Purdue Men Humble Villanova, Advance To Sweet 16 For Third Straight Year
Here's proof numbers can be deceiving:
-- It took until several minutes into the second half Saturday for Purdue's Carsen Edwards to hit a two-point basket.
-- Freshman swingman Aaron Wheeler had as many turnovers (3) as he had points.
-- Purdue had made less than a third of its three-point attempts in a shaky first round win over Old Dominion.
Sound like it might have been another long night against the defending NCAA champion Villanova Wildcats? Nothing could have been further from the truth in an 87-61 win.
Purdue came out hot from beyond the three-point arc, especially Edwards, as the team built a 43-24 halftime lead. In fact, of the seven Boilers who attempted a three, five made at least 50% of their attempts on a night when the team as a whole made more from long range than it missed. Edwards' 42 points (a career-high) are also the most any player scored against Villanova this season.
Watchers of Villanova coach Jay Wright's past successes might locically have thought a veteran Villanova team could come out of halftime with new fervor. Instead, Purdue held the Wildcats scoreless for nearly the first six minutes of the second stanza, going on a 16-0 run in the process and opening up a commanding lead.
When Villanova tried pressure defense, a Purdue team that has had its struggles with full-court pressure in recent years repeatedly got open layups and dunks. When they sagged, Edwards and company time and again buried another three.
All told, Purdue made 16 of its 30 three-point tries and Edwards became just the fourth Purdue player to have back-to-back games in the NCAA tournament scoring at least 25 points (Rick Mount, Joe Barry Carroll and Glenn Robinson are the others).
Another positive sign for coach Matt Painter's team was the return of Nojel Eastern, the team's best defender, who showed no ill effects of an ankle injury suffered prior to the team's win over ODU.
Purdue could face a familar opponent in the Sweet 16 if Big Ten Conference foe Iowa pulls off an upset of second-seeded Tennessee Sunday. Either way, the Boilermakers' next game is at Louisville's Yum! Center Thursday. It should be a friendly crowd, but the last time they played there was the first round of the 2015 tournament -- an overtime, 66-65 loss to Cincinnati.