Purdue, Iowa State fight for rare air
MILWAUKEE -- Getting out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years was a big step for Purdue, but now the Boilermakers want more.
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The fourth-seeded Boilermakers, winners of the Big Ten regular-season crown, will try to punch their ticket to the Sweet 16 Saturday when they take on No. 5 Iowa State in a second-round Midwest Region showdown at Bradley Center.
Purdue's size was its greatest weapon Thursday when the Boilermakers dispatched No. 13 Vermont 80-70. Senior forward Caleb Swanigan and junior forward Vincent Edwards dominated the Catamounts inside, where the Boilermakers outscored Vermont 42-24 and held a 39-28 advantage on the boards.
But coach Matt Painter was most proud of his team's defense, which held the Catamounts to 44 percent shooting.
"These guys have locked in on defense," Painter said. "They bought in to trying to be good on the defensive end of the floor, contesting shots. Naz (Mitrou-Long) has really taken it upon himself to take a lot of pride in being our defensive stopper and putting him on the best guy."
Standing in the way of a trip to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2010 is fifth-seeded Iowa State, which also hasn't gotten past the first weekend in 17 years.
The Cyclones, too, are hungry. They feature an athletic, high-scoring and veteran group that was battle-tested Thursday by a tough Nevada squad.
"We want more," senior guard Deonte Burton said. "This is one stepping stone until we get where we want to be, so we have to keep our focus until we get where we want to be."
Burton is one of three Milwaukee natives -- and four Wisconsinites -- on the Iowa State roster. With Ames, Iowa, just a six-hour drive from Milwaukee, the Cyclones were already a popular draw. But, with the local flavor added to the mix, the crowd at Bradley Center helped Iowa State feel right at home.
"That's how you put on for your city," senior forward Darrell Bowie said. "That's what you call a home-court advantage. We just wanted to give the crowd a reason to get loud and be proud of us."
While the Boilermakers punish opponents with size and brute strength, the Cyclones dazzle with speed, athleticism and the ability to score points in bunches.
Monte Morris spearheads the Cyclones' attack. The Most Outstanding Player of the Big 12 tournament, Morris is Iowa State's leader with 16.3 points and 6.1 assists per game. Since Feb. 1, he's averaging 16.9 points and 6.9 assists, with a 7.6 assist-to-turnover ratio -- a category in which he led the nation this season.
"He's the best point guard in the country," Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said. "He's a winner. He won in high school. He's kept Iowa State ... really brought Iowa State basketball to being relevant and being a national program. He's been an integral part of that. Now he's got a chance to go to his third Sweet 16. How many kids can say that that play college basketball?"