NEW YORK (AP) — Purdue threw a little of everything at Penn State star Tony Carr, the Big Ten’s leading scorer. Bigger guys. Smaller ones. Switches and some double teams.
Carr managed only 12 points in a woeful shooting game, and No. 8 Purdue separated from Penn State in the second half of a 78-70 victory Saturday that put the Boilermakers in the Big Ten Tournament championship game for the second time in three seasons.
Third-seeded Purdue (28-5) faces No. 5 Michigan, which will try to repeat as tournament champs on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
Purdue frustrated Carr and held him to 4-of-18 shooting. The sophomore faced an array of defenders, including the 6-foot-6, 220-pound Nojel Eastern, 5-10 P.J. Thompson, 6-4 Dakota Mathias, 6-8 Vincent Edwards and 6-1 Carsen Edwards.
“When you have a good player like that it takes more than one guy because he’s able to make shots and make plays over guys,” Vincent Edwards said. “They just did a good job of taking up that space and being able to force him into tough shots.”
Shep Garner led the Nittany Lions (21-12) with a career-high 33 points and the senior set a school record with 129 career points in the Big Ten Tournament.
The Boilermakers will be making their fourth appearance in the Big Ten championship since the tournament started in 1998. Their one championship came in 2009.
Against Penn State, Purdue used a 12-2 run the middle of the second half to build a 15-point lead. Carsen Edwards led the way, spinning through the lane for a driving layup and making a 3 from up top that made the score 59-44 with 9:15 left. He finished with 27 points and shot 6 of 9 from 3-point range after scoring 26 on Friday against Rutgers.
“It’s a consistency,” guard Dakota Mathias said of Edwards. “He’s being very efficient, too.”
Edwards made back-to-back 3s to make it 74-56 with 3:41 left and Purdue was on its way to play for a title.
Isaac Haas, the 7-2 center, added 17 points and seven rebounds for Purdue.
With Carr struggling, Penn State could not keep up. He picked up a third foul in the second half, a push off call that caused Penn State coach Pat Chambers to draw a technical.
“I think they were very physical,” Chambers said. “Obviously that’s why I felt like I needed to get T’d up, my first T in a long, long time.”
Penn State: The Nittany Lions had a chance to work their way into the conversation for an NCAA at-large bid by beating Purdue, but now Penn State seems like a long shot at best. Chambers is still hopefully.
“Well, I’m an optimist,” he said. “We have NCAA Tournament talent.”
Purdue: The Boilermakers hit a rough patch losing three straight close games in early February to Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin, but an argument can be made that they have been the Big Ten’s most consistent team this season.
“We had an opportunity to win the Big Ten regular season. We kind of gave that away,” said Thompson, one of four senior starters. “But we still had a goal of winning a Big Ten championship on our list before the season started and we put ourselves in position to be able to do that tomorrow.”
Purdue does most everything well, except rebound. A night after giving up 17 offensive boards to Rutgers, the Boilermakers allowed 16 rebounds to Penn State.
Garner went 4 for 5 from 3-point range, including a four-point play, to carry Penn State in the first half. The Nittany Lions led much of the way, but Edwards made a 3 for Purdue with 2 seconds left in the half to send the Boilermakers to the break ahead 33-31.
Penn State: An NIT bid is likely coming the Nittany Lions way, though the big question beyond March is whether Carr returns for another season or heads to the NBA draft.
Purdue: The Boilermakers swept the Wolverines in two games decided by a combined five points.
“Just a really skilled offensive team” Carsen Edwards said. “They have a lot of options. For us it’s going to come down to defense and getting stops.”
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