Saint Mary's can't finish in 72-69 loss to Purdue
OMAHA, Neb.—Saint Mary's won't reprise its 2010 run to the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament.
The Gaels are one and done.
Purdue guard Lewis Jackson made the go-ahead free throws with 22.8 seconds left after the Gaels had rallied from 11 points down late to take their first lead, and the Boilermakers won 72-69 in the Midwest Regional on Friday night.
"If it didn't sting, it wouldn't be any fun," Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said. "That's why it stings, because you care so much. There aren't many things you can pour your heart into with a bunch of guys your age and invest so much time and care so much, and that's why it hurts, because when it's over it's gone.
"Some guys get to return, but those three seniors don't. We were good because our three seniors gave us tremendous leadership this year. I told them in the locker room this year I wasn't sure it was going to happen, but it did and I'm proud of them for that."
Rob Jones, one of those seniors, just about willed the Gaels to finish the job, scoring 17 of his 23 points in the second half. He made some big jumpers in a 14-2 run that Jorden Page finished with a 3-pointer with 44.2 seconds left that turned a 66-55 deficit with 4:24 to play into a 69-68 lead.
Purdue's Terone Johnson and Saint Mary's Clint Steindl were called for traveling before Jackson made his free throws. Page badly missed what would have been a go-ahead 3 with 10 seconds left, and Robbie Hummel made two free throws for a three-point lead.
Jones then missed a good look at a 3 from the wing at the buzzer for the seventh-seeded Gaels (27-6).
"I think I could have taken a half a second more to get ready," Jones said of the last shot, "but no point thinking about it now. ... When you lose one like that, when you're up with a couple of seconds left, it really hurts."
Purdue won its NCAA tournament opener for the 14th straight time.
Johnson had 21 points for the 10th-seeded Boilermakers (22-12). Jackson scored 15 of his 18 in the second half, and Hummel and Anthony Johnson finished with 10 apiece.
"We're very grateful to get this victory," Purdue coach Matt Painter said. "Any time you play a great team like Saint Mary's and you get a 13-point lead, you've got to put them away. We weren't able to do that. When you get a big lead like that and somebody takes the lead back from you, it's normally difficult to win the game."
Purdue turned back the Gaels repeatedly in the second half before the West Coast Conference champions made one last push.
Matthew Dellavedova's three-point play got the Gaels within 66-58 with 4 minutes to play.
After Dellavedova took a charge from D.J. Byrd, he drove the length of the floor for a layup. Hummel missed at the other end, and Jones hit a jumper to make it a four-point game with 2:41 left.
Terone Johnson badly missed a free throw, and Jones hit a baseline jumper.
Jackson's drive to the hoop put Purdue back up 68-64 with 1:37 left. Dellavedova made a couple of free throws to pull the Gaels within two. After Hummel missed a 3, Page took a pass from Dellavedova for his only 3 of the night and a 69-68 Saint Mary's lead.
Hummel, back in the tournament after missing the past two Purdue appearances because of ACL tears in his right knee, didn't seem to miss a beat on the big stage. He hit an early 3, swapped some skin with Ryne Smith on the way back to play defense, and later got a friendly bounce from the rim on a baseline jumper.
But Terone Johnson, starting his eighth straight game after beginning the season on the bench, carried the Boilermakers in the first half. He shot 6 of 8 and had 15 points, almost double his season average.
He scored seven points in an 8-0 Purdue run, finishing the spurt with a layup after Byrd rebounded Jackson's missed free throw for a 27-16 lead.
"I think it just came down to, we underestimated him," Jones said. "Props to him and congrats for stepping up and showing up and playing well. I think there are things we could have done better defensively just to stop `em and not let `em get to the bucket, but it's too late for that now."
Saint Mary's, back in the tournament after having to settle for an NIT bid last year, struggled for the first 20 minutes, shooting just 31 percent and missing all but one of its 15 3-point attempts. The Gaels finished at 42 percent and went 4 of 25 on 3s.