule, a 3 seed seemed like a lofty expectation. The trajectory of the Boilermakers’ season changed when they elevated their defensive level.
Between Jan. 31 and Saturday’s tipoff, Purdue had raised its ranking in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric from 70th to 27th. In the eight games prior to Saturday, the Boilermakers had held their opponents to 59.8 points per game and 36.3 percent shooting (28.5 percent from 3-point range).
Purdue continued the trend Saturday. It held the nation’s 16th-most efficient offense under 36 percent shooting.
Point guard Nojel Eastern, who missed Thursday’s first half after turning his ankle in pregame warm-ups, started and played 27 minutes. He held Phil Booth, who came in leading Villanova with 18.7 points per game, to 15 points on 5 of 14 shooting with two assists and five turnovers.
Eifert helped limit No. 2 scorer Eric Paschall to 7 of 18 shooting.
“The defense obviously helped out our offense,” Cline said. “It’s a lot of fun to get as many stops as we did tonight.”
Contact Journal & Courier Purdue men’s basketball insider Nathan Baird at firstname.lastname@example.org or 765-420-5234. Follow on Twitter: @nbairdjc
PURDUE 87, VILLANOVA 61
VILLANOVA (26-10) — Samuels 4-8 0-0 11, Paschall 7-18 3-4 19, Bey 1-5 0-0 3, Booth 5-13 3-3 15, Gillespie 2-8 2-2 8, Cosby-Roundtree 0-1 0-0 0, Delaney 0-0 0-0 0, Swider 1-2 2-2 5, Slater 0-1 0-0 0, Cremo 0-2 0-0 0, Heck 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-58 10-11 61.
PURDUE (25-9) — Eifert 1-1 2-2 5, Haarms 8-12 2-2 18, Edwards 12-21 9-9 42, Eastern 2-4 0-0 4, Cline 4-9 0-0 12, King 0-0 0-0 0, Boudreaux 0-0 0-0 0, Williams 0-3 0-3 0, Wheeler 1-1 0-0 3, Stefanovic 1-1 0-0 3, Hunter 0-2 0-0 0, Luce 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-54 13-16 87.
Halftime—Purdue 43-24. 3-Point Goals—Villanova 11-38 (Samuels 3-7, Booth 2-6, Gillespie 2-7, Paschall 2-9, Swider 1-2, Bey 1-4, Slater 0-1, Cremo 0-2), Purdue 16-30 (Edwards 9-16, Cline 4-8, Stefanovic 1-1, Eifert 1-1, Wheeler 1-1, Haarms 0-1, Hunter 0-2). Fouled Out—Wheeler, Samuels. Rebounds—Villanova 22 (Booth, Cosby-Roundtree 4), Purdue 37 (Haarms 9). Assists—Villanova 7 (Booth, Samuels, Paschall 2), Purdue 19 (Eifert 5). Total Fouls—Villanova 15, Purdue 13.