COLUMBUS, Ohio – The game was tied and the clock was ticking down. Purdue freshman guard Jaden Ivey had the ball in his hands at the top of the key, with just one thought on his mind.
"At the timeout, I told myself it was game over, that I'm hitting this shot,'' Ivey said. Ivey, a true freshman from South Bend, did exactly that, knocking down a three-pointer with five seconds left to give the Boilermakers a 67-65 win over No. 15 Ohio State.
The fact that Ivey had confidence to hit that shot says a lot about his makeup, because recent history wasn't on his side. He'd been struggling with his shot, and he knew it. To make it and win a game for his teammates brought out a lot of emotions after the game, first with a court-side tear-filled hug with his mother, Notre Dame women's coach Niele Ivey, and then during his news conference, where he broke down into tears a few seconds in.
''I've been in a slump, and I'm just trying to gather myself because I've been struggling mentally,'' Ivey said, wiping away tears with a white towel. "I want to win, and I want to win so bad, that to see that shot go in, it just meant so much. My teammates instilling that confidence in me helped.
"It meant a lot that my mom was able to be here tonight. I just love her so much, and during this slump, she's been there for me. We both love this game so much, and I'm just thankful she came to this game and we were able to get a win.''
Ivey finished with a career-high 15 points in 27 minutes, helping the Boilermakers erase an 11-point deficit late in the first half. It was the third time this season that Purdue had won despite being down by at least 11 points. It was their fourth straight win, and improved their record to 11-5 overall and 6-3 in the Big Ten. Only Michigan – Purdue's next opponent on Friday night in West Lafayette – has more league wins.
"We've got a lot of dogs on this team, and they want to win'' Ivey said. "This is a big road win for us. We had some guys step up. We just didn't back down. We could have given up, but we didn't. We fought to the last second. We got some big rebounds, and Sasha (Stefanovic) hit a big shot, too.
"Everybody just stuck with it, and that's what it's going to take to get to the NCAA Tournament. Every day is a challenge, and we're going to keep fighting.''
The four-game winning streak in their longest in two years, and three of the four wins have come on the road at Michigan State, Indiana and now Ohio State, and the Boilermakers were underdogs in all three games.
Purdue had lost 14 straight games on the road to teams in the top-15, dating back to a 2012 win over then-No. 11 Michigan. And they did it once again with a second-half comeback. During the streak, it has outscored its opponents by 39 points in the second half after being outscored by 16 points in first half.
Ohio State (11-4, 5-4 in the Big Ten) shot the ball well early and had a 32-21 lead after a pair of Duane Washington, Jr. three-pointers, and Purdue trailed by six at the half. The two teams traded punches for most of the second half, and Purdue didn't get it back to even until Stefanovic hit a mid-range jumper to tie the game at 50-50 with 6:41 to go.
The Buckeyes pulled away again, though, building a six-point lead again, and then led by five after Justin Ahrens hit a three-pointer with 2:08 to go.
Stefanovic came to the rescue with 52 seconds to go, hitting a three-pointer to tie the game at 64-64. Ahrens missed a three-pointer for Ohio State, setting up the final shot for Purdue.
There were several options on the play, the first being a curl to Stefanovic, or a drive to the basket by Ivey. But instead, he made a little move and then stepped back at hit the three-pointer to help clinch a season sweep over the Buckeyes. Ivey scored eight of his 15 points in the final three-plus minutes.
After Ivey's shot, Purdue fouled quickly so Ohio State couldn't shoot a three-pointer. Washington made the first free throw and missed the second on purpose, but Purdue got the rebound to end it.
Junior forward Trevion Williams scored in double figures for the 11th straight game with 16 points and seven rebounds. He had 11 points and 4 rebounds in the second half.
Stefanovic added 15 points, including 13 in the second half. His 3-pointer in the final minute was his only made three-pointer of the game. He's now made a three-pointer in 17 straight games.
Ivey missed his first four three-point attempts Tuesday before hitting his last two down the stretch. Prior to those two shots, he was shooting just 17.2 percent from three.
“It’s a big deal because I know how talented he is,'' Stefanovic said. "He’s probably one of the most talented players to roll through Purdue in a long while and he has the ability to score whenever he wants because he can get by people.
"He’s young, and he’s a very emotional kid. Sometimes, that’s a good thing. Sometimes, that’s a bad thing for him. But he's going to be a really good player for us.”
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