In what was set to be an interesting match between a frontcourt heavy Boilermakers squad and a Cyclones team that relies heavily on their backcourt, Purdue and Iowa State managed to provide one of the most entertaining games of the NCAA Tournament so far.
Throughout most of the first half the game stayed relatively close, with Purdue holding the lead the entire way but never opening it up. After a Deonte Burton layup with just under four minutes, though, Purdue would go on a huge 15-5 run in the final minutes. Closing the half was junior Dakota Mathias, who nailed two threes in the last minute to give the Boilermakers a 13 point lead heading into the break.
Purdue would remain hot at the beginning of the second half, jumping out to a 58-39 lead before the offense started to stagnant. The offensive production slowing down, mixed with Caleb Swanigan catching a breather and the emergence of the touted Iowa State offense would go on to create a perfect storm for the Cyclones. Once a considerable lead, Iowa State would continue chipping away at the deficit before taking a 73-71 lead with 3:11 remaining.
Like most of the game, though, Purdue found a way to answer thanks to a P.J. Thompson three. Purdue would then add another Swanigan layup, force a turnover and then get a Vincent Edwards layup to push the lead back to five. After a Ryan Cline steal things were looking good, but Iowa State managed to cut it back down once again to 76-78.
Things could have turned out different for Iowa State, especially with Dakota Mathias missing the front end of a one-and-one, but another Caleb Swanigan rebound allowed Purdue to maintain possession and two P.J. Thompson free throws sealed the deal.
What We Learned
Caleb Swanigan is a beast
Caleb Swanigan has recorded double-doubles in almost every game this season and tonight was no different, with the sophomore recording 20 points and 12 rebounds (he also had a career high 7 assists). Swanigan’s last rebound was probably the most important, allowing Purdue to keep possession of the ball and setting up the two free throws from Thompson to close out the game.
Besides cleaning up on the glass and effectively passing the ball, Swanigan was a key weapon on the offensive side of the ball. Even more important, whenever Purdue desperately needed to score, Swanigan was their answer. The 6’9” forward also showcased his ability to shoot from outside, hitting 3 of his 6 three pointers.
When Swanigan plays to this level the Boilermakers will be very difficult to beat and that became even more evident when Iowa State’s comeback initially gained a ton of momentum while he was on the bench. While he struggled a bit on defense trying to guard the speedier Deonte Burton, Swanigan made plays on both sides of the ball and helped carry the Boilermakers.
Vincent Edwards is quietly eating up opponents
Every knows about Swanigan, that’s obvious. Everyone also likes to talk about his backup, Isaac Haas. One guy that doesn’t always get the attention he deserves, though, is junior Vincent Edwards. The forward was the best player on the court in the first round win over Vermont and while his performance tonight will be overshadowed by Swanigan, it was just as good.
Edwards actually led the team in scoring, recording 21 points on 9 of 14 shooting. He also added 10 rebounds and 4 assists. Just like Swanigan, Edwards has had a knack to make plays when the team needs it the most and made a number of key rebounds and defensive plays tonight.
Purdue always finds a way to make it entertaining (for better or worse)
In 2016 the Boilermakers couldn’t hold onto a 13 point lead and lost in overtime to Little Rock. In 2015 Purdue couldn’t hold onto a 7 point lead in the final minute of regulation and lost to Cincinnati in overtime. Hell, the last time they were in the round of 32 they couldn’t hold onto a late lead against Kansas. So when Iowa State came roaring back tonight, it was familiar territory for the fan base.
Part of this was a perfect storm of sorts. On one hand the Iowa State offense, which has been highly prolific this season, was stuck in neutral for a good chunk of the game early on. As for Purdue, their offense was rolling and it was only inevitable that things would eventually slow down. Iowa State got hot at the right time and came roaring back, eventually retaking the lead in the final minutes.
Of course Purdue found a way to help out Iowa State several times during this stretch. Vincent Edwards missing a pair of free throws while up 4, a few missed shots that should have been converted and a few breakdowns on defense allowed Iowa State to retake the lead.
Unlike those past Purdue teams, though, the Boilers were able to bounce back and regain their composure, making enough plays down the stretch to retake the lead and hold on for the victory.
Purdue’s win tonight gets them to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2010. As for who they’ll play, that’ll be decided tomorrow as they’ll take on the winner between Michigan State and Kansas.
The Boilermakers have had two strong performances from Swanigan and Edwards this tournament, while the backcourt has done enough to keep Purdue ahead of their opponents. Isaac Haas, who struggled in the first round, looked considerably better tonight versus the undersized Cyclones and made a number of key shots throughout the night.
If Purdue can maintain this level of play they are going to be a dangerous team next week. But for now the team can relax and wait to see who they’ll face next.