Minnesota upsets No. 6 Boilermakers
When Tubby Smith throws superlatives around, he means it.
Minnesota’s coach won a national championship at Kentucky and
has 450 career victories, yet no half of basketball he has coached
in 18 years could top what his Golden Gophers did to Purdue on
Saturday. Minnesota held the No. 6 Boilermakers to the worst first
half in Purdue’s record books and rolled to a 69-42 victory in the
Big Ten tournament semifinals.
Minnesota led 37-11 at the break and by as many as 34 in the
“I thought it was a very impressive and dominating
performance,” Smith said. “It’s as good a half as I think I’ve
been a part of as a coach.”
Purdue coach Matt Painter often says basketball is a game of
runs. By the time his team made one, it was digging its way out of
a 28-point hole early in the second half. It was the fewest points
by Purdue in a half since the school started keeping track in 1950.
Only a late layup by Patrick Bade allowed the Boilermakers (27-5)
to avoid the worst defeat ever in a Big Ten tournament game.
“With everything on the line, I thought it was going to be a
great college basketball game, and obviously it wasn’t,” Painter
said. “The game of basketball will humble you. Today, we were
Ralph Sampson III scored 13 points for the sixth-seeded
Golden Gophers (21-12), who reached the final for the first time.
Colton Iverson scored 11 points and Devoe Joseph added 10 as
Minnesota won its fourth straight and seventh of nine.
The Golden Gophers will play No. 5 Ohio State on Sunday for
the championship. The Buckeyes defeated Illinois 88-81 in double
Minnesota beat No. 11 Michigan State in the quarterfinals,
and the Golden Gophers don’t see why they can’t knock off another
“I feel we can compete with any team in the country, and I
feel we can compete with any team in the Big Ten,” Sampson said.
“We’ve proven it in this tournament right now.”
Purdue beat Minnesota twice in the regular season.
The Boilermakers ran into a confident Minnesota team that
Painter believes should be in the NCAAs. Experts had Minnesota
needing to win some games in the conference tourney to get in.
“Hopefully, that victory got Minnesota into the NCAA
tournament,” Painter said. “They got a great team, and I think
they’re going to do a great job in the NCAA tournament.”
The Boilermakers entered the game talking about possibly
earning a No. 1 seed.
“Basically, none of that is in our hands,” Purdue guard
Chris Kramer said. “Everything with seeding and where we’re going
to go is in the selection committee’s hands. Whatever they put us,
whatever seed we have, we just have to take that and then come out
and lay it on the line.”
JaJuan Johnson scored 17 points and D.J. Byrd added 11 for
Johnson shot 7-for-16 from the field, but his teammates were
9-for-42. The Boilermakers couldn’t even score with no one guarding
them, making just 8-of-18 free throws.
The Golden Gophers shot 48 percent from the field and
outrebounded the Boilermakers 50-26.
Minnesota started the game with a 9-2 run. After a bank shot
by Kramer, the Golden Gophers went on a 17-0 spurt to take a 26-4
lead. E’Twaun Moore missed his first eight shots, but finally
scored to end Minnesota’s run. Purdue went more than 11 minutes
The Boilermakers barely reached double figures in the first
half, getting there on a basket by Johnson.
Minnesota shot 61.5 percent in the first half and held Purdue
to 5-for-27 shooting. Eight different Gophers joined in the fun by
scoring before halftime, while only three Purdue players scored.
Moore, who tied a career high with 28 points in the
quarterfinals against Northwestern, shot 1-for-12 in the first
half. He hurt his left ankle on a drive with 18:21 left in the
second half and was ineffective when he returned with 12:41 to
play. He said he was fine after the game.
As the game approached the final seven minutes, Minnesota
turned it into a dunk-off. First Sampson, then Devron Bostick threw
down two-handed power jams to give the Gophers a 58-28 lead.
Lewis Jackson, Purdue’s starting point guard, left the game
with 6:21 remaining and was helped off the court, unable to put
much pressure on his left leg. He was in a walking boot after the
“We simply didn’t have anything in our tanks today, and
obviously, Minnesota did,” Painter said.
Minnesota will be playing its fourth game in four days, but
the Golden Gophers aren’t worried about being tired.
“It’s all about mental preparation,” Smith said. “It’s a
championship game. The adrenaline will be high. Your intensity
level will be high.”