Purdue Hangs On, Tops UNI
March 19, 2009
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The Purdue Boilermakers were beat up but smiling.
Fifth-seeded Purdue held off a late charge by 12th-seeded Northern Iowa for a 61-56 victory Thursday in a rugged first-round game, and showed it afterward.
E'Twaun Moore had his right shoulder encased in ice and wrapped in plastic after his game-high 17 points. Robbie Hummel, who had both knees similarly sheathed, had nine points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
"Definitely was a physical game, sort of like a Big Ten game," Moore said, a grin spreading over his face. "The ice is just temporary. We'll be OK."
The Boilermakers will play the winner of the Washington-Mississippi State game in the second round of the NCAA tournament's West Regional.
JaJuan Johnson added 14 points for the Boilermakers (26-9), who led by 14 in the West Regional at the Rose Garden Arena before the Panthers made it interesting down the stretch.
Kwadzo Ahelegbe had 11 points for Northern Iowa (23-11), which closed to within 56-54 on Kerwin Dunham's 3-pointer with 17.4 seconds left.
Chris Kramer made a pair of free throws before Ahelegbe missed a layup on the rim with 7.7 seconds left for Northern Iowa, and Lewis Jackson made one of two free throws on the other end for Purdue.
Ali Farokhmanesh, the Panthers' star in the Missouri Valley tournament title game, made a pull-up jumper with 3 seconds left for Northern Iowa, before Moore made a pair of foul shots for the Boilermakers to seal the victory.
"I think we kind of looked up and realized we needed to have a sense of urgency," Purdue forward Lewis Jackson said. "We knew anything could happen."
Northern Iowa, which failed to make even the NIT the past two seasons, started off 6-6 before going on an 11-game winning streak. The Panthers lost just four games after the first of the year and capped the season with a 60-57 overtime victory over Illinois State to win the MVC tournament championship.
The Boilermakers defeated Ohio State 65-61 on Sunday to claim the Big Ten championship. The conference tournament title was a boost for Purdue, which was expected to contend all year but lost three of its final four regular-season games.
The Panthers jumped out to a 6-4 lead before Purdue went on a 14-2 run, capped by Johnson's hook shot. The Boilermakers went on to lead 32-20 at the break.
The Panthers showed tenacity, however, and narrowed the gap to 40-34 on Ahelegbe's jumper and free throw with 12:10 left to play. After Johnson hit a long jumper for Purdue, Jordan Eglseder scored on a put-back for the Panthers.
"Every game you can always say, `I wish I could get that back,"' Eglseder said. "But that's basketball."
Hummel missed several games this season with a hairline fracture in his lower back, but he returned to full strength in time for the conference tournament, where he averaged 16 points and 9.3 rebounds in earning the tournament MVP award.
Purdue's aggressive defense limited Northern Iowa to just 37 percent shooting (20 of 54) from the field in the first half. The Boilermakers went into the game ranked 11th nationally in field goal percentage defense.
Purdue has held foes to under 40 percent shooting in 22 of 35 games.
Kramer said he thought Purdue prevailed down the stretch because of confidence.
"We're a very poised group. If you can stay poised and stay together as a team, it's going to help you out," he said. "There's no reason to rush, you've just got to stay together, just become even more of a unit."
Purdue has lost in the second round of the tournament the past two seasons, and has won 11 consecutive first-round games dating to 1993. But while consistently making it to the early rounds, the Boilermakers haven't played for a title since 1969.
Northern Iowa made three straight trips to the tournament from 2004-06 under former coach Greg McDermott, who left for Iowa State. The Panthers' only win in the tournament came in 1990, when they shocked third-seeded Missouri.
"We played tough, but we got desperate," Dunham said. "They were able to get some points off of turnovers and some key offensive boards. We were able to climb back but just couldn't get enough shots to fall."