WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) Road trips to LSU and third-ranked Arizona, along with an appearance in the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, more than prepared Gardner-Webb for a Monday night date with Purdue.
Jerome Hill scored 31 points and had nine rebounds, and Tyler Strange added 18 points and 10 assists, leading Gardner-Webb to an 89-84 victory against the struggling Boilermakers.
”As a leader, that’s what I try to do is try to get my team to stay together when things aren’t going good,” said Hill, who scored 22 first-half points.
The Bulldogs (8-5), who defeated ACC member Clemson in November, added a Big Ten Conference opponent to their list of victims, relying on 3-point shooting and Boilermaker turnovers to hand Purdue (8-5) a third consecutive defeat.
Purdue had a chance to tie with one second remaining, but P.J. Thompson missed a 3-pointer, and Harold McBride made two free throws with 0.5 seconds left to ice it.
”In the second half, we just had a lot of things go our way in terms of making 3s and being able to finish plays,” Bulldogs coach Tim Craft said. ”It could have gotten ugly in the first half. It felt bad out there, but Jerome was huge for us.”
Vanderbilt made 9 of 14 attempts from beyond the arc to beat the Boilermakers on Dec. 13, Notre Dame made 8 of 17 this past Saturday and Gardner-Webb was 14 of 25.
Trailing by as many as 17 in the second half, Purdue battled back to within 75-68 on a pair of Jon Octeus free throws with 4:13 remaining and to within 75-70 on two Bryson Scott free throws with 3:54 left. An Octeus 3-pointer and an A.J. Hammons putback cut the deficit to 78-75 with 2:08 to go.
Strange’s trey with 1:54 left pushed the Bulldogs lead to 81-75. Strange made a free throw with 1:26 left for an 82-77 advantage.
Hill said Strange kept the Bulldogs on the path to victory.
”Tyler is a great point guard. I look at him like a (Rajon) Rondo-type player,” Hill said. ”He tries to get everybody involved.”
Rapheal Davis led Purdue with 13 points, 10 in the first half, and grabbed 12 rebounds. Scott also scored 13, as did Octeus.
”We have to play defense,” a dejected Davis said. ”They had a guy get 31 and another get almost 20. That just can’t happen. We have to focus. We have to be tougher and play basketball. Once Jerome Hill got going, that’s when it started. And it is not going to get any easier. Their 89 points speaks for itself.”
The Bulldogs dominated the second half’s first 10 minutes, taking a 61-47 lead on Strange’s 3-pointer with 10:53 remaining. At that point, Gardner-Webb was 11 of 21 from beyond the arc, and Purdue was 2 of 9.
Jarvis Davis hit the Bulldogs’ sixth trey of the second half with 9:23 remaining to extend their advantage to 69-51 with 9:23 to go.
With Hill scoring 22 points, the Bulldogs erased Purdue’s early 15-3 lead, pulling even at 38 through 20 minutes.
Purdue coach Matt Painter said it is easy to determine why his team has lost three in a row, giving up 81, 94 and 89 points.
”It starts with our inability to contain the dribble,” Painter said. ”We break down and don’t rotate. It also has been our awareness or lack thereof of who can shoot and who can’t shoot.”
Gardner-Webb: Entering the game, the Bulldogs ranked 336th nationally among 351 teams in free throw shooting percentage at 59.0 percent. … Gardner-Webb started no player taller than 6-foot-7.
Purdue: A.J. Hammons became the third player in school history to record at least 800 points, 500 rebounds and 200 blocks. … This was the first meeting ever between the Boilermakers and Gardner-Webb.
During the past three games, Purdue opponents are shooting 55.4 percent from 3-point range, a collective 31 of 56 by Vanderbilt, Notre Dame and Gardner-Webb.
Jerome Hill fell one point shy of his career-high 32, making 11 of 17 field goal attempts, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range. He entered the game 0 of 7 from beyond the arc on the season. In his third season with the Bulldogs, Hill never had made a trey until facing Purdue.
Gardner-Webb will visit Presbyterian on Dec. 31
Purdue will host Minnesota on Dec. 31.