HARTFORD, Conn. – Purdue continues.
The No. 3 Seed Boilers passed their first NCAA Tournament Test and retired late to defeat XL seed No. 14 Old Dominion 61-48 on Thursday, scoring 26 points from Carsen Edwards.
"I thought our boys would be ready to play tonight," said coach Matt Painter. "More than anything, I thought they were ready to defend."
The win marks a matchup against defending national champion Villanova on Saturday for a trip to Purdue's third-placed Sweet 16. The Wildcats won their match against St. Marys 61-57.
Purdue (24-9) took control of the monarchs at the end of the first half. The Boilermakers had a narrow lead most of the time, but finished half with a cracking 1
Wheeler is from Connecticut and played in front of a contingent of family and friends. The Redshirt rookie had in the 3: 3 shooting seven points and two rebounds. His defense was also key to shooting Old Dominion down to 26 percent in the first half, despite having missed Nojel Eastern, one of the team's best defenders.
"We just locked up," said Wheeler. "We just tried to give them the greatest respect and treat them as if we were playing Romeo Langford or Ethan Happ, someone like that, just because you give respect to guys, pay more attention to them, so we focus just to keep the guys out of the paint. "
Purdue poured it on in the second half. The Boilers opened the lead for the first time at 20, when Edwards and Matt Haarm's 3-pointers drilled in succession, and Old Dominion called for a time-out. Edwards swayed back onto the bench, looking as confident as he had in weeks.
The native Atascocita, Texas, had seven rebounds and four assists. He had no negative impact on the back injury that had slowed him down against Minnesota, and he had his best game since 9 February against Nebraska. He also wiped away any idea of a crisis.
"I'm just glad our team has won," Edwards said. "We're not talking about a break-in or anything like that, I'm just focused on helping my team win if I'm able to get a punch and help my team win."
In the first half, the Boilermakers without Eastern, their starting point was Watchman, who clumsily came down from his ankle during the warm-up and did not play. Freshman Eric Hunter Jr. started in his place, his first career start, scoring two points and having three assists.
Hunter noted that he started just minutes before the game and the decision was so short that the stadium announcer said so Even during the introduction to the game lineup before the game called Eastern starter. When the announcer called the name of Eastern, Hunter came running to the court.
Hunter had not imagined his first start, but he said he did not feel nervous.
"My teammates did not leave me (to get nervous)," said Hunter. "They just kept talking to me and made sure I talked to them and stayed calm."
The Boilermakers outperformed Old Dominion by 26 points in the time Hunter was on the ground, the best plus minus of all players in the game.
It's the second season in a row that Purdue injured a starter in the first round of the tournament after Isaac Haas broke his elbow against Cal State-Fullerton last year. Unlike Haas, however, Eastern returned and played in the second half 10 minutes.
The second-tier guard spent the first half of the treatment, watching the game from the locker room, feeling good enough to warm up in the second half. Painter left it to the guard if he wanted to try a rebound and play a decent defense in the last 20 minutes.
"Taking in Nojel was not as much for this game as it was for the next game," Painter said. "He said he could go, but he had to get in there and play a bit and hopefully gain some self-confidence and feel better and hopefully go against Villanova."
Once Purdue left After 20 it looked like the Boilermakers were running away with the game, but the Monarchs (26-9) refused to break the lead 55-46 and 4:23 to single-digit lefts When Xavier Green hit a jumper down the alley
The last few minutes were a blow to the Boilermakers, who had to struggle after a defensive end to offer the monarch too many extra options and seemingly frustrated with the painter on the sidelines The game could have been really interesting, however, and in the end Edwards sealed the victory with a ride to the basket and a few free throws with 1:27 before the finish. No team scored free-throws between Green's Springer and Edwards at 2:56.
"They knew sooner or later that Old Dominion would get started," Painter said. "(They have it), there are only so many offensive players, I think our guys played there and they're late, it's difficult."
"They never put us in a rhythm, even though we're 20 to one were time. It was difficult to dive there and down the important stage and make important stops. "
Purdue survived and enters the second round, the defending champion expects.