Tiny Wofford Tops Purdue University, 69-66
“Its a big win, no doubt, but we know we are capable of going into a place like this and winning,” Nichols said. “We are used to playing a tough non-conference schedule.” Two seasons ago the Wofford won at Cincinnati and last year host Auburn University fell victim.
Wofford was on the verge of losing to a major-conference opponent when Purdue took a 55-48 lead with 9:24 remaining in the game. That six-point deficit didn’t concern Wofford coach Mike Young, whose team had yet to win a road game this season. “They’re not gonna surprise us,” he said. “Wisconsin had a sellout with 17,000 people and we weren‘t at full strength there. Now this may not have been the biggest Mackey (Arena) crowd, but when they had those six straight points in a row you could feel the place shake a little bit.”
Using a quick 9-0 spurt that turned into a 15-6 run, the Terriers led 63-60 on four straight points from Junior Salters with 2:30 to go. A pair of free throws from Scott Martin and a one-handed dunk from Keaton Grant helped Purdue (7-3) regain the lead at 64-63 with 1:48 left. Chris Kramer’s layup put the Boilermakers up by three with 1:26 remaining.
“With where we have played and what we have gone through, we knew that being down by three points with time left on the clock was something we could overcome,” Nichols said. Nichols is a big reason why. The senior guard drained a deep three-pointer with 50 seconds left and then, after Purdue’s Terrance Crump committed a turnover, cut through traffic and somehow managed to get off a shot despite being hounded by several Boilermakers defenders. “There was a lot of confidence, because I knew either the game would go into overtime or we would win,” Nichols said of the final play. “I glanced at the clock, put my head down and drove to the basket. Only after I got knocked to the floor and looked up did I know it went in.”
What was Young’s message to his team during a timeout he called with 24.3 seconds left? “We were looking for me to get out of the way and for (Drew) Gibson or Nichols to make a play,” he said. Purdue coach Matt Painter was not surprised to see Wofford hang around after falling behind by 10 points in the first half and then by six midway through the second half. “They made the necessary offensive and defensive plays,” he said. “We had a few good plays and some defensive stops, but there were some lapses (with) four missed free throws. You have a tendency that when you lose games, you only look at breakdowns. Wofford made the plays necessary to win. Down the stretch, they made some big three-pointers. Give them credit. They were well-prepared,” Grant said. “We think we are invincible in Mackey and we thought that would carry us through tonight. It didn’t.”
Both teams travel to Las Vegas for two more games in the Classic. Purdue (7-3) plays Iowa State and Wofford meets Texas Southern on Saturday. The tournament finishes play on Sunday.
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