WEST LAFAYETTE – For more than a decade, Mackey Arena had been a place of frustration for Penn State. On Tuesday, the 13th-ranked Nittany Lions finally put that behind them.
Mike Watkins scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, Penn State made 14 3-pointers and the Nittany Lions overcame a late Purdue surge to win 88-76 and collect their first victory in West Lafayette since 2006.
Trevion Williams led Purdue (14-11, 7-7 Big Ten) with 17 points and 10 rebounds, his sixth double-double of the season. The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for the Boilermakers.
The Nittany Lions (19-5, 9-4), who pulled within a half-game of the Big Ten lead, shot 54% from 3-point range. Penn State hit four 3-pointers in the first five minutes to open a 12-6 lead and neutralize the early-game boost the Boilermakers have been getting at home recently.
“I talked to them about the first four minutes of this game,” Nittany Lions coach Pat Chambers said of his team's preparation. “I've watched every team that's come in (to Mackey) and it's been a massacre by the (under-16) media timeout. ... (The Boilermakers) have been playing really good out of the gate.
“I knew we would give ourselves a chance if we could be (close at the media timeout) and we were.”
Penn State was 10 for 19 from beyond the arc in the first half and led 42-30 at the break. The Nittany Lions came in making less than 33% of their 3-pointers but made 14 of 26. Freshman Seth Lundy went 6 for 9, doubling his career-high for 3s in a game.
“I felt like we were a step slow,” said Jahaad Proctor, who had 15 points and four assists for Purdue. “We were doing what we normally do, taking care of our defense at times, but we weren't coming out and running them off the line.
“As shooters we know once you make a few and a team starts to get going, ... it's kind of contagious.”
Purdue's misses were contagious. After hitting 27 3s in their previous two games, the Boilermakers were off the mark on their first 10 3-pointers Tuesday and finished 4 for 16. To make matters worse, they also missed a wide variety of shots from close range.
“I thought we had the ball at the rim a lot in that first half and we came up empty-handed,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “We had some post moves, we had some layups where we should have been going to the free throw line, we should have been making some and we weren't.”
Penn State extended its lead to as many as 23 with a 13-0 run early in the second half, during which the Nittany Lions, in Painter's words, “stole our spirit.”
An aggressive full-court press helped Purdue cut the deficit to as few as seven with 1:05 left, but a Penn State offensive rebound and a Purdue turnover in the final minute sealed the decision.
Painter wasn't satisfied with his team's effort.
“I always write stuff on the board (before games) and I always say, 'None of this matters if you don't play hard,'” Painter said. “Just like the Illinois game here (a 79-62 home loss on Jan. 21), Illinois played harder than us. ... I feel the same way about Penn State. Penn State beat us.”
The win was the seventh in a row for the Nittany Lions, setting a new program record for consecutive wins in conference play. They had lost 12 straight at Mackey Arena coming into the night.
Penn State played without second-leading scorer Myreon Jones, who missed his second straight game with an illness.