WEST LAFAYETTE, IND. – Purdue fans were bummed entering Sunday’s game when a victory over the Gophers wouldn’t give their team a chance to share the Big Ten regular-season title.
That opportunity was gone when Michigan State survived a scare at Wisconsin to finish 16-2 and clinch the outright conference championship.
The No. 9 Boilermakers still had something to play for. After all, it was Senior Day for one of the winningest classes in program history. The Gophers were playing for pride, but they could only keep it close in the first half of an 84-60 loss Sunday in front of an announced 14,804 at Mackey Arena.
Senior starters Dakota Mathias, Vincent Edwards, P.J. Thompson and Isaac Haas were part of a recruiting class that helped Purdue (26-5, 15-3 Big Ten) go from a 15-17 team in 2013-14 to four consecutive seasons of at least 20 victories, including a conference title last year.
“There’s no doubt that those guys were part of a change that helped us,” Boilermakers coach Matt Painter said.
The Gophers (15-16, 4-14) finished the regular season with their 13th loss in 15 games after getting blitzed to open the second half behind a three-point shooting barrage from Purdue led by Mathias, who finished with 25 points on 7-for-9 shooting from beyond the arc.
“We weren’t playing team defense,” senior Nate Mason said. “Everything looked easy for them. We have to be able to close into guys, take away attempts and limit three-pointers. We had a rough season, especially regular season. We just have to regroup.”
The Gophers trailed 47-36 after a three-pointer from Dupree McBrayer three minutes into the second half. But Carsen Edwards, Vincent Edwards and Mathias helped the Boilermakers hit their first six three-pointers in the half that ignited the home crowd during a 14-0 run.
Purdue shot 58.6 percent in the second half, which included hitting eight of its 12 threes in the game.
Carsen Edwards finished with 18 points and seven assists. Haas and Vincent Edwards finished with 13 and 10 points in their final home game, respectively.
Mason scored 12 points in the first half, including a high-arching shot off the glass as time expired to cut a once 16-point deficit to 37-29 at halftime. He passed Kevin McHale and Sam Jacobson to reach No. 5 on the Gophers’ all-time scoring list with 1,719 points.
Jordan Murphy finished with his Division I-high 24th double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Isaiah Washington also had 14 points on 6-for-16 shooting for the Gophers, who shot 7-for-18 from three-point range.
“We’re really struggling to score,” coach Richard Pitino said. “When all things aren’t clicking for us, it’s very, very challenging to put it all on Nate. I thought Isaiah did some good things. But we’re easy to guard right now.”
Pitino’s team has the 11th seed in the Big Ten tournament and plays Wednesday against 14th-seeded Rutgers at Madison Square Garden in New York. But the Gophers have even more health issues to overcome than starting guard Amir Coffey being out for the season after having right shoulder surgery last week.
Mason is playing with a baseball-sized bruise on his lower right leg from getting tripped at the end of regulation in an overtime loss at Wisconsin. McBrayer was limited to six minutes in the second half Sunday because of lingering pain from a lower left leg injury. Starting center Bakary Konate was battling the flu.
“[Konate] has to get whatever he has out of his system,” Pitino said. “Nate’s shin is bothering him from the Wisconsin fall. Dupree is obviously hobbling. But we talk about it and it’s just an excuse.”