As Purdue’s Ryan Cline headed toward the Bryce Jordan Center’s hallways shortly after his overtime heroics spoiled Penn State’s upset bid, a young fan grabbed his attention.
Cline stopped to sign an autograph for the kid — who wore a black and gold Boilermakers train hat — in the section behind the basket where Cline drilled back-to-back 3-pointers in the extra period to lift No. 14 Purdue to a 74-70 win over the Nittany Lions on Tuesday night.
“Ryan saved us obviously making those two shots there at the end,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “... Thank the Lord that Cline knocked those two shots down.”
Vincent Edwards paced six Purdue players in double figures with 14 points. Cline added 11, hitting three 3-pointers to contribute to a 12-for-26 performance from beyond the arc by the Boilermakers (23-5, 12-3 Big Ten). Tony Carr finished with 21 points, seven assists and five rebounds for Penn State; Lamar Stevens added 18 points and seven rebounds, and Mike Watkins had 11 points and 13 rebounds.
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Despite escaping with the win, Painter said the Nittany Lions outplayed his team. Penn State (14-14, 6-9) limited the Boilermakers — who came into the game leading the conference in field-goal percentage (48.4) and scoring (81.3 points per game) — to 39.7 percent shooting for the game and 64 points in regulation. Penn State also outrebounded Purdue 40-38.
After suffering an 82-66 loss to Nebraska last week, the Nittany Lions focused on their defense and rebounding, two areas that helped them maintain the lead for the entire first half. Purdue shot 29 percent against Penn State in the first half, but the Nittany Lions couldn’t hold off the Boilermakers in the final 10 minutes of regulation.
“It’s unfortunate to hold a team like Purdue to 29 and 35; you should come out on top,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said, referencing the Boilermakers’ point totals in the first and second half. “You should come out on top. But again, some lapses, a rebound here and there.”
The costly defensive lapses came in overtime when Penn State allowed Cline, a 3-point specialist, to hit the decisive shots from long range.
With the Nittany Lions ahead by two points and 1:41 left in overtime, Purdue’s Dakota Mathias penetrated and found Cline for a 3-pointer on the left wing to give Purdue a 69-68 lead. After an offensive foul by Stevens, Cline connected on a 3 from the right corner, in front of the Purdue bench, to make it 72-68 with 52 seconds left.
Still, the Nittany Lions threatened late, cutting Purdue’s lead to two points on a finish by Watkins. On Purdue’s ensuing possession, Isaac Haas missed a layup off the backboard that was deflected to Boilermakers guard P.J. Thompson.
With two seconds left on the shot clock, Shep Garner fouled Thompson.
“I think he thought it hit the rim,” Chambers said. “It was an absolute bang-bang play, and I think he thought it was a missed shot and a rebound.”
Painter said his team was fortunate as Thompson didn’t realize the shot clock was winding down, either.
The Purdue coach felt his team was lucky to leave the Bryce Jordan Center with a win.
“I think the only category that we won tonight was the only one that’s important — that’s the final score,” Painter said.
Chambers was encouraged by his team’s performance after losing to Purdue by 25 in January.
“If you go back to the first time we played them, we weren’t in the game,” Chambers said. “That shows so much growth and maturity; it shows where this program and where this team’s headed.”