WEST LAFAYETTE – Purdue’s Keaton Grant was surprised a defender didn’t pick him up in the full court.
He figured Iowa would try to make it a bit tougher on him with only 5 seconds remaining in a tie game.
Instead, Grant was able to easily catch the inbounds pass, zip down court and streak past guard Tony Freeman. Freeman reached for the ball, was called for a foul and essentially sealed the Hawkeyes’ fate.
Grant hadn’t missed a free throw during Big Ten play this season.
He didn’t with the game on the line Wednesday either, making his first free throw to help Purdue to its sixth consecutive victory, 51-50 over Iowa at Mackey Arena.
Purdue coach Matt Painter told Grant to miss the second free throw with only 1.4 seconds remaining. Grant’s second attempt hit the backboard and the rim, and Iowa didn’t get a shot off.
“Coach had to tell me because otherwise I was going to make it,” said a smiling Grant, who entered the game 26 of 26 on free throws in seven conference games.
Grant’s final play saved Purdue (16-5, 7-1 Big Ten) from a potential letdown.
The Boilermakers were coming off an emotional upset victory over No. 11 Wisconsin on Saturday and played uninspired in the first half against the Hawkeyes. Purdue led 25-24 at the break but shot only 39 percent, had nine turnovers and allowed Iowa to shoot 53 percent.
The Boilers never made a second-half run and led 50-47 with less than 20 seconds to play.
After Purdue missed a shot, Iowa’s Jake Kelly beat Scott Martin off the dribble and drove baseline despite his team trailing by three.
Martin admitted he fouled Kelly – and was called for it. But then Purdue’s Robbie Hummel also got whistled for goaltending. So the basket counted, Kelly went to the line and completed a three-point play.
Painter called a timeout as did Iowa coach Todd Lickliter.
Lickliter opted to put all five of his players in the half court. That allowed Grant to catch the ball and then rely on Painter’s instructions.
“We said if there’s nobody staring you at the eyes and you don’t see his numbers, then you burn it and you get to the basket and you try to score the basketball,” Painter said. “Penetration late in the game, I think that’s the best way to do it.”
Lickliter said Purdue did a good job of spacing on that final play.
“I thought (Freeman) was going to let me go by him and let (Kurt) Looby or somebody come from the weak side and try to block it,” Grant said.
During the six-game winning streak, Purdue has won three games by five points or fewer. Before that stretch, the Boilermakers had lost four games by three points apiece.
“Maturity is definitely the big part of winning this basketball game,” sophomore Chris Kramer said. “We made plays down the stretch. That last play was huge. That goaltending call, nobody really knows what happened. That was a crazy play. We came together as a team. Coach made a play. KG drove and got fouled, and that’s how we won the game.”