Purdue hopes for different ending vs. No. 5 Virginia

NCAA Basketball
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Purdue was seconds away from the Final Four, and Virginia was on the verge of another March flop when the teams met nine months ago.

However, Mamadi Diakite drained a buzzer-beating jumper to force overtime, and the Cavaliers went on to win the game 80-75, and they ultimately captured their first national championship.

The Boilermakers (4-3) have an opportunity to ease some of that pain Wednesday night when they host No. 5 Virginia (7-0) in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge in West Lafayette, Ind.

Purdue will have to pull off the upset without Carsen Edwards, who put on a clinic in that Elite Eight loss to the Cavaliers with 10 3-pointers and 42 points. Edwards is now a rookie with the Boston Celtics.

Diakite is back and leads Virginia with 13.9 points per game. The senior forward is third on the team in rebounding (7.3 per game) and is shooting 53.3 percent (8 of 15) from 3-point distance. Forward Jay Huff, a 7-foot-1 junior, averages 10.3 points and 7.4 boards. Sophomore point guard Kihei Clark, who delivered the long pass that set up Diakite’s buzzer-beater, averages 9.6 points, five assists and 4.7 rebounds.

The Cavaliers have had a week off since beating Maine 46-26 on Nov. 27. They lead the nation in scoring defense (40.3 points per game) and field-goal percentage defense (.288).

Against Maine, Virginia matched a school record for fewest points allowed in the shot-clock era, and they held the Black Bears scoreless for the final 8:38.

The smothering defense has made up for a sputtering offense, as the Cavaliers are scoring just 55.1 points per game on 40.5 percent shooting, including 25.2 percent (34 of 135) from beyond the arc.

“If ever there’s a team that has to be hungry to defend no matter how hard it is — and that’s where the heart and the effort comes in — hungry to rebound and to be kind of a hard rock when you’re in a stance and beat screens, it’s us,” Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett said.

Virginia, which is 13-6 in the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge with five straight wins, won’t have injured senior guard Braxton Key (wrist) but hopes that sophomore swingman Kody Stattmann can return after missing four games with an illness.

Purdue has been the Big Ten’s most successful representative against the ACC, compiling a 10-8 record in the series that includes a 7-2 mark at home.

The Boilermakers are playing their second straight ACC opponent, coming off a 63-60 overtime loss to Florida State in the Emerald Coast Classic championship game Saturday in Niceville, Fla. They turned the ball over 24 times, including 16 steals by the Seminoles.

“Our defense is ahead of our offense at this time and in terms of what we can do, and can’t do, against quality opponents,” Purdue coach Matt Painter told the Lafayette Journal & Courier.

Purdue’s leading scorers are senior guard Jahaad Proctor (14.6 points per game), 7-foot-3 junior center Matt Haarms (11.7) and sophomore guard Eric Hunter Jr. (10.3).

–Field Level Media

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