Big Ten Tourney
Purdue vs. Minnesota
Where: United Center, Chicago
When: 7 p.m.
Records: Purdue (23-8), Minnesota (20-12)
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: 1380 AM
CHICAGO – It has been 10 years since Purdue won the only Big Ten Tournament title in program history.
This year, the Boilermakers are playing well enough that a second championship is a perfectly reasonable goal.
No. 2 seed Purdue, which got one of the four double-byes through the first two rounds, will face a quarterfinal opponent today – seventh-seeded Minnesota – that needed overtime to beat Penn State on Thursday. The Boilermakers come in fresh off of five days rest and are motivated after falling in the tournament final against eventual national runner-up Michigan last season.
The Boilermakers (23-8) enter the tournament winners of 17 of their last 20 games. One of those three losses, however, was March 5 against the Golden Gophers (20-12), who denied Purdue an outright Big Ten regular-season championship with a 73-69 win in Minneapolis.
“We didn't do a very good job of adjusting to how (the game) was called,” coach Matt Painter said after the loss. “I thought we had to make Minnesota earn some things away from the basket, not give them layups, not give them free throws. ... Give them credit, they did a good job of probing the defense.”
The Boilers also trailed Minnesota by 13 in the second half of a matchup at Mackey Arena on Feb. 3 but roared back down the stretch to win 73-63.
Center Matt Haarms, who became the first Big Ten player since former Ohio State center Greg Oden, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft, to lead the conference in shooting percentage and blocks in the same season, said the Boilers have to enter the tournament with a new mindset despite their success down the stretch in Big Ten play.
“It's very different because in the greater scheme of things, it's not 20 games,” Haarms said. “Where (before) we might have been like, 'Oh, we dropped one now, but we can always make it up if we win this, this and this game.'
“You can't make up anything now. If you lose you're done.”
The last time the Boilermakers took the court, they beat Northwestern on Saturday to clinch a share of the Big Ten title, their second in three seasons. They were able to celebrate on Saturday night, but then they left that achievement behind to focus on the goals still ahead of them.
The next goal is winning the Big Ten Tournament and the first step on that road is stopping the Golden Gophers, who are trying to shore up their spot in the NCAA Tournament. The last time these teams met, Gophers forward Amir Coffey had a career night with 32 points, eight rebounds and 18 free throw attempts. Keeping him out of the lane will be a key to victory for the Boilers.
Purdue will also need a better performance from Carsen Edwards, who shot a miserable 7 of 31 in the most recent matchup between the teams, including 3 for 15 from beyond the 3-point line. He scored 22 points, but Painter wants to see more patience from his star guard, adding that he hopes Edwards can drive, draw Minnesota's attention and make smart passes for open shots.
The winner of this game moves on to Saturday's tournament semifinals, facing No. 3 seed Michigan, No. 6 Iowa or No. 11 Illinois.