No. 11 Purdue 66, No. 9 Penn St. 49
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) _ Lacking a superstar scorer, Purdue is using depth and defense to contend for a third consecutive Big Ten title.
The 11th-ranked Boilermakers demonstrated both Saturday as it defeated No. 9 Penn State 61-49 while holding the Nittany Lions without a field goal for more than eight minutes.
``Great intensity on defense pretty much took them out of the game,″ Purdue coach Gene Keady said. ``That was a great defensive game.″
Penn State was the fifth consecutive team to shoot under 40 percent as the Boilermakers (21-4, 11-2 Big Ten) seek to become the first school to claim three consecuitve Big Ten titles since Indiana won four in a row from 1973 through 1976.
``I thought Purdue’s defense was pretty good on everybody,″ Penn State coach Jerry Dunn said. ``They got out in the passing lanes. We didn’t counter very well. It’s something we worked on it practice, but a lot of times we weren’t getting the ball to the scoring areas.″
Sophomore Brad Miller came off the bench to lead the Boilermakers with 17 points as Purdue opened a two-game advantage over Penn State. He also was the game’s leading rebounder with nine in 25 minutes.
``We just came out and played as good as we can play,″ said Miller, who has been coming off the bench since starting in the opening game of the season when the Boilermakers lost to Memphis 91-76.
It was the third consecutive game that Miller scored in double figures, following a four-game stretch in which he had only 22 points.
``I just kind of got down on myself and lost a lot of my shooting confidence. Now I feel more comfortable again,″ Miller said.
Purdue didn’t trail the Nittany Lions (18-4, 9-4) in avenging an 87-77 loss at Penn State on Jan. 24.
Dan Earl topped Penn State with 18 points. Glenn Sekunda, who leads the Nittany Lions in scoring with a 14.8 average, went scoreless while his team was limited to 37 percent shooting. It was the first time in the senior’s career that he failed to score.
``He shut him down pretty good,″ Keady said of Herb Dove’s defense against Sekunda. ``That’s a great defensive effort.″
Penn State, which lost two straight games for the first time this season, scored just one point in the final five minutes of the first half to trail 31-21 at the break. Its last field goal of the half was scored by Matt Gaudio with 5:20 remaining. By the time Calvin Booth scored Penn State’s next field goal, with over three minutes gone in the second half, Purdue had opened a 13-point advantage.
Penn State trailed 23-21 when Gaudio made a free throw with 4:47 left in the first half. The Boilermakers then scored the final eight points, starting with a jumper by Dove with 4:28 to go. Miller’s 18-foot jumper and two layups by Justin Jennings gave Purdue the halftime lead.
Purdue built the lead to 13 as Chad Austin sandwiched a 3-pointer and jumper around two free throws by Gaudio to start the second half. Penn State got no closer than seven thereafter.
Purdue’s tight man-to-man defense consistently troubled Penn State, which had 11 turnovers that led to 10 points by the Boilermakers in the first half. The Nittany Lions, who shot a season-low 29 percent in losing to Indiana 72-54 on Wednesday, hit on 36 percent of their attempts in the first half. Purdue, meanwhile, had only three turnovers in the opening half and shot 52 percent.
The 49 points was Penn State’s lowest total of the season. It’s previous low was 54 against Michigan State and Indiana, both losses.
The game was much closer than the final score indicated. Penn State cut its deficit to 50-43 on a free throw by Gaudio with 2:43 to play. Purdue built the lead to 54-43 as Chad Austin, who scored 15, and Porter Roberts each converted both ends of the bonus.
Earl then hit one of two free throws with 1:58 remaining before the Boilermakers put together a final run, helped by a series of turnovers that brought Penn State’s total for the game to 24.
Pete Lisicky was the only other Penn State player in double figures with 12 points, all on 3-pointers.
Sekunda, who was denied the ball for much of the game, took only two shots in his 22 minutes. Booth, who was also averaging in double figures at 10.1, also had a tough night as he made just one of six attempts while scoring just two points.