With its tenuous grip on first place slipping, the 14th-ranked Purdue men’s basketball team stormed back from a poor first half Tuesday night to beat Penn State on the road in overtime and move a half-game ahead of idle Wisconsin.
With star Caleb Swanigan having an unusually off night, the Boilermakers drew on nearly every other player in the rotation to outlast the Nittany Lions 74-70 and improve to 23-5 overall and 12-3 in the Big Ten with three games remaining in the regular season.
The Badgers, ranked 16th, are 22-5 overall and 11-3 in the conference. They play on Thursday night at Ohio State.
On Tuesday, the Nittany Lions (14-14, 6-9) came out like the team with something to play for, outscoring Purdue 33-29 in the first half and holding Swanigan to 2 points.
Penn State would stretch the lead to 9 on multiple occasions in the second half, but a balanced team scoring attack finally got the Boilermakers back in the game. In fact, Purdue built its lead to as much as 8, at 62-54, with less than 3 minutes left in the second half.
But instead of letting the Boilermakers run away with the game, the Nittany Lions fought back to tie it at 64 on a Tony Carr jumper with 20 seconds left in regulation and force the extra frame.
The Nittany Lions would lead by 2 twice in overtime, but a Ryan Cline 3-point basket with 1:43 to play gave Purdue a 69-68 lead. The next time down the floor, he hit another to stretch the lead to 72-68 with 54 seconds to play, and the Boilermakers held on from there.
Swanigan, one of the leading contenders for Big Ten Player of the Year and still in the mix for national POY, finished with 10 points and 9 rebounds — a rare game in which he didn’t finish with a double-double — but took only 5 shots from the field and made 2.
Instead, Vince Edwards led the way with 14 points, one of six Purdue players in double figures. Carr led all players with 21 points, adding 7 assists and 5 rebounds.