Dakota Mathias hit three threes in the final 11 minutes and finished with 12 points as Purdue shook off a disappointing trip to the Battle 4 Atlantis to land a come-from-behind win over No. 17 Louisville, 66-57.
The Boilermakers were down 33-27 at one point early in the second half but responded with a 16-3 run to grab the lead. Louisville answered by scoring eight straight, and the two traded buckets until Mathias buried his third three with 2:57 left, giving Purdue a lead they would never relinquish.
Quite frankly, Purdue did not play all that well.
They shot 33 percent from the floor and went just 5-for-23 from beyond the arc, but that is what made this win so important. This is not a typical Purdue team, at least not one that you would associate with the Gene Keady days. They’re not ground and pound. They don’t win because they have a defense that is better than yours. This is a team that has success because of the way that they can shoot the ball from deep.
There are four players in the rotation that entered Tuesday night’s game shooting better than 37.5 percent from beyond the arc, and three of them topped 42.5 percent. That doesn’t include Ryan Cline, a career 40 percent three-point shooter that hasn’t been able to buy a bucket this season. They put those shooters around Isaac Haas, and let those shooters space the floor for ball-screen actions, and then go to work. The point is, it’s all predicated around their ability to make shots from beyond the arc, because when they’re not making threes, they don’t really have another option. Haas is good, but he’s not Caleb Swanigan, not even close. Outside of Carsen Edwards, they don’t really have another guy that can put the ball on the floor and consistently make something happen.
They need to shoot well to win games, or at least that’s what we thought.
In their first five wins this season, Purdue shot 49.1 percent from three. In their two losses, they shot 33.3 percent from three.
On Tuesday, they shot 21.7 percent.
And they beat a good Louisville team in the process.
Because they defended. I’m not going to sit here and try to tell you that forcing this Louisville team to take tough shots and making them struggle on the offensive end of the floor is any kind of impressive feat, because I’m not sure that it is. But the Cardinals scored 0.78 points-per-possession on Tuesday night. To put that into perspective, the 2015 Kentucky team — the one that nearly went 40-0 — gave up 0.845 PPP on the season.
I entered Tuesday thinking that Purdue belonged in the same category as Arizona State and Florida, teams that we know are dangerous when they’re threes are going down but that can be beaten when they are missing shots.
On Tuesday, they missed shots and landed a win over a top 25 team.
Yes, it was at home.
Yes, Louisville is still something of an unknown at this point.
But that doesn’t change the fact that this is a step in the right direction. The more good defense we see from the Boilermakers, the more confident Purdue fans can feel that they have a top three team in the Big Ten.