Purdue fends off St. Mary'sMar 17, 2012 - 3:24 AM Omaha, NE (Sports Network) - Purdue won its NCAA Tournament opener for the 14th straight time, using its experience to hold on down the stretch.
Lewis Jackson and Robbie Hummel, two seniors in the dance for the fourth time, both made a pair of free throws in the last 22.8 seconds Friday to lift Purdue over Saint Mary's, 72-69.
Despite blowing a 13-point lead in the second half, the 10th-seeded Boilermakers (22-12) moved on to a Sunday game with either Kansas or Detroit, who were playing later.
Saint Mary's, ranked No. 24 and seeded seventh in the Midwest, took a 69-68 lead on Jordan Page's three-pointer with 44 seconds left.
But the Gaels (27-6) didn't hit another shot after that, with Page air-balling a three in between Jackson and Hummel's free throws and Rob Jones missing one at the buzzer.
"A tough game," said Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett.
Terone Johnson led Purdue with 21 points and Jackson scored 18. Hummel, the team's leading scorer at 16.3 points per game coming in, scored just 10 but had a team-high seven rebounds.
Jones led Saint Mary's with 23 points and 14 rebounds and Matthew Dellavedova and Mitchell Young both scored 12.
The Gaels, after topping Gonzaga for the West Coast regular season title, then knocking off the Bulldogs to win the conference tournament, were making their seventh all-time appearance in the NCAAs.
That includes a 2010 berth in the Sweet 16, but Purdue's experience is much deeper.
Though the Boilermakers finished sixth in the Big Ten, they boast a trio of seniors who have helped the team reach two Sweet 16s. The other player, Ryne Smith, went scoreless in 33 minutes Friday.
Their experience may have been the only thing that allowed the Boilermakers to let a 13-point lead slip away in the second half, only to retake the lead.
"When you get a big lead like that and you let somebody take the lead back from you it's normally difficult to win the game," said Purdue coach Matt Painter. "I don't know why that is, maybe it's just a feeling you have as a coach, but give our guys credit for stepping up and making plays and making free-throws."
Purdue had a 31-24 lead at halftime after holding the Gaels under 32 percent shooting, and took a 13-point lead on Anthony Johnson's fastbreak layup to make it 45-32 with 14:52 remaining.
Saint Mary's followed that with a 9-2 burst, cutting the deficit to six points with 12 1/2 minutes remaining. It was back up to 13 just minutes later, but the Gaels continued to fight.
Jones knocked down a jumper from above the foul, then a turn-around shot from the left side to get Saint Mary's within 66-64 inside two minutes. Jackson calmed Purdue's nerves with a layup, but missed his free throw after he was fouled.
Dellavedova's two free throws made it a two-point game again and set up the finish.
Page's three-pointer, from the left side, gave Saint Mary's its first lead of the game with 44 seconds left. Terone Johnson was called for traveling on the ensuing possession, but Clint Steindl also turned the ball over for the Gaels.
That led to Jackson's go-ahead free throws, which made it 70-69 Purdue with 22.8 seconds left, and Page's air-balled three from the right side.
Hummel's foul shots accounted for the final margin after Jones, with a good look at the top of the arc, missed his three-point try as time expired.
"Everybody was on the court and did a good job of huddling up, keeping our composure," said Hummel. "You knew they were going to make a run, all good teams do, but everyone on the floor didn't panic, the coaching staff never panicked, because when we got down by one it was dire straits. I thought everyone did a good job of keeping their composure."
It was the first-ever meeting between the teams...Anthony Johnson also scored 10 for Purdue...The Boilermakers are making their sixth straight appearance in the NCAAs. They were knocked out by a Cinderella VCU team last year...Purdue hasn't lost its first game in the tournament since 1993...Saint Mary's had a four-game winning streak snapped.
- PURDUE: 72
ST. MARY'S: 69
Mar 16 9:47 PM
- PURDUE: 31
ST. MARY'S: 24
Mar 16 8:25 PM
- PURDUE: 0
ST. MARY'S: 0
1st Half - 20:00
Mar 16 7:41 PM
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