WEST LAFAYETTE, IND. – Shutting down one of the top offensive teams in the country for 25 minutes had the Gophers looking like they potentially could steal a big road victory Sunday.
Purdue shot only 1-for-13 from three-point range in the first half and trailed by 13 points in the second. But the upset-minded Gophers simply couldn’t sustain that defensive effort in a 73-63 loss to the No. 17 Boilermakers in front of an announced 14,804 at Mackey Arena.
Big Ten leading scorer Carsen Edwards was only 1-for-9 shooting in the first half, but the 6-1 junior guard and preseason All-America finished with 15 of his team-high 17 points in the second half for the Boilermakers (16-6, 9-2), who are tied with Michigan and Michigan State for the Big Ten lead.
“We did a lot of good things, but midway through the second half, we stopped rebounding the basketball on the defensive side of it,” Gophers coach Richard Pitino said. “We went cold at the wrong time — and Edwards showed you why he’s one of the better players in the country.”
Edwards, who had 38 points and eight three-pointers in an overtime victory Thursday at Penn State, sparked Purdue’s 21-2 second-half run with nine consecutive points, including his only three-pointer of the game with 13 minutes to play.
After 16 three-pointers Thursday, Purdue went just 5-for-24 from deep Sunday, but in the second half, the Boilermakers shot 59 percent from the floor and won the rebounding battle 21-12 after trailing by a point at halftime.
Amir Coffey had 22 points on 8-for-13 shooting, including 16 points in the second half for the Gophers (16-6, 6-5), whose two-game winning streak ended. Daniel Oturu had 13 of his 19 points in the first half.
“We got into a real bad offensive drought and couldn’t hit a shot,” said senior Jordan Murphy, who had 10 points, 10 rebounds and five turnovers. “We just have to avoid that and keep playing our game.”
Coffey ignited a 19-7 Gophers run to start the second half with 10 points, on a three-point play, two fast-break layups and a three-pointer. Oturu’s putback gave the Gophers their biggest lead at 47-34, but the turning point came when they were outscored 13-0 during a four-minute scoring drought.
A layup from Oturu gave the Gophers one last lead at 49-47 with 9:29 to go. Back-to-back Purdue three-pointers from Ryan Cline brought the crowd to its feet during an 8-0 run for a 55-49 advantage. The Gophers never got closer than five in the final minutes.
The Boilermakers, who shot 12-for-16 from inside the arc in the second half, made their presence felt in the paint. Trevion Williams had 16 points, 14 in the first half. In the second half, Matt Haarms used his length and size at 7 feet 3 to disrupt Oturu and Murphy. Haarms had 15 points, eight rebounds and five blocks.
This game was the first of eight potential Quadrant 1 games in the Gophers’ final 10 regular-season contests for NCAA evaluation purposes. The second comes Wednesday at home vs. Wisconsin.
The Gophers’ best victory this season was at Wisconsin on Jan. 3. They also squandered a chance at Michigan on Jan. 22, losing on a buzzer-beater.
“We haven’t put together a full 40 minutes yet,” senior Dupree McBrayer said. “We’re all trying to find the balance. It’s going to come. We’re not worried. We’re not panicking. We’re all going to have good games at one time — and it’s going to be scary when we do.”