Western Kentucky upsets No. 18 Purdue 77-73 in Bahamas
PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) — Western Kentucky’s short-handed roster earned a rare win against a ranked team. And now No. 18 Purdue is trying to figure out what’s happened to its high-scoring offense.
Darius Thompson scored 12 points and hit two clinching free throws with 5.1 seconds left to help the Hilltoppers upset the Boilermakers 77-73 in Thursday’s consolation round at the Battle 4 Atlantis.
The Hilltoppers (3-2) led nearly the entire night, but needed to make several clutch plays late to hang on — the product of what coach Rick Stansbury called “just toughness” for a team with only eight available scholarship players.
“Today we were the toughest team,” he said. “We weren’t the best team. We found a way to win it. And we were the toughest team for sure.”
P.J. Thompson hit a corner 3-pointer with 5.8 seconds remaining to bring the Boilermakers (4-2) to 75-73, but Darius Thompson answered with two free throws that made it a two-possession game and all but sealed the win.
Justin Johnson led the Hilltoppers with 17 points, including a tough driving score for a five-point lead with 21 seconds left. That helped Western Kentucky beat a ranked team for just the second time in the last 15 tries.
“This team’s deserving of one like that,” Johnson said. “Coach always says practice should be harder than the game. If you come watch our practices … we get after it for 2½ hours every day. And we go hard.”
Isaac Haas scored 22 points to lead Purdue, which shot just 32 percent in the first half. The Boilermakers trailed 42-31 at the break and never fully recovered, losing for the second straight day.
It prompted P.J. Thompson to say he thought the team played “entitled” and referenced last year’s run to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16.
“That don’t mean nothing,” he said. “That just puts a target on your back. And if you’re not mature enough to handle a target on your back, then that stuff that happened this week is going to happen.”
Purdue: Purdue’s 0-2 showing in the Bahamas started with Wednesday’s 78-75 overtime loss to Tennessee. The Boilermakers arrived with an offense that ranked among the nation’s best by averaging 102 points per game, shooting 57 percent and making 49 percent of 3-pointers. But they’re shooting just 39 percent from the floor and 33 percent from behind the arc in the two games here.
“More than anything, I think it just bothers guys when their shots don’t fall,” coach Matt Painter said. “We took some good shots in the first half that didn’t go down. And you can’t let it bother you. You’ve got to be able to grind it out.”
Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers were coming off a loss to No. 5 Villanova, making this the first time they had played consecutive games against ranked opponents since the 1993 NCAA Tournament. This time they came out with a win after playing the Wildcats tough for much of Wednesday’s 66-58 loss.
Western Kentucky finished with a 36-33 rebounding advantage and had 17 second-chance points.
TOUGH TO HEAR
Haas was asked how it felt to hear that Stansbury said the Hilltoppers were the tougher team Thursday night.
“It (stinks), to be honest,” Haas said. “But I mean, it’s true. They out-toughed us and so did Tennessee.”
COUNT ‘EM UP
Western Kentucky has only eight available scholarship players due to transfers and NCAA eligibility reviews.
“I notice people all the time when we’re warming up with eight guys out there, people start counting and they’ll look,” Johnson said. “Those eight guys, I’ll go to war with those eight guys any day of the week — they show up every day to practice, they show up every day to weights.”
Purdue: The Boilermakers will play the Arizona-SMU loser in Friday’s seventh-place game.
Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers will play the Arizona-SMU winner in Friday’s fifth-place game.
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap