DETROIT — In need of a productive offensive possession with the season on the line, Purdue coach Matt Painter called Dakota Mathias’ number. Mathias would begin the set in the paint before cutting hard around a screen from center Matt Haarms to come open for a 3-pointer at the top of the arc.
Butler, the Boilermakers’ opponent Sunday in an NCAA Tournament second-round matchup, had surely seen the play on film several times. It had been a staple of Purdue’s offense most of the season. So, it likely would take perfect execution to pull it off, and that’s what the Boilermakers got.
Mathias created separation from his defender, who was hugging him, with a slight push. At that point, the senior knew he was about to be open for the biggest shot of his life. His mind shifted to a simple thought: “Get your feet set and let it fly.”
Indeed he did, knocking down a decisive 3-pointer with 14.2 seconds remaining in Purdue’s 76-73 victory. Mathias finished the game with 11 points and 3 makes on six 3-point attempts.
“Right when I took off under the basket I knew I was going to get free just because of the angle I had and how many times we’ve run that set,” Mathias said. “It’s a design we do a lot, actually. Matt had a great screen, it was a great pass, right on target. It felt good right when it left my hand.”
Mathias’ teammates were thrilled with Painter’s decision to call on him. Though the set has several options as to who can get the ball, the idea in this moment was for Mathias to get a good look from 3-point range.
“He’s done that 100 times in his career,” said guard P.J. Thompson. “He lives for those moments. I knew it was going in when he got the separation. That’s all he needs.”
Purdue (30-6) advanced to the Sweet 16 for a second consecutive year with the win. The Boilermakers will face Texas Tech (26-9) in Boston on Friday.