This years Purdue team was one of the most fun teams I’ve ever watched. I hated on them all summer, fall, and even into January. They proved fans, me and the country wrong time and time again.
The NCAA Tournament run they had was unlike anything I’d ever experienced as a Purdue fan. Usually March sees the Boilers being the victims of colossal upsets to the likes of VCU or Arkansas-Little Rock. When they’re not being upset they’re getting blasted in the Sweet 16 by teams like Kansas or Xavier. March has never been kind to Purdue fans.
Last night was no different
The heading might be a little misleading. That was the most gutsy performance I’ve ever seen out of a Purdue team. Carsen spent the whole tournament playing out of his mind. He was breaking records owned by Steph Curry while catching the attention of the entire country.
The first half went about as well as it could’ve. Purdue never trailed and was making their 3’s. If you’re going to beat Virginia you have to be making shots from deep. The only area of concern was the points in paint battle. Virginia was bullying the Boilers inside and the only reason Purdue was holding its lead was because of their success from beyond the arc. As fired up as I was, I was surprisingly calm for most of the first half. The halftime score was 30-29 good guys.
The second half started and my heartrate was through the roof. Has Kyle Guy missed a shot yet? I swear he made everything to took in the second half and right out of halftime so did the rest of the team. The Boilers trailed by 5-8 points for what felt like forever. They couldn’t get a stop and just traded buckets with the Cavaliers for an eternity. I don’t remember when things started to turn around. Carsen was making every shot. He hit 3’s from every spot on the court and I couldn’t contain myself. The man was on fire and everyone else on the court had to sit back and watch because their was nothing they could do.
I might have this sequence wrong but this is how I remember it. Carsen banks in a wild 3 to take a two-point lead with not much time left. Virginia goes down the court and something happens that causes Kyle Guy to step out of bounds trying to make a save. Purdue comes back down and misses but Grady Eifert grabs what was going to be the biggest rebound in Purdue history. The ball goes to Ryan Cline who gets fouled and goes to the line up two with under 30 seconds remaining.
The final seconds
At this point I was on the verge of tears. What was about to happen was something no Purdue ever thought they’d see. The Boilers were about to knock off a #1 seed to advance to the Final Four. They hadn’t been to the Final Four since 1980.
Cline hits the first free throw to go up three and I can’t speak. I’m shaking, tears are starting to roll, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. He misses the second and Virginia makes their way down the court. Nojel fouls with five seconds remaining to send Virginia to the line down three. The first is good. It looked like he tried to make the second one, it didn’t look like an intentional miss but it missed. The ball bounces back and is tipped into the backcourt where someone makes a 50-foot dime of a pass right to Mamadi Diakite who gets up a 12 footer at the buzzer that somehow goes in and sends the game to overtime.
I fell on my face in tears. That is something that would only happen to Purdue. A 50-foot dime that leads to a game-tying shot at the buzzer. Most of the overtime is still a blur. I know Carsen did everything he could. The dude scored 42 points in prime time but at the end, things just didn’t go our way. Virginia moves on to the Final Four and I’m left sitting there in shock.
I couldn’t sleep last night. Every time I closed my eyes I saw that tip out followed by the buzzer beater. That one’s going to haunt me for a long time. We were one free throw or a tenth of a second away from going to the Final Four but now we’re left wondering when or if we’ll ever see one. I could see the promised land. It was right there, but couldn’t quite grasp it. It’s been 39 years since their last Final Four birth but I guess we have to wonder the desert 40 years before we can see the promised land (that’s a Bible joke for all of you keeping track at home.)
Until next year. Boiler up and hammer down!