Purdue basketball: Top-5 NCAA Tournament moments during the Matt Painter era
By the end of the weekend, Purdue is hoping it can add to its NCAA Tournament story by adding a Final Four, its first since 1980, to its program’s history.
It’s a real possibility. The Boilermakers are the favorite in a busted East Region bracket, after top seeds Kentucky and Baylor lost last weekend. Only Purdue, the region’s 3 seed, and 4th-seeded UCLA advanced into the Sweet 16, as their seeds would have suggested. They’re joined by 15-seed Saint Peter’s and 8-seed North Carolina. Purdue opened a 12.5-point favorite vs. the national darling Peacocks — the teams play at 7:10 p.m. Friday — and would likely be a slight favorite vs. the Bruins or Tar Heels in the Elite 8.
But before the weekend, let’s take a look at the top-5 NCAA Tournament moments for Purdue during the Matt Painter era, which started in the 2004-05 season.
Purdue vs. Arizona, 2007
By Year 3 of the Painter era at Purdue, the Boilermakers were ready to start winning again in the postseason.
And Purdue proved that in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, after the Boilermakers were selected as the 9 seed in the Midwest Region, opening the tourney as a slight underdog to Arizona in the first round. But Purdue, which was led by Carl Landry, David Teague and Chris Kramer, took control of the game from the jump and lead for almost the entirety, trailing only once by a single point. The 72-63 victory marked Purdue’s first in an NCAA Tournament since 2003, as the Boilermakers suffered difficult seasons in the transition between Gene Keady to Painter.
But felt like it belonged to Purdue, perhaps never more so than when Kramer corralled a loose ball, then shot it from his knees, hitting the bucket from about 12-feet away. Kramer, a defensive wizard, finished with 16 points, while Landry led the way with 21.
Purdue lost the next game, falling to No. 1 seed Florida. But that was of little matter; for Purdue, the win marked a return to the postseason and an indication that brighter days were ahead.
Purdue vs. Washington, 2009
By the end of the 2008-09 season, the “Baby Boilers” were starting to grow up. The trio of E’Twaun Moore, Robbie Hummel and JaJuan Johnson was nearing the end of their sophomore seasons, having secured for Purdue a 5th-seed in the West Region.
After dispatching of Northern Iowa in the first round, the Boilermakers were faced with not only playing 4-seed Washington in Round 2, but doing so in Portland in what was virtually a road game held on a neutral court. But Purdue, which had won the Big Ten Tournament title a week before, fought the Huskies off, leading by as many as 14 points but needing critical defensive plays in the final minute to advance, 76-74.
Johnson — described then as looking as if “he was on a pogo stick” — blocked 2 shots in a row by Washington as it tried to tie the game with a minute left. Moore then hit a couple free throws with 5.5 seconds left to clinch the win, sending Purdue into the Sweet 16 for the first time since its Elite 8 run in 2000.
Purdue lost the next game to No. 1 seed UConn, but its young nucleus felt the stage had been set for the next couple of years.
Purdue vs. Texas, 2022
A 3-seed in the East Region this season, the Boilermakers feel they’ve got a good shot, maybe their best shot in the past 4 decades, of making a Final Four, especially with other favorites falling around them.
But a date with Texas, and nemesis Chris Beard, loomed in the second game of the tourney. But the Boilermakers beat Beard at his own game, stepping up defensively and being physical with the 6th-seeded Longhorns. A 20-run in the first half gave Purdue a cushion, but it gradually shrunk. At 10 points with about 2:30 remaining, Texas cut its deficit to only 3 with a minute-and-a-half left. But a Jaden Ivey 3-pointer out of a timeout — he just lined up his defender, then drilled the jumper from about 25-feet — pushed the Boilermakers’ lead back to 6 at the 1:03 mark. Purdue won 81-71.
Ivey proved to be the real deal once again, scoring 18, but Purdue had other heroes, like Trevion Williams, who had 22 off the bench, and Ethan Morton, who helped to lock down Texas star Marcus Carr in the second half.
With the win, Purdue advanced to the Sweet 16, where it will meet No. 15-seed Saint Peter’s in Philadelphia on Friday night.
Purdue vs. Virginia, 2019
It might seem crazy to include a loss, but the game was one of the best in NCAA Tournament history.
And had a bounce went the Boilermakers’ way, Purdue could have easily advanced to the Final Four; instead, the Boilermakers lost a heartbreaker, falling 80-75 in overtime after seeing their chance at a regulation win dissipate in seconds. Purdue, the South Region’s 3 seed, led top-seeded Virginia by 3 with 5 seconds left. After a Ty Jerome free throw cut the margin to 2, he missed the second, with the balls being deflected all the way into the backcourt. But with seconds ticking away, the Cavaliers somehow rallied, getting the ball back into the lane quickly, where Mamadi Diakite made a short jumper to tie the game at the buzzer.
All Purdue star Carsen Edwards could do was shake his head and smile in disbelief at the unbelievable turn of events. The Boilermakers still had a chance in OT, leading by 1 with 43 seconds left after Edwards’ jumper, but Virginia took over in the last 30 seconds, winning the game, then the NCAA Championship a week later.
Edwards scored 42 on 10 3-pointers in his final game as a Boilermaker. While the game still pains Purdue fans, and likely will forever, it was an incredible contest.
Purdue vs. Tennessee, 2019
The Ryan Cline game.
Purdue-Virginia was a great game, and the Purdue victory before it was excellent, too. The Boilermakers knocked off No. 2-seed Tennessee 99-94 in OT thanks to a masterful shooting performance from Cline, a senior guard who played a perfect secondary scorer to Edwards’ usual heroics.
Despite battling foul trouble, Cline scored 27 points while hitting 7 3-pointers, none bigger than the few down the stretch as Purdue fought off Tennessee in overtime. His step-back triple in the face of pressure, which tied the game at the 38-second mark of regulation, is one of the greatest shots in Purdue NCAA Tournament history. Cline fouled out with 2 minutes left in overtime, but he had done enough, as the Boilermakers led then by 5.
It was a game of shot-making. Cline had his 7 triples, while Edwards, who scored 29, drilled another 5 3-pointers. And the win set up the Boilermakers showdown with Virginia.