Detroit — Purdue, without one of its biggest senior leads, held off the pesky Butler Bulldogs to advance to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 for the second-straight year.
The No. 2 seed Boilermakers (30-6), withstood a late threat by Butler (21-14) to win 76-73 in a second-round game at Little Caesars Arena on Sunday afternoon. Purdue will face No. 3 seed Texas Tech on Friday in Boston.
“Obviously it was a tough, grind-it-out type of game,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said.
Vincent Edwards led Purdue with 20 points, P.J.Thompson had 14, Carsen Edwards added 13 and Dakota Mathias 11. Kelan Martin led Butler with 29 points and Kamar Baldwin scored 14.
The Boilermakers were without senior center Isaac Haas. It was announced Friday he would miss the rest of the NCAA Tournament because of a fractured right elbow suffered in the Boilermakers’ first-round game. But on Saturday Haas, ran a bit during practice, and while coach Matt Painter said he did not think it likely Haas would play, the door was left slightly open.
Haas, who averaged 14.7 points and 5.7 rebounds for Purdue this season, had his right elbow in a brace and heavily wrapped. He was injured after falling on court fighting for a rebound in the Boilermakers’ first-round win. Redshirt freshman Matt Haarms, who is 7-foot-3 but less of a physical presence than 7-2 Haas, who is 290 pounds and outweighs Haarms by 40 pounds, started against Butler.
Haarms had seven points against Butler.
The Bulldogs went on a 6-0 run and pulled within two, 73-71, when after Carsen Edwards fell and lost the ball. Sean McDermott then converted on the turnovers, scoring a layup with 1:56 left. Purdue had gone scoreless the previous 2:16.
With 38 seconds left, Martin missed on a 3-pointer that would have given Butler the lead and Purdue’s Vincent Edwards grabbed the rebound, and Dakota Mathias gave Purdue a 76-71 lead on a 3-pointer with 14.2 left.
“We had a good play designed coming out there,” Mathias said. “Once it left my hand it felt pretty good. We ran that play a lot throughout the year. And it's a good designed set.
“But those last couple of minutes we kind of got out of our element, forcing some things offensively, not making the right read to let them back in. And like Coach said, give Butler a lot of credit. They played hard. They're a good team. We're excited to come out with a win.”
Mathias was asked if that was the biggest shot of his career.
“Absolutely,” he said.
But Martin drew Butler closer, 76-73, on a putback with 2.1 left.
“Nobody wants those moments to end,” Butler first-year coach and former Michigan assistant LaVall Jordan said of the NCAA Tournament. “Nobody wants their journey to be over. So you fight. And I thought we fought. And they fought. Somebody has to advance and somebody goes home. And they had the last shot to go up.
“We had a shot that could have kept us playing. And it didn't go in. But I'm extremely proud of this group, extremely thankful for how they embraced the change in staff and how they represented Butler University this entire run.”
After Thompson missed his first free-throw attempt with two seconds left, Martin got the rebound and Butler called a time out. Baldwin’s half-court heave that would have tied the game bounced off the rim with no time left.
“I thought it had a shot of going in,” Baldwin said of his view of the shot.
Painter said it was critical for Purdue to make things difficult on Baldwin and Martin.
“We had to make it tough for them and try to get more shots than points for at least one of them” Painter said. “We were able to do that with Baldwin and bottle him up and keep making it difficult for him.
“I thought we really did some good things on the offensive end until the last three minutes. We lost our poise there, but we still were able to make enough plays. We made a couple of transition stops where we deflected behind. Vince made a big time block in transition. We got a couple of key reader boards there. But obviously the play of the game was our execution in Dakota knocking down that 3 to send it to five points. But just proud of our guys. We found a way. We lost the big fella and he's a big part of our team. But I think we also showed we've got a lot of pieces and we've got a lot of guys and we're able to hang in there and get this one.”
Butler came out quickly in the second half with two baskets in the opening minutes to regain the lead, 41-40. The lead would change four times in the first four minutes before the Boilermakers settled in and built a 10-point lead midway through the second half, 61-51.
The Bulldogs built a nine-point first-half lead with 7:42 left, but Purdue chipped away and went into halftime with a 40-36 lead. The teams combined for 10-of-22 shooting from the 3-point line, with Butler having a slight edge with 5-of-10 from 3-point range.
Butler did not make a field goal the final 2:40 of the half, while Vincent Edwards made a 3-pointer with 29 seconds left for the Boilermakers. But Edwards, who led Purdue with 12 points, was called for his third foul with three seconds left.
Painter said the Boilermakers’ experience last year in the Sweet Sixteen will give his team a level of confidence.
“I think anytime you've been there before, I think it helps you,” he said. “I think that experience of being there, and -- I wouldn't say a focus because I thought last year we were focused we just ran into a buzz saw. Kansas was really good in that game in the second half.
“We know we're playing a quality opponent again. We know they're tough and physical. But anytime you can have an experience like that, I think it definitely helps you the next time.”