HARTFORD, Conn. – Playing without its top defender in the first half, No. 3 seed Purdue men’s basketball still clamped down defensively in a 61-48 victory over No. 14 seed Old Dominion in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday at the XL Center.
Nojel Eastern, a member of the Big Ten All-Defensive team and the Boilermakers’ leading rebounder, did not enter until early in the second half after turning an ankle during pregame warmups.
The Boilermakers (24-9), who won their opening game of the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year, will play defending national champion and sixth-seeded Villanova (26-9) on Saturday at 8:40 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on TNT. The Wildcats slipped by Saint Mary’s 61-57 in their first-round game.
Old Dominion’s 48 points are tied for the second-fewest allowed by a Purdue team in NCAA Tournament history. The Boilermakers limited Saint Peter’s to 43 points in the first round of the 2011 tournament. The Monarchs’ 26.9 percent shooting from the field (18 of 67) is the lowest ever against the Boilermakers in the Big Dance.
Old Dominion led 7-6 before the Boilermakers went on a 13-4 run to take a 19-11 advantage midway through the first half. The Monarchs got within two points at 21-19 with 6:11 left, but Purdue stifled them the rest of the way and surged to a 32-19 lead at intermission.
The chasm grew to 20 points at 43-23 on a 3-pointer by Carsen Edwards with 15:47 remaining in the game, and Purdue cruised much of the second half. A 12-4 spurt brought the Monarchs within nine at 55-46 with 4:23 to go, but they only scored one more bucket the rest of the way, and it came in the waning seconds.
Edwards led all scorers with 26 points to go with seven rebounds, four assists and two steals while playing all 40 minutes. He now has 761 points for the season, the fifth-most in school history.
Matt Haarms was the only other Purdue player in double figures, with 13 points. The Boilermakers shot 37.7 percent from the field (20 of 53), including 9 of 30 from 3-point range (30 percent). They outrebounded Old Dominion 45-41.
The Monarchs got a combined 33 points from Ahmad Carver (19) and B.J. Stith (14) but only 15 from the rest of their team.
Purdue’s 61 points are its fewest in an NCAA Tournament victory since beating Northern Iowa 61-56 in the first round of the 2009 tournament.
Eric Hunter Jr. made his first career start in Eastern’s place and finished with two points, four rebounds, three assists (with no turnovers) and one steal in 24 minutes. Eastern pulled down one rebound in 10 minutes.