The favored chant of Purdue’s cheerleaders and fans is “Boiler Up!” but until the last minute of the first half, it was Boilers down. Spoiler alert: Things changed.
Carsen Edwards drained a three-pointer just before the first-half buzzer to cap a 7-0 run and third-seeded Purdue never trailed again in defeating No. 7 Penn State, 78-70, Saturday night in the late semifinal game of the Big Ten Tournament at Madison Square Garden.
“You can watch him on film all you want, but he’s just tough to stop,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said of Edwards, a 6-1 sophomore from Texas who scored 27 points, including 6-for-9 from downtown, to lead the Boilermakers (28-5), the No. 8 team in the country, into Sunday’s championship game against No. 15 Michigan. “He just took over in the second half.”
Edwards put a defender into the spin cycle for a layup and a 51-42 advantage with 11:19 left and then hit a three-pointer for a 59-44 lead two minutes later.
The Nittany Lions (21-13) could not recover. The final score was a bit misleading. Purdue led by as many as 18 and led 78-63 with two minutes left. But Penn State close the game on a 7-0 run, all by Shep Garner, who sparkled with 33 points.
“The key to the game was the end of the first half. I thought we gained some momentum,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “In the second half, Carsen got into a good rhythm.”
He had help. Dakota Mathias scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half and 7-2, 290-pound center Isaac Haas scored 10 of his 17 points after the break.
“We didn’t have much energy in the first half but we picked it up,” Painter said. “When you’re getting stops and making threes [11-for-21], you’re going to put a string together.”
Edwards seemed to have the ball on a string all night, mixing some slick dribble penetration moves to complement his perimeter prowess.
“He’s consistent and efficient,” Mathias said. “He’s making the right reads and attracting so many defenders. He’s unselfish and that’s just another dynamic for us.”
He is keeping the Boilers up.