Purdue battles Saint Mary's in NCAA Tournament actionMar 16, 2012 - 3:41 PM Omaha, NE (Sports Network) - The 10th-seeded Purdue Boilermakers tangle with the seventh-seeded Saint Mary's-CA Gaels in Midwest Regional action of the 2012 NCAA Tournament tonight from CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska.
The winner of this first-ever meeting between the two teams advances to face either No. 15 seed Detroit or second-seeded Kansas in the third round on Sunday.
Purdue had a solid year in the ultra-competitive Big Ten Conference, going 21-12, winning 10 league bouts along the way. The Boilermakers were knocked out of the conference tournament by Ohio State in the quarterfinals, but they were rewarded with their 26th NCAA Tournament invite just the same, and they own a record of 34-24 all-time in the event.
The Boilermakers are in the Big Dance for the sixth straight year, and they have won their first NCAA Tournament game 13 times in a row, last losing an opener back in 1993. PU has reached the Sweet 16 twice in the last three years, and has two Final Four appearances to its credit.
Saint Mary's has enjoyed one of its finest seasons ever, as the team has won 27 games, including a school-record 14 in the West Coast Conference. The Gaels claimed their second straight WCC title, and won both the league's regular season and tournament crowns for the first time in their history.
The Gaels, who haven't faced a member of the Big Ten since 1976, are one of five teams nationally to have won at least 25 games in each of the last five seasons, the others being BYU, Gonzaga, Duke and Kansas. SMC is appearing in its seventh NCAA Tournament, and the team has a record of 3-6 in the event over the years.
Purdue finally got a complete season out of oft-injured forward Robbie Hummel, and the senior responded by averaging 16.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per game to lead the team in both categories. Lewis Jackson (10.3 ppg, 4.3 apg) is more of a playmaker than standout scorer, and the Boilermakers are fortunate to have four other guys who average at least 8.3 ppg. As a team, PU is lighting up the scoreboard to the tune of 72.2 ppg, hitting 44.1 percent of its total shots, which includes a 37.7 percent showing from three-point range. Taking care of the basketball has been one of the squad's strengths this season, as it coughs it up just 8.7 times per contest, laying claim to a +4.1 turnover margin as a result. From a pure defensive standpoint, Purdue allows 66.0 ppg on typical shooting efforts of 44.6 percent overall, which includes a 35.6 percent showing from beyond the arc.
Saint Mary's boasts three players who average double digits in the scoring column, led by Matthew Dellavedova and his 15.6 ppg. Not one to hog the spotlight for himself, the junior guard also serves as the team's primary playmaker with 6.4 apg, helping the team net 74.9 ppg on 47.5 percent field goal efficiency, which includes 35.0 percent on its three-point tries. Rob Jones (14.8 ppg, 10.7 rpg) and Stephen Holt (10.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg) have performed well for the Gaels this season, although Holt has missed the last nine games with a knee injury. In his absence, Brad Waldow (8.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg), Jorden Page (8.1 ppg) and Clint Steindl (7.9 ppg) have raised their level of play. SMC has been quite good at the defensive end of the court this year as well, yielding 62.4 ppg, as foes connect on 42.7 percent of their field goal attempts.
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