WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Virginia and Purdue met in Mackey Arena on Tuesday night for a rematch of last year’s Elite Eight thriller that saw the Cavaliers prevail 80-75.
In that game, Carsen Edwards dropped 42 points for Purdue. This year’s meeting saw UVa fail to match Edwards’ point total from a year ago in a game that felt like the Cavaliers were playing a different sport.
Purdue bested UVa 69-40 in front of a packed house at Mackey Arena. With the win, the Boilermakers (5-3) improve to 67-5 at home since the start of the 2015-16 season.
“When you go against a team that’s that well coached and that intense and that physical, it kind of takes your breath away,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “We played on our heels all game, and I had a feeling there’s gonna be extra motivation with that setting, but take that out of it, they cleaned our clock.”
With Purdue and UVa entering the night as two of the slowest teams in college basketball, a low-scoring affair was expected. Virginia delivered on its end, scoring just 40 points, including 17 in the first half.
The Cavaliers (7-1, 1-0 ACC), who were shooting 25.2% from the 3-point line entering the night, shot an abysmal 2-of-15 (13.3%) from 3-point range in the first half. They shot 5-of-7 on two-point shots in the first half, but they struggled to generate consistent looks inside the arc against a swarming Purdue defense.
Turnovers also plagued the Cavaliers, who committed nine in the first 20 minutes and 16 for the game.
Purdue pounced on the Cavaliers out of the gate. Sasha Stefanovic quickly buried his first three shot attempts of the night, which all happened to be 3-point shots. Purdue opened up a 9-5 lead that quickly ballooned.
Stefanovic screamed and pounded his chest throughout the night as he buried shots, dove for loose balls and drew charges. He finished the night with a team-high 20 points. Three other Boilermakers joined Stefanovic in double figures.
Purdue excelled in the first half, hitting shots and playing stellar defense. The Mackey Arena crowd roared as Virginia missed shot after shot, going 9:09 during one stretch of the half without scoring a single point.
“I thought the crowd gave them great momentum,” Virginia guard Kihei Clark said. “It was kind of similar to Duke.”
Virginia trailed 26-9 before a Diakite layup finally ended the stretch with 3:43 to go in the half. The Boilermakers took a 32-17 lead into the break.
The second half featured more of the same, although a massive first half deficit is what ultimately doomed the Cavaliers. Entering the game shooting 31% from the 3-point line, the Boilermakers buried 13-of-25 3-point shots, good for a shooting percentage of 52%.
Hot-shooting powered Purdue in front of a raucous home crowd, while cold shooting doomed Virginia. The Cavaliers finished the game shooting just 37.2% and 16.7% from beyond the arc.
“This is the type of game that just makes you eager for the next one,” Virginia forward Jay Huff said. “Can’t think about much else except for the next game after a game like this.”
While Virginia is the defending national champion, it’s not the same roster as last year’s squad. Gone is the smooth shooting backcourt that always found a way to score a big bucket. The Cavaliers also are missing the injured Braxton Key, and they entered the night as one of the 15 worst 3-point shooting teams in the entire country.
In Virginia’s last game, it scored 46 points against a Maine team that allowed 50 points to the Maine Maritime Academy.
It’s not a surprise to see the Cavaliers struggle shooting or scoring. For the first time all season, though, the shooting woes manifested as an “L” in the record book.
“They really came out and punched us in the face,” Clark said. “They were pretty motivated for this game, and I thought we came out pretty slow, and we didn’t match their intensity coming out.”