LOUISVILLE, Ken. (WISH) – The Purdue Boilermakers are back in the Sweet Sixteen for the third straight year. Purdue cruised into the Louisville regional, winning each of its first two tournament games by an average of 20 points.
A Tennessee team with five players who average double figures in scoring stands in the way of the Gold and Black, who haven’t been to the Elite Eight in 19 years.
“It’d be special,” said Purdue senior forward Grady Eifert. “(We) talked about it again this season. We want to make that run. I think that’s everybody’s goal around the whole NCAA, obviously win your conference, but then once you get to that tournament, and you can get in the tournament, make that run.”
“It’d be very satisfying. A lot of people have said, ‘how do you get over this hump?’ senior guard Ryan Cline explained. “There’s no real secret, you’ve just got to go out there and compete and have fun.”
“That’d be cool. But for the most part we’re just focusing on this game right now,” junior guard Carsen Edwards added. “It’d be cool to advance, but we’re playing one of the best teams in the country first. So that’s a tall task for us first that we’re working and focusing on.”
Coaches always say you want to be playing your best basketball in March. The Boilers are taking that idea to heart. More importantly, this team is playing with incredible confidence.
“Even when we were 6-5 and everyone said, ‘hey, we’re going to go last in the Big Ten,’ we were still believing in our whole season and believing in our team and our coaches still believed in us,” sophomore center Matt Haarms said. “Even at the start of the year, when people picked us seventh or ninth in the Big Ten, we still believed in ourselves and Coach Paint still said, ‘Hey, we’re going to win this Big Ten title.’ So we’re not playing to expectations, we’re just playing for what we want to do.”
“It’s hard when you’re young to be able to play. You want some guys with experience of being in these games. Obviously this is our third year in a row of being in this game, and obviously we’ve gotten beat the last two years,” head coach Matt Painter said. “But it doesn’t mean that you’re not prepared. We’re hoping that our experiences in the past couple years help us in this game.”
Painter is 0-4 in Sweet Sixteen games as a head coach at Purdue. The key for the Boilers is getting guard Carsen Edwards going. When Edwards scores 20 or more points, Purdue is 19-6. The question remains, how will he follow up a 42 points performance? We will find out Thursday night.