No. 9 Purdue hosts Minnesota in emotional finale

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue fans are in for an emotional and potentially historic senior day Sunday as the ninth-ranked Boilermakers host Minnesota in the final regular-season game for both teams.

Purdue (25-5, 14-3 Big Ten) will honor four seniors during pregame ceremonies as the Boilermakers try to close the regular season on a three-game win streak after dropping three in a row to fall out of contention for the regular-season conference championship.

Purdue defeated Illinois 93-86 on Thursday behind Carsen Edwards’ career-high 40 points after beating Penn State 76-73 last Sunday, and are locked in for the No. 3 seed in the upcoming Big Ten Conference tournament at Madison Square Garden, which begins Wednesday.

With a win Sunday, Purdue’s 2018 graduating class will have notched a school-record 62 career home victories. Seniors Vincent Edwards, Isaac Haas, Dakota Mathias and PJ Thompson have combined for 367 career starts, a 99-35 record, and have won at least one game in every Big Ten venue following Thursday’s win at Illinois.

Vincent Edwards, who averages 14.9 points and a team-high 7.8 rebounds, has missed the last two games after suffering a sprained ankle in practice Feb. 17. Purdue coach Matt Painter told reporters Saturday that he expects him to play Sunday, but did not discuss his status as a starter or elaborate on any minutes restrictions.

“Of course, I’m going to make a smart decision tomorrow,” Vincent Edwards told reporters Saturday. “The competitive part of me wants to play. It’s tough to be your last game and not be able to play, so I’m just going to have to balance out the goods and the bads out of it.”

Despite the uncertainty surrounding his injury, Vincent Edwards is still looking forward to everything that comes with such a momentous ceremony.

“Emotions everywhere, honestly,” Edwards said of his final home game as a Boilermaker. “It’s going to be a lot of excitement for us just being able to see what we did for the program to help the program. Of course we’re not done yet … and then, just the sadness of (knowing) we’re not coming back after tomorrow, so I think it’s going to be a little bit of everything as far as emotions go. It’s going to be a wild one.”

Minnesota (15-15, 4-13) has faced as much adversity this season as any team in the conference, losing senior center Reggie Lynch to suspension — and eventually expulsion — amid allegations of sexual misconduct and forward Amir Coffey to season-ending shoulder surgery.

The Golden Gophers snapped a nine-game losing streak Thursday by defeating Iowa 86-82 on senior night at Williams Arena. Nate Mason scored 33 points and needs just five more to move into fifth place on the school’s all-time scoring list.

Minnesota coach Rich Pitino commended Mason’s efforts down the stretch of the Golden Gophers’ tumultuous season.

“We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs,” Pitino said. “And young people today don’t normally fight through it. They normally head for the hills. (Nate) didn’t do that. He stuck with it, got better from it, and we’ve become very close because of it.”

Mason, who averages 16.8 points and a team-best 4.3 assists, has been the team’s go-to scoring option in the latter half of the season along with double-double machine Jordan Murphy, who leads the Golden Gophers with 17.1 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. Mason has scored at least 25 points four times since losing Coffey and Lynch, who combined to average 24.1 points this season.

“We’ve always been on the same page,” Pitino said of Mason. “He works hard every day, so that’s a coach’s dream. He loves the game, he listens, and he makes me better as a coach. He’s made me better, and I’m going to miss him, so we’ve got to keep working with him because we don’t want this to end because he’s a heck of a point guard.”

Regardless of the outcome of the game, Minnesota will likely be seeded 11th in the conference tournament, barring wins by both Illinois and Iowa on Sunday.