9:21 PM EDT, March 16, 2012
OMAHA, NE - So much for their fancy passing, international flavor, and underdog status as a higher seed.
In a town that screams blue collar values, Purdue mimicked it with a combination of steady defense and timely shooting.
It's why the tenth-seeded Boilers made themselves look like the favorites for most of the night against seventh-seeded Saint Mary's-but the Gaels had one run left in them.
Trailing by as many as ten in the second half, Saint Mary's rallied to take the lead in the final minute. But Purdue hit four free throws down the stretch and shut down the Gaels down the stretch to pick up the 72-62 victory at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha.
A pair of free throws by Lewis Jackson and Robbie Hummel in the final minute coupled with a few key defensive stops gave Purdue their 14th consecutive win in the first game of an NCAA Tournament.
Purdue will now advance to face Kansas in the third round on Sunday after the second-seeded Jayhawks beat Detroit late Friday night.
The Boilermakers got there by doing as they said they would on Thursday: Cut down on the passing lanes and shut down the Gaels' star guard Matthew Dellavedova. Early on that's exactly what they did, holding Saint Mary's to just five assists in the first half and holding them to just 1-for-15 from behind the arc.
Terone Johnson, who shared the guarding duties on Dellavedova, also made an impact on the offensive end by scoring 13 first half points as the Boilers led by ten.
It was Johnson's layup with 6:22 to play but Purdue up by 12 and it appeared the Boilermakers were well on their way to another first game win in the tournament. That's when Saint Mary's made their run, converting on a number of difficult shots including a three-pointer by Jorden Page that gave the Gaels the lead with 44 seconds to play.
After a pair of traveling calls against each team, Jackson made something happen with 22 seconds left, driving in the lane and drawing the foul from Stephen Holt. Jackson converted both and after the Boilers forced an airball on a three-pointer by Holt, Hummel then made a two free throws to extend the lead to three.
St. Mary's got one last chance to tie the game with nine seconds to go but Rob Jones' three-pointer at the buzzer was off the mark, giving Purdue the victory.