Purdue had lost six of nine games in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, but the Boilermakers used toughness and tenacious defense to overcome poor shooting in a 69-58 win Tuesday night.
E'Twaun Moore scored 22 points, JaJuan Johnson had 21 points and nine rebounds and Robbie Hummel added 11 points and 11 rebounds to lead No. 4 Purdue. The trio of third-year stars had lost to Clemson in the challenge two years ago, then suffered an embarrassing 76-60 loss to Duke at home last year.
"This junior class had never won an ACC challenge, so this was a big game for us," Hummel said. "We were very motivated."
The students' chant was especially relevant because the Big Ten's top teams took a beating against unranked squads last week. Michigan lost to Marquette and Alabama, Michigan State lost to Florida, Illinois lost to Utah and Bradley, and Minnesota lost to Portland and Texas A&M.
The Boilermakers (6-0) are still rolling. Purdue is the only unbeaten left in the league, and the Boilermakers are enjoying their highest AP ranking since 1996.
C.J. Harris and Ishmael Smith each scored 14 points and freshman Al-Farouq Aminu added 12 points and 10 rebounds for Wake Forest (4-2). Aminu entered the game averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Purdue forced 25 turnovers and held the Demon Deacons to below 30 percent shooting for most of the second half. The Boilermakers shot 34 percent, but made 24 of 31 free throws and committed just nine turnovers.
Wake Forest, coming off a 78-68 home loss to William and Mary, made 10 of 19 free throws and shot 42 percent overall. The Demon Deacons led 31-29 at halftime but were outscored 40-27 after that.
"The turnovers in the second half was the difference in the game," Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio said. "I think our kids fought hard, I just wish we would have done a little better from the free-throw line. That would have given us a little push."
It was the second consecutive lockdown defensive effort for Purdue. The Boilermakers held Central Michigan to 28 percent shooting in a 64-38 win on Saturday.
Purdue and Wake Forest combined to make just 24 of 66 shots in the first half. Wake Forest led by two points at halftime, and would have led by more if not for 3-of-10 free throw shooting. Neither team led by more than four points in the first 20 minutes. Purdue missed all nine of its 3-pointers in the first half.
Purdue shot poorly again early in the second half, but the Boilermakers were aggressive and forced Wake Forest into foul trouble. Two free throws by freshman Kelsey Barlow gave Purdue a 37-36 lead, then Chris Kramer got a steal and found Hummel streaking to the basket. Hummel made a layup and was fouled, and he converted the three-point play to give the Boilermakers a 40-36 lead.
Purdue capped the 12-0 run with a layup by Moore to take a 42-36 lead. The Boilermakers held the Demon Deacons scoreless for nearly five minutes during that stretch.
"We really just turned up the defensive pressure," Kramer said. "We had to get up and pressure up Ishmael Smith. We jammed him, and we kind of wore them down for a while."
Purdue missed its first 13 3-point shots, but Moore finally made one to give the Boilermakers a 51-44 lead with nine minutes left. Johnson followed with a left-handed bank shot to push the lead to nine.
The Boilermakers finally started making shots in the final 10 minutes, allowing them to stretch the lead to as many as 17 points.
"I thought our guys showed more patience in the second half," Purdue coach Matt Painter said. "We did a better job on shot selection, and then we did a better job of clamping down on defense."