Hammons gets hot in second half, helps Purdue rally past Vandy
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue was struggling from behind the arc and was in danger of losing a second straight game after winning its first 11.
Then A.J. Hammons took over, scoring 15 of his 21 points in the second half to rally the 14th-ranked Boilermakers to a 68-55 win over Vanderbilt on Tuesday night.
Hammons added 10 rebounds and seven blocks in his 28 minutes as Purdue bounced back from Saturday’s loss to No. 9 Butler in the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis.
"When he is amped up, ready and engaged, A.J. is the best big man in the country," said Boilermaker forward Vince Edwards. "We weren’t making our 3s, but we were feeding him and hanging our hats on our defense. We were doing all the little things."
Rapheal Davis added 14 points and Caleb Swanigan had 13 for the Boilermakers (12-1), who extended their Mackey Arena winning streak to 15 games. Purdue missed 17 of its 19 3-point attempts.
Wade Baldwin scored 13 points and Jeff Roberson added 12 for Vanderbilt (7-4), coached by former Purdue guard and assistant coach Kevin Stallings. The Commodores shot only 34.9 percent (22 of 63) and were out rebounded 43-34, including 23-9 during the pivotal second half, when the Boilermakers outscored Vanderbilt, 45-29.
"I was just making good, easy moves to the basket, and I knew they were in foul trouble," said Hammons, who chowed down on a large chicken sandwich with barbecue sauce during postgame interviews. "I thought I played good, but we played an unacceptable first half. Tonight was about payback from them beating us last year."
Two Hammons free throws with 4:05 to play gave Purdue a 51-42 lead, capping a 22-8 run that included a 3-pointer from Ryan Cline and nine points from Hammons.
"Vandy was tougher and more physical than we were in the first half," said Purdue coach Matt Painter, who sternly lectured his team at halftime. "The 3-pointers are a big part of our game, and when we make only 2 of 19, guys get frustrated, and you have to find another way. In the second half, A.J. set the tone in the paint on both ends of the court."
Purdue finally got untracked with 11:42 remaining, beginning a 10-0 run that included eight points from its big men, four from Isaac Haas and two each from Swanigan and Hammons to seize a 39-34 advantage with 8:53 to play.
Stallings, whose team also has played Kansas with its strong front line, was asked about Purdue’s wealth of size.
"Kansas didn’t hurt us inside," Stallings said. "We got killed inside tonight. It was an ugly game with a bunch of fouls. Purdue missed some open shots, but they got the ball where it needed to be."
Vanderbilt took a 26-23 halftime lead, outscoring Purdue 7-2 during the final 3:24, including a 3-pointer from Roberson.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores defeated Purdue 81-71 this past December in Nashville, getting a career-best 26 points from guard Riley LaChance. … Before playing the No. 14 Boilermakers, Vanderbilt was 19-133 in road games against Top 25 opponents. … Now in his 17th season at Vanderbilt, coach Kevin Stallings is the current dean of SEC coaches.
Purdue: Before Tuesday’s game, the Boilermakers had not beaten Vanderbilt since Dec. 30, 1929, when the legendary John Wooden led Purdue to a 43-22 victory in West Lafayette.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
"That was a better ovation than I ever got when I played here," Stallings, the former Purdue guard and assistant coach who received a pregame standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 14,846 when he was introduced. "I really want to thank the crowd."
ON THE RISE
Davis limited Butler scoring leader Kellen Dunham to 0 for 12 from the field on Saturday but scored only two points. Davis bounced back with 14 points and five rebounds against Butler.
"Ray is a great defender, but he also has to rebound and give us something on the offensive end," Painter said. "He did tonight. His strong drive to the basket for the game’s first points is what he is capable of doing, It was good to see."
Vanderbilt: Home against Western Michigan on Dec. 30.
Purdue: At Wisconsin on Dec. 29.