WEST LAFAYETTE – Caleb Swanigan pushed the envelope until it threatened to burst, and it still wasn’t enough.
Not on this New Year’s Day overtime revelation.
Minnesota was too tough.
Purdue was not.
The aftermath of Sunday’s 91-82 loss left the No. 15 Boilers (12-3 overall, 1-1 in the Big Ten) wondering about what could have been.
“Our competitive spirit can be better,” guard P.J. Thompson said. “Our fight can be better. We have some really competitive guys. We’ll be ready to play on Thursday (at Ohio State).”
Swanigan, a 6-8 sophomore forward, finished with 28 points and 22 rebounds in 41 minutes. It was the former Homestead standout's school-record fourth 20-20 game of the season.
No one else has done it once this season. It's the most 20-20 games in a season since Santa Clara's John Bryant had six in 2008-09.
It wasn’t enough.
“It’s a shame that a special game like that doesn’t lead to a win,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “When you get a special effort like that, it should lead to win.
“He’s been special. He lays it on the line. He was really good again.”
Purdue went to Swanigan three straight times in the final minute of regulation. The first two times, he missed. The last time, with 4.4 seconds left, he did not. That tied the score at 73-73 and forced overtime.
“We have to keep helping him and keep feeding him,” Painter said. “The ball needs to be in his hands.”
Swanigan also recorded his sixth straight double-double and nation-leading 12th of the season.
He wanted more.
“It’s just about playing hard every possession,” he said. “That’s what I try to do. But just because you’re playing hard doesn’t mean you’re playing smart. Sometimes I struggled with the ball. Sometimes I feel I let P.J. down. It’s something we have to correct.”
Swanigan’s effort impressed Minnesota coach Richard Pitino.
“I thought we did a good job on Swanigan and he still had 28 and 22,” he said.
Minnesota (13-2, 1-1) punished a Purdue defense that never found an answer, certainly not in the beginning, when they Gophers jumped to a 17-4 lead, and certainly not in overtime, when they pushed and the Boilers faded. Minnesota had an 18-9 edge in those final five minutes to snap the Boilers' Big Ten-best nine-home-game conference win streak.
“It’s about guys being ready to play,” Vince Edwards said. “Minnesota played with a chip on their shoulders. They were ready to play.”
What else did we learn on Sunday?
Let’s take a look:
1. Drama lives
Purdue had won its previous seven games by an average of 28 points, including an 89-67 win over Iowa on Wednesday.
That’s not the way the Big Ten works. It certainly didn’t work that way against a Gopher team steeled by an overtime home loss to Michigan State after blowing a double-digit second-half lead.
“The word we use is respond,” Pitino said. “We did that. We were terrific at the beginning. We knew they would throw punches back at us. We showed great growth.”
2. Going small
Purdue again found its best matchup against Minnesota’s quickness and athleticism was to put Swanigan at center and leave 7-2 Isaac Haas on the bench. It had worked against Notre Dame.
Haas did play 19 minutes, but had four turnovers along with six points and three rebounds.
“We were trying to find the right mix in going small,” Painter said. “We wanted to get a better matchup defensively. Going small helps us in that area. It doesn’t cure it, obviously.”
3. Spike is back
Purdue senior guard Spike Albrecht had missed seven straight games with a back injury. He made his return on Sunday and totaled one rebound and one assist in 10 minutes.
“It was the first game he was cleared to play,” Painter said.
4. Setting a tone
Purdue wanted a fast start. Instead, it got rocked by a Minnesota team that couldn’t miss.
The Gophers hit their first eight shots with no turnovers. Purdue was 1-for-6 with three turnovers in that span. The result — the Boilers trailed 17-4.
Purdue rallied, but didn’t take its first lead until four minutes into the second half, on a Carsen Edwards three-pointer. Purdue pushed ahead by seven and was on the verge of taking control.
It never did.
“When they make eight straight shots to start the game and you’re careless a couple of times with the ball, it’s not a good recipe,” Painter said. “We were able to come back, but we were not able to pull it out.”
5. A Pitino weekend
Pitino’s win at Mackey Arena followed his father’s victory a day earlier in Indianapolis. Rick Pitino’s Louisville team beat Indiana at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Saturday.
But the younger Pitino was more satisfied in bouncing back from last season’s 8-23 season that included multiple off-court issues that fueled speculation he would be fired.
“It was a great win for us,” Pitino said. “It’s great for a lot of things. We had a long, tough off-season. We deserved it. We had to take it. It’s nice to be sitting 13-2 with a young team and find a way to break through on the road.”