MILWAUKEE, WI – When Purdue needed him the most, when the Boilermakers were on the brink of a heartbreaking loss, Caleb ”Biggie” Swanigan lived up to his nickname – over and over again.
Swanigan had 20 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, and Purdue reached the Sweet 16 for the first time in seven years with a wild 80-76 victory over Iowa State on Saturday.
The Cyclones erased a 19-point deficit in the second half, taking their first lead of the game on Deonte Burton’s two free throws with 3:11 left. But P.J. Thompson responded with a critical 3-pointer for the Boilermakers, and Swanigan made several huge plays in the final minutes.
”It was an amazing game,” Thompson said. ”I thought we were pretty special tonight, at different moments we were really clutch when we needed to be. A lot of different guys made a lot of different plays tonight.”
After Dakota Mathias missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 11 seconds left and Purdue clinging to a 78-76 lead, Swanigan tracked down the rebound to set up Thompson’s free throws with 7 seconds remaining. Monte Morris missed a 3 on the other end, and time ran out for Iowa State.
Vince Edwards had 21 points and 10 rebounds for No. 4 seed Purdue (27-7), which will play the winner of Sunday’s Michigan State-Kansas game on Thursday in Kansas City, Missouri. Isaac Haas finished with 14 points, helping the Boilermakers to a 23-5 advantage in bench points.
”I’m excited. I’m ready to get back to campus and get to work and watch the game tomorrow, Kansas-Michigan State, and see who is left,” Swanigan said.
Swanigan’s typically clipped response drew a smile from coach Matt Painter.
”That’s great,” a grinning Painter said. ”That’s all we get? That’s beautiful.”
Yup, Swanigan did all his talking with his play. It was the 28th double-double of the season for the Big Ten player of the year.
Fifth-seeded Iowa State (24-11) had won 10 of 11, moving to the brink of its third appearance in the Sweet 16 in four years. But it eventually ran out of gas against the bigger Boilermakers.
Burton scored 17 of his 25 points in the second half, putting on a show in his hometown of Milwaukee. Matt Thomas, another Wisconsin kid, had 20 points on 9-for-11 shooting, and Morris finished with 18 points and nine assists in the final game of his standout career.
”We didn’t rebound that ball at the end,” coach Steve Prohm said. ”But you know, game like this you can look back at a lot of difficult things.”
For a while, it looked as if Iowa State’s storied senior class was headed for a rough ending.
Swanigan helped Purdue pull away at the start of the second half, showing off his well-rounded game. He found Mathias and Edwards for layups on backdoor cuts in the first minute. He made a 3-pointer and Edwards got loose for a dunk as the Boilermakers grabbed a 58-39 lead with 14:23 left.
But the Cyclones responded with a furious comeback, backed by a boisterous crowd filled with red and yellow. Two free throws by Burton and a jumper by Thomas tied it at 71 with 3:45 remaining.
”Once we got on that run, you know, we made things happen and we made it interesting,” Thomas said. ”We just were one or two plays short of capping that win off.”
After Burton put Iowa State in front, Thompson rattled in his only 3-pointer of the game. Burton then missed a stepback jumper, and Swanigan and Edwards each scored to give Purdue some breathing room at 78-73 with 1:36 left.
”I kept trying to tell myself (to) stay poised, stay calm,” Edwards said. ”And we were all just talking out and kept telling each other we got this, we got this. We were able to stick it out and win.”
The Boilermakers shot 48.4 percent (31 for 64) and had 27 assists on 31 field goals. The Cyclones shot 50 percent, but Naz Mitrou-Long only had five points after averaging 15.4 coming into the game.
Purdue plays Kansas game on Thursday in Kansas City, Missouri.