WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - JANUARY 21: Isaac Haas #44, Carsen Edwards #3, Caleb Swanigan #50 and Vince Edwards #12 of the Purdue Boilermakers react in the second half of the game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Mackey Arena on January 21, 2017 in West Lafayette, Indiana. Purdue defeated Penn State 77-52. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

No. 23 Purdue earns critical road win at No. 17 Maryland

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The afternoon started off strong in the Big Ten on Saturday as No. 23 Purdue closed out a huge road win to beat No. 17 Maryland, 73-72.

Big man Caleb Swanigan shook off a slow start as the sophomore had 26 points and 10 rebounds to pace the Boilermakers. Even though junior guard Melo Trimble did everything he could to win Maryland this game the Terps didn’t have enough help for him in the end.

Maryland, who falls a game behind No. 10 Wisconsin in the Big Ten standings, is 20-3 on the season but still without a win over a ranked team this year.

Here are four takeaways from this one:

1. This is the road win Purdue needed to be considered a Big Ten contender

Entering Saturday’s game at Maryland, Purdue had lost eight consecutive road games against ranked opponents. Even though the Boilermakers didn’t have great interior play outside of Caleb Swanigan, they were able to hit some big shots and fight back for its biggest win of the season.

With a favorable schedule the rest of Big Ten play, Purdue has to have a lot of confidence after knocking off two top-25 opponents in one week. The win over Northwestern was just okay since it came without Scottie Lindsey but beating Maryland on the road is legitimate.

Indiana has a lot of issues right now and that is Purdue’s next road game. After that Purdue only travels to Penn State, Michigan and Northwestern on the road. That isn’t the toughest draw, and as long as Purdue and can stay healthy and knock down some perimeter looks (more on that below), they should be right in the race.

2. Melo Trimble remains college basketball’s best closer (but he needs help)

Maryland was able to almost beat Purdue because Melo Trimble willed himself to the free throw line time-after-time during the last six minutes of the win. In a tight game and both teams already in the double bonus, Trimble realized that Purdue’s guards couldn’t defend him, so he went into full attack mode going to the basket.

The junior finished with 22 points and five assists as he was 14-for-15 from the free-throw line.

This often resulted in Trimble getting calls as it he so good at changing speeds and getting defenders to hit his body in one way or another. Trimble’s movements force refs to make a call and it can result in two points for the Terps. In the instance of one foul on Isaac Haas while he was called for a block, he was also whistled for a tech and Trimble was able to add another point onto the possession.

Over the last three years Maryland has been outstanding in close games because Trimble loves the pressure of big games and he isn’t afraid to get to the free-throw line. This team still needs to get better at executing crunch-time offense when opposing teams adjust to their offense over the course of a game but they at least have Trimble to help get them over the hump in a lot of close games.

They couldn’t get over the hump in this one, however, because Trimble didn’t have enough help. Freshman Kevin Huerter had 11 points but he was 4-for-11 from the field. Maryland doesn’t have anyone who can consistently create a shot except for Trimble and it came back to bite them in this one.

3. Purdue needs its perimeter shooters to reach full potential

Since Purdue’s frontcourt outside of Caleb Swanigan was off on Saturday, they needed perimeter shooters to step up and make up for the lack of scoring. The Boilers have to be encouraged by what they saw out of certain perimeter options.

Getting two three-pointers each from Dakota Mathias (12 points), P.J. Thompson and Ryan Cline was huge as the perimeter shooting got Purdue back in the game with 10 minutes left when it looked like Maryland could run away with the game.

Freshman guard Carsen Edwards also had 12 points on Saturday. He wasn’t able to knock anything down from the perimeter but he hit the two critical go-ahead free throws with 2.1 seconds left after he confidently attacked the basket and drew a foul.

If Purdue can consistently make shots and free up space for Swanigan and the other big men to operate, it helps out Purdue’s offense so much. Swanigan’s ability to stretch the floor (he was 3-for-6 from three-point range) also helps when he has to play with other players who need space inside.

Purdue hitting shots means the difference between losing early and making the second weekend.

