Purdue center Isaac Haas (44) puts up a shot against Rutgers forward Deshawn Freeman (33) during the second half of an NCAA Big Ten Conference tournament college basketball game, Friday, March 2, 2018, in New York. Purdue won 82-75. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Rutgers guard Geo Baker (0) reaches to high five a teammate after scoring against Purdue during the first half of an NCAA Big Ten Conference tournament college basketball game, Friday, March 2, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Purdue forward Matt Haarms (32) reacts after a turnover against Rutgers during the first half of an NCAA Big Ten Conference tournament college basketball game, Friday, March 2, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Associated Press Forward Vincent Edwards scored 26 to lead Purdue on Friday night.
Saturday, March 03, 2018 12:30 am
Purdue rides Edwards and Edwards to Big Ten semifinals
MICHAEL J. LEWIS | For The Journal Gazette
NEW YORK – The law firm of Edwards & Edwards made sure Purdue didn’t become the latest victim of Rutgers’ improbable Big Ten Tournament ride Friday night.
Playing against an exhausted but determined 14th-seed that’s made up for a miserable season in a few days, Purdue stayed poised and rode its top two scorers into the semifinals.
Carsen Edwards and Vincent Edwards each scored 26 points and made all four of their free throws in the final seconds, as the No. 3 seed Purdue finally shook off 14th-seeded Rutgers, 82-75 at Madison Square Garden.
Vincent Edwards, playing on a bum ankle, hit 10-of-14 shots and played 37 minutes in his second game back from injury.
“They played with so much confidence and with nothing to lose and had their crowd behind them,” Vincent Edwards said. “But it’s March, and when March comes around you’ve got to accept the ugly games”
Despite the vast difference in wins this season between the teams, Purdue needed every ounce of effort and hot shooting from the Edwardses to advance to play Penn State in the semifinals at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
The Boilermakers (27-5) shot 54 percent from the field and committed but two second-half turnovers in surviving a gritty effort from Rutgers. Purdue took the lead for the first time early in the second half, but despite getting up by seven points on several occasions, could not shake a Scarlet Knights team that was apparently impervious to tiredness.
But in the final two minutes, both Edwardses and Isaac Haas made winning plays. Leading 78-75 with just less than a minute left, Purdue got two big defensive stops to stay in the lead.
Then, with :29 left, Carsen Edwards grabbed a defensive rebound and was fouled. He hit both free throws, and 15 seconds later Vincent Edwards made his two free throws to finally allow the Purdue fans in the crowd to exhale.
“I told Carsen ‘I need you to get going,’ and he kept saying ‘I got you, I got you,’” Vincent Edwards said. “He got me and he made some big shots.”
It was only the second time this season Vincent Edwards and Carsen Edwards both scored over 20 points, and Purdue needed just about all of them against a Rutgers team looking to score its third upset in as many nights. For a while in the second half it looked like the Edwardses were playing a game of H-O-R-S-E, as each time one of them scored, the other responded.
“I thought tonight (Vincent) took what the defense gave him, and that’s when he’s at his best,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “The key was him playing in our last game (Sunday), to get the rust off.”
Playing its third game in three nights and trying to keep its dream week going, Rutgers (15-19) seemed to run out of gas a few times in the second half before being bucked up by a partisan crowd that roared with every made basket by Geo Baker (25 points) or Corey Sanders (23 points).
“We have a rule when we go on the road and the crowd gets loud: Just pass the basketball,” Painter said. “We said they’re going to have a strong following and they’re going to get into it, so pass the ball.”
After trailing or being tied the entire first half, Purdue took its first lead of the game with a 9-0 spurt coming out of the locker room, and a Carsen Edwards 3-pointer gave the Boilermakers their first lead, 41-38, 1:38 into the half.
And Purdue played much more carefully with the ball in the second half, committing only two turnovers in the final 20 minutes after coughing it up seven times in the first half.
Haas scored 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Purdue, while Dakota Mathias chipped in nine points and seven assists.
Now the Boilermakers need two more wins to grab their first Big Ten Tournament title in nine years, with Penn State up next. Purdue squeaked out a 76-73 win over the Nittany Lions on Feb. 18 in West Lafayette.
“It’s going to be a war,” Painter said. “It’s going to be a really tough game.”