WEST LAFAYETTE – As Purdue's Sasha Stefanovic drained a 3-pointer with 4:13 remaining in the first half of Sunday's win over Penn State, Boilermakers coach Matt Painter raised his hands above his head as if to say, “Finally.”
Stefanovic's 3 was the first Purdue made after 13 straight misses, part of a 6-for-32 performance from beyond the arc.
“We sucked at shooting today. It was really bad,” said Stefanovic, who led Purdue with 15 points but was 3 of 10 from 3-point range.
Despite the poor shooting, all five starters scored in double figures, including 13 points and 11 rebounds from Trevion Williams. And the Boilermakers held Penn State to just 33% shooting to get their third straight win, 80-72 at Mackey Arena.
“It shows we can do other things than shoot the 3 ball, simply put,” forward Mason Gillis said. “Our big guys (Williams and Zach Edey) did great and we have other options than the 3. Of course, we like to shoot 3s and we can hit a lot. But when we don't, we can sit down and play defense and execute offensive plays to get easier buckets.”
Of Purdue's limited shots from the outside that dropped, Gillis had arguably the two biggest. Purdue (10-5, 5-3 Big Ten) trailed 32-30 in the final seconds of the first half when the redshirt freshman received a pass from Eric Hunter Jr. and hoisted a 3 from the corner. The ball found the net as the buzzer sounded and Purdue went into the locker room with the lead.
“It was huge,” guard Brandon Newman said. “I was standing right next to him and I was yelling for it to go in before it even went in. We needed it.”
On the first possession of the second half, Gillis struck again, pulling up from the right wing and hitting another shot to put Purdue up four. Gillis finished with 12 points, five rebounds and two steals.
Purdue opened the half with a 12-1 run in the first 3:04. Newman had seven points, including a 3-pointer of his own, during the stretch that gave the Boilers a 12-point lead. He totaled 13 points, five rebounds and three shot blocks.
Williams, a center, had his second consecutive double-double and made 6 of 10 shots.
“That first 10 minutes (of the second half), that was the best basketball we played in this game,” Painter said. “I thought we did some really good things there (offensively), did some good things to keep (Penn State) out of the paint, and didn't let them get on the glass much.”
The final 10 minutes were a different story. Penn State (3-5, 0-4) mounted a furious comeback, getting within four points, before Purdue iced the game with free throws.
The Boilerms struggled to keep Penn State from the offensive boards, especially in the final minutes. They allowed 23 offensive rebounds and 27 second-chance points.
“It was a little disturbing, to be frank, that we had so many guys just watching plays and not going to get rebounds,” Painter said.
Penn State was playing its first game since Dec. 30 because of a coronavirus outbreak within the program that forced the postponement of four games. The Nittany Lions matched Purdue's poor 3-point shooting performance, going 10 for 39.