Rapid Reaction: Boilermakers Get (A Little) Revenge on Virginia

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Mackey Arena was very loud Wednesday night when Purdue and No. 5 Virginia squared off in a rematch of their epic Elite Eight game from a year ago.

But in a quiet moment before Mamadi Diakite — the hero for Virginia last year when his buzzer-beater forced overtime and eventually ended Purdue's Final Four dream —stepped to the free throw line, a loud yell came from a fan 30 rows or so up from behind the basket.

"You made me cry!'' he yelled at Diakite. Boilermakers fans could do nothing but laugh at that one.

But the laughing continued through the night for Purdue, which gave Virginia a taste of its own medicine with stifling defense that led to a 69-40 victory for the Boilermakers. It doesn't erase all the pain and suffering from last year's loss — or the tears — but it was certainly a huge win for the Boilermakers, who have struggled out of the gate this year with three early losses despite being ranked No. 23 in the preseason.

"I thought Stefanovic could give us a lift against a defense like that,'' Purdue coach Matt Painter said. "You saw tonight, he can really change things with the way he shoots.

"Holding them to 40 points, our defense was really, really good. We were able to turn  them over (16), and I didn't think we could do that.''

Purdue, which is 7-1 at home now in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, is 5-3 on the season and starts Big Ten play Sunday at home against Northwestern. The defending national champs had opened the season with seven straight wins and had won 22 of its last 23 games before Wednesday night. They are now 7-1 on the year.

Purdue knew it would be hard to score on Virginia's No. 1-ranked defense, but the Boilers got a huge lift from 6-foot-4 guard Sasha Stefanovic, who was making his first start of the season. He hit three 3-pointers on Purdue's first four possessions, and the Boilers were off and running. They never trailed in the game after Virginia's first basket and led by as many as 18 points in the first half.

"They got what they wanted offensively,'' Virginia coach Tony Bennett. "Sasha really got them going right way. We hang our hat on defense, but we couldn't stop them inside or outside. We are inexperienced, and I think that really showed for us in a big way.''

Stefanovic finished with 20 points. The Boilers also got 11 points from center Matt Haarms and 16 more from  guard Jahaad Proctor.

"That was awesome, those 3-pointers. By the third one, Mackey just erupted,'' Purdue center Matt Haarms said. "It's hard to get good shots against them. That was huge.''

Coming into the game, Virginia's opponents were shooting only 28.8 percent from the field, the lowest rate in the country. From 3-point range, the rate was only 24.4 percent. Opponents were averaging only 19.3 points in the first half against the Cavs, which is a Stone Age kind of number.

But Purdue passed that number halfway through the first period and finished with 32 points in the half, most only anyone had scored against Virginia all season. The Boilermakers were doing it from long range, too, hitting 6 of 13 3-point attempts. After those early three from Stefanovic, Jahaad Proctor, Aaron Wheeler and Matt Haarms aded long balls to the total. 

Purdue also took care of the ball, turning it over only five times in the first half. 

Virginia's offense, which hasn't been very good so far but has masked by its defensive prowess during this seven-game winning streak, really struggled out of the gate. The Cavaliers didn't get to double figures until the 3:40 mark and went through a 9:09 stretch in the middle of the half without scoring. Virginia was just 2-for-15 shooting from 3-point range and shot just 31.8 percent overall. 

Virginia could never make a run in the second half, and the Boilers continued to fire away from long range. The finished the night making 13 of 25 3-point attempts and only committed seven turnovers the entire game.

RELATED: Purdue-Virginia BOX SCORE

Big Ten/ACC Challenge Results

  • Monday, Dec. 2
  • Minnesota 78, Clemson 60
  • Miami 81, Illinois 79
  • Tuesday, Dec. 3
  • Indiana 80, No. 17 Florida State 64
  • No. 1 Louisville 58, No. 4 Michigan 43
  • No. 10 Duke 87, No. 11 Michigan State 75
  • Northwestern 82, Boston College 64
  • Iowa 68, Syracuse 54
  • Pittsburgh 71, Rutgers 60 
  • Wednesday, Dec. 4
  • Purdue 69, No. 5 Virginia 40
  • Georgia Tech 73, Nebraska 56
  • No. 7 North Carolina, No. 6 Ohio State, late
  • No. 3 Maryland 72, Notre Dame 51 
  • Wisconsin, N.C. State, late
  • Penn State, Wake Forest, late

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