After a last-second steal of an inbounds pass, the Purdue Boilermakers thought they had taken a huge step on their way towards seriously contending for a Big Ten title and marking themselves ready for an NCAA Tournament run come next month. Then 7-foot-2 Isaac Haas, who made the steal, took two huge steps…and traveled in the process.
As it turned out, it was a temporary stop to celebrations – even if what might have resulted could have been an embarrassing loss. It was not, as Maryland’s Kevin Huerter’s three-pointer with less than a second remaining hit off the rim after the Terrapins regained possession after Haas’s turnover and the No. 23 Boilermakers came away with 73-72 win over No. 17 Maryland, their second win over a ranked team this week. This win comes after the Boilermakers blew out No. 25 Northwestern 80-59 at home on Wednesday.
The win continues Purdue’s success against ranked teams this season, as it has now won four consecutive games against ranked teams – the first time that has happened at the school since Gene Keady was still stalking the sidelines as head coach, back in 1997-98.
“It’s huge,” said Purdue head coach Matt Painter, who played under Keady as a player at Purdue. “[Maryland’s] been really successful on the road themselves. Obviously, for us to get two Top 25 wins this week is key because it’s hard. When you get opportunities to play people, it’s so tough to beat them, let alone on their home court. So you got to try your best to take advantage of it.”
The opportunity the Boilermakers took advantage of was four years in the making; Purdue had not won a game against a ranked team on the road since Mar. 3, 2013 against Wisconsin. What made this win even sweeter was that Purdue was up against it in the second half, down 52-40 early after the Terrapins started the second half on a 14-4 run. The Boilermakers responded immediately with an 11-0 run to get back in it, and the game was a see saw affair for the final 10 minutes.
“Just keep fighting, that was the end all for today,” said sophomore big man Caleb Swanigan, who led the team with 26 points and 10 rebounds. “Just keep fighting, and come in waves; that was our biggest thing. They came with runs, but we just had to answer each one.”
Swanigan, for all of his exploits today, had to see the final minute from the bench, as he fouled out with 56.1 seconds remaining after being tied up with Terrapins guard Melo Trimble inside. Trimble hit the ensuing free throws afterward to give Maryland a 72-69 lead.
Haas, who came in after Swanigan fouled out and who sat on the bench after picking up a technical foul a few minutes earlier, made two clutch free throws to trim Maryland’s lead to one. After a defensive stop, Painter decided to call a timeout while his team was in transition and driving towards the basket with six seconds left to draw up one final play. What he drew up focused on guard Carsen Edwards, who was subbed into the game during the timeout, having the ball in his hands at the end of the game. The freshman drove to the basket and was fouled by Justin Jackson with 2.1 seconds to go, and Edwards calmly sank the two free throws to give the Boilers a 73-72 lead.
Painter explained that, even though Carsen had not been in the game down the stretch, he was the team’s best option at the end of the game.
“[Carsen’s] the best we have at creating something for himself,” Painter said. “So if you get stuck, you’d rather have the ball be in his hands if you can’t get the ball in the interior. Obviously, [Swanigan] was out of the game, so he wasn’t. And we just subbed Isaac in and he had some struggles, so we thought Carsen was our best option.”
Maryland, despite the 20-2 record and sharing the lead in the Big Ten coming into today, still was a question mark to man, as today’s game marked the first this season against a ranked team at the time of facing that opponent. It looked for a while that the big victory they’ve been looking for was in the bag in the second half, especially when Melo Trimble became a one-man parade in terms of heading to the free throw line; He scored 22 points in the game and went 14 of 15 from the line – with all of the free throw attempts coming in the second half.
Despite the points from the foul line, the Terrapins went ice cold from the floor, not recording a field goal in the final 7:37 of the game.
“They were great defensively and we couldn’t make a jump shot,” said Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon, describing his team’s field goal drought at the end. “They zoned up on the point guard and did a nice job. We didn’t make shots. They were setting on a lot of our plays. They scouted us well. We scouted them well. I wish I could’ve helped them more, I wish I could’ve gotten us a layup. We got to the foul line. You have to get some second chance points sometimes when things are going that way.”