SPOKANE, Wash. -- As his players sauntered toward the bench moments before the start of overtime, Purdue coach Matt Painter noticed a dejected look on their faces.
The Boilermakers had just squandered a chance to win the game with two seconds left in regulation and Painter owned an 0-5 mark in overtime in his five seasons as head coach. The only way he felt his team could regain momentum was to avoid making one-on-one plays and focus on sharing the basketball.
His players complied and then Chris Kramer sent the Big Ten regular season tri-champions to the Sweet 16 with a right-handed layup with 4.2 seconds left. Kramer knifed through the lane past three Texas A&M defenders and hit a shot off the glass for the 63-61 victory.
"I had the ball, went right and then just crossed over left," Kramer said. "[The lane] kind of parted like the Red Sea. At that point it just came down to finishing when [Aggies forward Bryan] Davis came over to try to block my shot."
When Painter drew up the play, he intended on bringing guard E'Twaun Moore off a screen and curl him into the lane. The Aggies defense took the play away and Purdue went to their second option -- Kramer. Painter had a feeling Kramer would have a speed advantage on Nathan Walkup, Texas A&M's power forward, and the senior guard easily drove past him.
The Aggies had one final chance to win the game, but a 3-pointer by B.J. Holmes at the buzzer from the left wing fell short. Texas A&M had a chance to eliminate Purdue at the end of regulation, as well, but a jumper from Holmes ricocheted against the backboard.
Until overtime, the game was marked by physical play, tight defense and hustle. Texas A&M held Purdue to 11 of 32 (34.4 percent) shooting in the first half, while the Aggies matched it with an 11 of 32 shooting performance of their own in the second. In the closing moments of regulation, Holmes dove twice in attempt to save the ball from going out of bounds and Harris went flying into the press to save another.
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"It was just two great defensive teams battling it out," Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon said. "Our last two and a half minutes of defense was as good as I've seen. I thought we had them in overtime and they just made some plays."
After being saddled with foul trouble in the first half, Purdue center JaJuan Johnson responded with a strong performance after the break. Johnson scored all 11 of his points in the second half and gave the Boilermakers a 53-50 lead with a resounding dunk over Davis with 5:22 remaining. Johnson also prevented the Aggies from taking the lead with 31 seconds left with a swooping block on Donald Sloan.
"I just saw he kind of slid past one of our guys," Johnson said. "I think the [shot] clock was going down so he had to shoot it. I just tried to make a play on him."
Just as in Friday's opening-round victory versus Siena, Purdue erased a deficit by creating transition hoops with its stifling half-court defense. The Boilermakers trailed 40-29 with 15:41 left, but got back into the game with a 17-2 run. This time, Purdue received a boost from reserves Ryne Smith and D.J. Byrd, who hit critical 3-pointers during the stretch.
"We made a nice run with a couple of our starters on the bench," Painter said. "That really gave us a shot in the arm and that's what you have to have. We need those third and fourth guys to score, so when Ryne comes in and gets us a three or D.J. gets us 10 points [for the game] that's just huge."
For the second consecutive year, the Boilermakers leave the Pacific Northwest after pulling out tight victories in second-round contests that many expected them to lose. Last year, Purdue advanced to the Sweet 16 when they edged a Washington team that in essence played before a home crowd in Portland. Even less was expected of Painter's squad this year after Big Ten First Team performer Robbie Hummel went out for the season.
"After a while I think it really sits with our guys," Painter said. "They really use it for motivation. But like JaJuan and I said at the beginning of the year, they just don't dropkick you into the Sweet 16. They're both great accomplishments, I don't look at them any differently than before."
The Boilermakers advance to a matchup in the regional semifinals against Duke. The last time the teams met, the Blue Devils prevailed 76-60 in the 2008 ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
"It's just great to survive another round and get to play against Duke," Moore said. "That will definitely be a great challenge playing them in the Sweet 16."