WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- For the first time since 2000, the Boilermakers men's basketball team is back in the Elite 8 of the NCAA tournament. Head Coach Matt Painter and his crew will take on Virginia Saturday night.
When Painter reaches the court, he will be facing off against Virginia Head Coach Tony Bennett. In 2000, Bennett's father, Dick Bennett, was the head coach of Wisconsin when they knocked off Purdue to reach the Final Four. Painter's predecessor, Gene Keady, was the coach.
Carson Cunningham scored 13 points that night, and now he's hoping this new squad of Boilermakers can pick up where his team left off.
“Don’t worry about legacy, don’t worry about history, worry about your team," Cunningham said. "Get after it and have fun.”
Cunningham is now the Head Men's Basketball Coach for the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas. He can still remember that game in 2000 and even recall the plays.
“I got a nice pass from [Brian] Cardinal for an elbow jumper, three minutes left, or four minutes maybe. I thought it was money, and it was just short," Cunningham said. "I still don’t know how. We didn’t get it done in 2000, so I really hope the Boilers can finish off the business for us.”
“I think there are people attending school here that weren’t even alive when that happened," Purdue student Marcus Gunyon said.
Fans and students on campus are counting on Purdue to come through, and students said the campus went crazy after their thrilling overtime win against Tennessee to make it to the Elite 8. Purdue had lost each of the past two years in the Sweet 16.
“I think I lost months off my life just from the heart beating so fast," Gunyon said.
“I was in the dining hall, most of the staff were leaning over looking at people's phones streaming it," Purdue student Zach Smith said. “There were tables that were shaking, everyone was just yelling. It was havoc everywhere.”
Tip off is shortly before 9 p.m. Saturday night, and students are already trying to find ways to travel down to Louisville to see it. If you can't make it there, Purdue alumni will be hosting a watch party at Brother's Bar & Grill in downtown Indianapolis.