4. Maryland’s post defense is solid

Usually the discussion around Maryland hovers around perimeter threats like Melo Trimble and the new freshmen contributors like Justin Jackson, Kevin Huerter and Anthony Cowan. In other words, big men like Michal Cekovsky and Damonte Dodd don’t get a lot of love. The duo combined for 10 blocks and also scored 19 points on 7-for-9 shooting as they had a solid day on both ends.

The duo deserves a lot of credit for slowing down Purdue’s front court in which they limited the Boiler big men for much of the game. Caleb Swanigan still had 26 points and 10 rebounds but he was 8-for-18 from the floor and Maryland made him work for everything. Forward Vince Edwards went 0-for-7 from the field and was held scoreless while center Isaac Haas was held to nine points on 3-for-10 shooting.

Maryland’s post play wasn’t the issue on Saturday and they need more help from some perimeter shooting outside of Melo Trimble.

No. 15 Purdue goes small, lands comeback win over No. 21 Notre Dame

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 17:  Caleb Swanigan #50 of the Purdue Boilermakers dunks the ball during the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on December 17, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Purdue went to a “small” lineup in the second half and made a big comeback to after trailing by 14 at halftime as they rallied to beat No. 21 Notre Dame 86-81.

The No. 15 Boilermakers (9-2) rarely used 7-foot-2 junior center Isaac Haas in the second half, instead opting to play 6-foot-9 forward Caleb Swanigan at center and 6-foot-8 junior Vincent Edwards at forward. The duo came up huge on the interior against Notre Dame and Swanigan was still effective as a rim protector and post scorer to help give Purdue the win. Swanigan finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds while Edwards had 20 points and 10 rebounds.

The Irish (9-2) had another strong outing from Bonzie Colson (23 points, 10 rebounds) and junior point guard Matt Farrell (22 points, 10 assists) but senior Steve Vasturia was cold as he was 1-for-8 from the field for three points. Purdue’s smaller lineup in the second half allowed for them to defend Notre Dame’s perimeter-oriented attack more effectively in the second half. Vasturia had a bad game and senior V.J. Beachem was also held to 10 points.

This was a great comeback win for Purdue as they pick up the program’s first win over Notre Dame since 1966. By being able to go with the lineup without Haas the Boilers played with more urgency and speed as freshman guard Carsen Edwards’ aggressive style has helped the team’s offense. Edwards finished with 11 points and his speed gives Purdue’s offense a gear it hasn’t had the last few seasons.

The Purdue defense also switched on the perimeter and made driving tougher for Notre Dame’s guards like Farrell who were dominating in the first half.

Notre Dame has dropped two consecutive games to quality opponents when they held a lead in the second half. The Irish are clearly talented enough to be a team that once again makes a deep NCAA tournament run but they need to figure out some second-half defensive lapses while also finding a consistent offensive closer to get them through games. The Irish have a balanced offense that can score from all over but who is their go-to guy? Colson seems to be the team’s most consistently productive player but he’s also limited from three if Notre Dame is playing down.

VIDEO: P.J. Thompson drains halfcourt shot to end first half of Purdue/Villanova

DENVER, CO - MARCH 17:  P.J. Thompson #3 of the Purdue Boilermakers makes a shot over Josh Hagins #3 of the Arkansas Little Rock Trojans during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Pepsi Center on March 17, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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Purdue junior guard P.J. Thompson nailed a halfcourt shot to end a fun first half in the Purdue/Villanova game on Monday night.

The atmosphere at Mackey Arena is pretty big-time right now, especially for an early-season game. Thompson’s shot tied this game 39-all heading into half.

No. 3 Villanova eventually outlasted No. 15 Purdue for a nice road win.

Purdue to represent Team USA in 2017 World University Games

Matt Painter
AP Photo/R Brent Smith
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Less than a year after Bill Self’s Kansas program represented the United States at the World University Games and won the country’s first men’s basketball gold medal at the event since 2005, another Division I program announced that it will represent the nation at next year’s World University games.

Tuesday morning it was announced that next summer it will be Purdue that represents the country at the World University Games in Taipei, Taiwan. Matt Painter’s program joins Kansas and Northern Iowa (2007) as programs that have been selected to represent the United States at the World University Games.

This won’t be Painter’s first experience with USA Basketball, as he was an assistant on Jamie Dixon’s staff that led the U19 team to gold at the 2009 FIBA U19 World Championships in New Zealand. He was also head coach of the 2011 World University Games team, leading the United States to a fifth-place finish in Shenzhen, China.

Amongst the players on the current roster, rising sophomore forward Caleb Swanigan was a member of the United States U17 and U19 teams, winning gold at the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championships and the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championships.

Leading up to next year’s event it will also be interesting to see if Painter fills out his roster with a couple players from other programs. Last year’s World University Games roster had two non-Jayhawks, SMU point guard Nic Moore and FGCU shooting guard Julian DeBose.

Josh Hagins, No. 12 Little Rock knock off No. 5 Purdue in 2OT

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Leading by 13 with 3:19 remaining, No. 5 seed Purdue looked to be well on its way to the second round of the NCAA tournament. The problem for the Boilermakers: they took their foot off the gas too early.

No. 12 Little Rock ramped up the defensive pressure, forcing multiple turnovers while doing enough offensively to get themselves in position tie the game in the final seconds of regulation. Josh Hagins delivered, hitting a three-pointer with 6.8 seconds remaining to force overtime. From there the Trojans and Boilermakers traded punches through two overtimes, with Little Rock ultimately winning in double overtime 85-83.

Essentially the difference was Hagins, who ran the point well for the Trojans and finished with 31 points, seven rebounds, six assists and five steals. Little Rock’s been one of the best stories in college basketball thanks to the work of first-year head coach Chris Beard, and the presence of a point guard as good as Hagins has certainly helped the Sun Belt champions.

As for Purdue, the questions about their perimeter play and whether or not they had enough to be a factor in the NCAA tournament have been asked all season long. And down the stretch against the Trojans it was easy to see why many remained concerned.

Purdue struggled to take care of the basketball against the Little Rock defense, committing 18 turnovers with many of those coming as they were trying to put the game away. Just as bad for the Boilermakers was their inability to get A.J. Hammons the ball, thus failing to take advantage of the one matchup that was in their favor. Hammons finished with 16 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks, but after scoring with 16:28 remaining in regulation he didn’t score again until the second overtime.

Hammons got the occasional touch, with Little Rock doubling down to get the ball out of his hands, but far too often Purdue’s offense consisted of wasted motion followed by a challenged shot late in the shot clock. That kind of execution won’t get it done in March, especially against a team that defends as well as Little Rock.

Next up for the Trojans is No. 4 Iowa State, which took care of No. 13 Iona in the first game of the day. And after picking up the program’s first NCAA tournament victory in 30 years, Little Rock has designs on their first-ever Sweet 16 appearance.

No. 2 Michigan State holds off No. 13 Purdue

Purdue's Vince Edwards (12) shoots against Michigan State's Eron Harris (14) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the finals at the Big Ten Conference tournament, Sunday, March 13, 2016, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
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Michigan State took home the Big Ten tournament and likely clinched a No. 1 seed with a 66-62 win over No. 13 Purdue on Sunday.

The Spartans (29-5) were able to hold off a late charge from Purdue to win the Big Ten tournament for the fifth time as Denzel Valentine just missed a triple-double with 15 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Bryn Forbes added nine points and Matt Costello had eight points as well for the Spartans.

The Boilermakers (26-8) had 19 points from Vince Edwards and A.J. Hammons and Caleb Swanigan each had 11 points but they couldn’t get over the hump. Purdue is likely looking at a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament and should still be a very tough matchup thanks to frontcourt depth.

This was a nice tournament for Michigan State to win before the NCAA tournament as they’ll gain some more confidence as one of the best teams entering the field. With Denzel Valentine playing at such a high level and other talented seniors, this will be a major threat to win the title.