Gophers lose 10th straight despite double-double from Mason
MINNEAPOLIS -- Purdue wasn't at full strength with freshman standout Caleb Swanigan on the bench. The Boilermakers weren't at full attention, either, considering how many times Minnesota dribbled by them for layups and dunks.
Vince Edwards was in fine shooting form, though, and that was enough to beat the Gophers.
Edwards scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds to help No. 21 Purdue hang on for a 68-64 victory on Wednesday night, bouncing back from a loss to Big Ten leader Iowa for the second time this month.
"We can't have any more lessons. We need to mature and grow up," said Edwards, who finished 8 for 15 from the floor. "We had too many turnovers, almost cost us the game, but we were able to pull it out."
A.J. Hammons added 16 points, Raphael Davis pitched in 10 and the Boilermakers (18-4, 6-3) made their free throws count down the stretch. Swanigan was suited up but wore a wrap on his lower right leg as he squeezed his 6-foot-9 frame into the seat on the Purdue bench next to Minnesota's raised floor. Coach Matt Painter said Swanigan's ankle was too sore to play on and that it was too soon to tell whether he'd be ready for action again by the weekend.
His absence pushed Edwards into the power-forward spot, creating some ideal matchups on the perimeter. Edwards went 4 for 7 from 3-point range.
"The thing that opens up for us is so much attention goes to our centers," Painter said, adding: "Guys maybe aren't used to covering that as much. You're going to get some more opportunities."
Nate Mason had 15 points and a career-high 12 assists for the Gophers (0-9, 6-15), whose losing streak reached 10 straight games despite the reprieve that kept the conference's leading rebounder out of the game. Dupree McBrayer had 13 points and Jordan Murphy added 12 for Minnesota, which went just 11 for 21 from the free-throw line.
Edwards knocked down a 3-pointer to put the Boilermakers up 62-54 with 4:36 left, but the Gophers didn't go away. Bakary Konate's layup with 68 seconds remaining pulled them within 65-63, and Hammons was called for an offensive foul on a hard screen of Mason.
Carlos Morris tried a jumper from the top of the key out of a timeout with the shot clock waning, and Davis soared in from the side to block it. The Gophers then had to foul with 21 seconds left.
"We're going to make mistakes, but that's not an excuse," McBrayer said. "We've got to grow up fast, and we've got to grow up on the fly."
Without Swanigan and junior guard Kendall Stephens, who missed his second straight game due to the recent death of a close friend, the Boilermakers had their superior depth tested a bit. Edwards, though, was there for a back-breaking basket just about every time the Gophers got something going. Charles Buggs converted a long-striding layup he started on the wing to cut the lead to 37-34 early in the second half, but Edwards swished a 3-pointer just a few seconds later.
Edwards is 32 for 60 from the field (53 percent) over the last five games.
"I like him," Gophers coach Richard Pitino said. "When he's hitting 3s like that, he's really hard to guard."
The Gophers started 0-9 in Big Ten play for the first time since the 1932-33 season, when they finished 1-11. They finished 2-16 in the conference in the 1986-87 season, but they won their first two games that season. That's also the last time they lost 10 or more games in a row.
"We didn't want it to be us," Davis said.
At one point in the second half, Hammons grabbed a rebound with one hand. Why not two? The 7-foot senior was hanging onto his shoe, which had come off in the scramble around the basket, with the other one. Coach Matt Painter, flashing a big smile, playfully pushed Hammons in the chest as he reached the bench at a stoppage in play.
"I just picked it up and kept going," Hammons explained. "I didn't want to leave it on the court."
Purdue kept up its remarkable status as the only team in the nation to outrebound every opposing team this season, owning a 39-28 edge on the glass. Only four opponents have even come within five or fewer rebounds of the Boilermakers this season (Vermont, Pittsburgh, Butler and Iowa).
Minnesota's Joey King fouled out with 2:10 left. He's been called for 15 fouls over the last four games.
Purdue hosts Nebraska on Saturday.
Minnesota plays at No. 19 Indiana on Saturday.