Purdue vs. Texas A&M
Spokane, Wash. Determined and undaunted, 6-foot-3 Chris Kramer bulled past one defender 4 inches taller than him. He flipped a layup over another 6 inches taller. Seconds later, he was getting pounded by his own teammates.
A fitting way for Purdue's most rugged player, its soul now that do-it-all leader Robbie Hummel is out for the season, to send the Boilermakers to the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament.
Kramer's daring drive and layup over Texas A&M big man Bryan Davis with 4.2 seconds remaining in overtime sent fourth-seeded Purdue to a 63-61 victory over the fifth-seeded Aggies on Sunday in a bruising, second-round game that just about left dents in the arena's floor.
"I had the ball and went right and crossed over to the left, and it parted like the Red Sea," Kramer said of the A&M defense. "Then it came down to finishing, as Davis came over and tried to block my shot."
Texas A&M's B.J. Holmes got a final, frantic chance to win the game with a rushed 3-point try from in front of his bench at the buzzer, but it hit short on the rim to ensure a sixth regional appearance in 12 NCAA tournaments dating to 1994 for Purdue (29-5).
The Boilermakers, who rallied from 11 points down in the second half, will face top-seeded Duke in Houston on Friday.
Hummel has already promised he will be there to watch his teammates.
This all seemed like a pipe dream a month ago, when the Big Ten regular season co-champions lost Hummel to a knee injury. Even President Barack Obama thought the Boilermakers, a former top-seed candidate and pick from the Final Four in their home state, wouldn't even get out of the first round. Their players openly spoke of their anger at people slighting them.
There was nothing slight about the square-jawed, bullish Kramer. He led the Boilermakers with 17 points, seven rebounds — and countless dives to the floor for loose balls.
The 6-foot-9 Davis had 17 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Aggies (24-10), who were denied their second regional semifinal in four years.
The fourth overtime game of this tournament had three ties, with the relentless Aggies taking two-point leads and the unyielding Boilermakers answering each time.
Kramer tried to give his team the lead with under 2 minutes left in overtime with a shot over two Aggies in the lane. He missed that time and lost his shoe — of course he ran down to play defense without it. But freshman Khris Middleton put A&M back up with a jump hook from the baseline with 1:20 remaining.
E'Twaun Moore answered with a jumper with 1 minute to go to make it 61-all. Those were the last of his 15 points.
Texas A&M maintained possession through some loose balls before Davis backed in on 6-10 JaJuan Johnson, went under him to the basket, but was short against the rim on the contested bank shot with 17 seconds left.
Purdue got the rebound and called time out with 10.1 seconds remaining. Coach Matt Painter called for a play for Moore, but Kramer never gave up the ball once he got it back off his inbounds pass from halfcourt to Keaton Grant.
From the top of the key, Kramer switched hands on his dribble, then drove past Texas A&M's Nathan Walkup and approached the 6-9 Davis. His determined shot soared over the leaping Davis' finger tips and off the glass.
After Holmes' last miss, Kramer pounded his massive, football-player-sized chest. The former high school safety and star quarterback from Huntington, Ind., better known as the two-time Big Ten defensive player of the year, then got pounded from in front and behind by his giddy teammates.
Holmes stayed slumped on the court with his head bowed for more than a minute after his miss. Teammates had to console and then usher Davis off the court.
Johnson woke up in the second half following an 0-of-7 start and finished with 11 points and key blocked shots for Purdue.