Purdue Scratches Past No. 20 VCU For 59-56 Win

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NICEVILLE, Fla. — The key word in the phrase "Winning Ugly" is the word winning. That was certainly the case for the Purdue Boilermakers late Friday night when they battled past VCU, winning 59-56 despite not playing anywhere near their best.

With the win, Purdue raised its record to 4-2 and moved into the championship game of this Emerald Coast Classic in the Florida Panhandle, where it will meet Florida State, a xx-xx winner over Tennessee prior to Purdue's game.

No. 20 VCU was 6-0 entering the game and, as expected, gave Purdue all it could handle. The difference down the stretch was from the free throw line, where Eric Hunter Jr. put the Boilermakers ahead 56-55 with 1:37 left by sinking two free throws. Jahaad Proctor then made three out of four free throws in this final minute-plus, while VCU missed three free throws in the closing minute.

"It lets you know you have work to do in some areas," Painter said. "I'm proud of our guys being able to grind it out."

Purdue won despite:

  • Missing nine free throws in the second half.
  • Making only one 3-point attempt in the second half, and four all night, going just 4-for-16 (25 percent) against VCU.
  • Not getting a single point from point guard Nojel Eastern, despite playing 31 minutes.
  • Turning the ball over 18 times.

Hunter and Proctor led the way for Purdue with 12 points each. Trevion Williams had 10 points off the bench, making all five of his free throw attempts. 

It was encouraging to pull out a tight win, because the Boilermakers already had let late leads slip away in losses to Texas and Marquette this month. So it was good that they learned from those losses and found a way to win Friday night.

It's especially true against a team like VCU, one that hangs its hat on tough defense. They make every game ugly, whether you like it or not.

"The way they fight every single pass, it's tough to get into an offense, it's tough to run some things," Purdue coach Matt Painter said. "I thought we got some good looks at the basket, especially to start the game. We're around the rim. We miss a tip dunk. We miss two driving layups. We're point-blank at the rim and we only have one basket.

"They turn people over a lot. I'm not excited about 18 turnovers, but it can be worse. For us to be able to get into a possession game and being able to find a way to win, we're very fortunate."

Next up is Florida State, which handed No. 17 Tennessee its first loss of the season Friday night. The Seminoles are 6-1, having lost 63-61 to Pittsburgh in its season opener. The Tennessee win was their second over a ranked opponent this season. They beat No. 6 Florida 63-51 on Nov. 10

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