WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Mason Gillis routinely demonstrates his shooting prowess at Purdue’s practices.
On Wednesday night, the roaring, sellout crowd at Mackey Arena finally got a glimpse, too.
The third year forward made an arena record nine 3-pointers and finished with a career high 29 points to lead the top-ranked Boilermakers to an 80-60 rout over Penn State.
“Honestly to me, it doesn’t feel like I did anything different. I just hit a couple shots and they kept falling,” Gillis said. “I kind of hesitate sometimes in games, but the first couple ones went in and I said, ‘I’m just going to keep taking them.’”
Nobody complained. Gillis, Zach Edey said, made his job of recording an 18th double-double this season easy. Edey had 18 points and 13 rebounds as the Big Ten-leading Boilermakers (22-1, 11-1) made a season-best 14 3s and won their ninth in a row.
But to many, Gillis’ incredible game seemed to come out of the blue. Until Wednesday, he had never made more than three 3s in a game or scored more than 14 points. Then suddenly, there he was making 10 of 14 shots and nine of 12 from beyond the arc, thanks in part to the Nittany Lions’ strategy of trying a zone defense to negate the 7-foot-4 Edey.
Gillis made sure the game plan backfired on his old coach.
“My opening statement is going to be very succinct,” said Penn State coach Micah Shrewsberry, who was an assistant at Purdue before taking the Nittany Lions job two years ago. “Best team in the country, best player in the country, best coach in the country.”
Seth Lundy had 18 points to lead the Nittany Lions (14-8, 5-6), who have lost six straight in the series and all four during Shrewsberry’s tenure.
Purdue, the only Power Five team left with fewer than two losses, looked like it would run away early when it used a 9-0 run to build a 23-13 lead. But Penn State scored the final five points of the first half to close to 35-29.
Then, after Jalen Pickett opened the second half with a layup, Gillis answered with a flurry. He made three straight 3s to give Purdue a 44-31 lead, and after Penn State called timeout, Gillis made a mid-range jumper and Ethan Morton added another 3 to make it 49-31.
The Nittany Lions never recovered as Purdue pulled away and extended the margin to as much as 26.
“We’re not worried about results, we’re pretty process driven,” Gillis said. “But it definitely felt amazing.”
Penn State: Shrewsberry was the first Matt Painter assistant to return to Mackey with a different team. It might go down as a pretty forgettable experience. But the Nittany Lions for an improving team, there are going to be some bumpy obstacles along the way.
Purdue: The Boilermakers showed just how much firepower they possess — in addition to Edey. When Edey’s supporting cast plays this way, Purdue is almost unbeatable.
The Boilermakers left nothing to doubt after becoming the first Power Five team to earn unanimous No. 1 selections in consecutive years in 20 years. Now comes the hard part — adding a win at archrival, No. 21 Indiana, the Big Ten preseason favorite, to the resume.
Shrewsberry and Painter wore T-shirts to promote Project 44, an initiative to expand bone marrow registries. It honors the late Andrew Smith, who played on Butler’s two Final Four teams when Shrewsberry was an assistant there. Smith died in January 2016 at age 25 after a two-year battle with cancer and a bone marrow transplant gave Smith and his wife, Samantha, three additional months together.
Penn State: Completes a two-game road trip Sunday at Nebraska.
Purdue: Begins a stretch of three road trips in four games with perhaps the toughest of all — Saturday against the Hoosiers.