BOSTON -- Asked what he'd have thought if someone would have told him a week ago that Purdue would reach the Sweet 16, forward Brian Cardinal paused a second before responding.
"I'd want to know where I was sitting in the stands," Cardinal finally replied. "Because I didn't think we would get there."
Well, Cardinal and his teammates will be sitting in the front row in the Sweet 16 this week in East Rutherford, N.J., as 10th-seeded Purdue upset second-seeded Miami, 73-63, yesterday in an East Regional second-round game.
The win sets up a regional semifinal against Temple that might play out to be a defensive chess match. Purdue held Miami to its third-lowest offensive output of the season. Miami shot a season-low 32.9 percent in the game, including 18.2 percent in the first half, when the Hurricanes hit just six field goals.
Comparing the game's outcome to the final stats is almost mind-boggling: Miami took double the amount of shots as Purdue (76-38), and nearly had as many offensive rebounds (27) as the Boilermakers had total rebounds (29). The big problem was Miami was unable to convert its second-chance opportunities.
"I've never been in a game where a team got 27 offensive rebounds and couldn't put any of them back in the basket," said Miami coach Leonard Hamilton.
That wasn't the only frustrating aspect of the game for Miami (23-7), which won the school's first NCAA tournament game on Friday against Lafayette.
In that game, swingman Johnny Hemsley (Southern-Baltimore) scored 31 points and tied an NCAA regional record with nine three-pointers.
But there were not any open looks yesterday for Hemsley, who was shadowed most of the game by Purdue guard Alan Eldridge. Hemsley failed to hit a three-pointer, and hit just five of 13 shots on the way to 13 points.
"They did a good job on me -- Eldridge wouldn't even allow me to touch the ball," Hemsley said. "Just overall, they did the things they had to do to win the game."
Purdue really won the game in the first half, after Miami -- which never led -- tied the game at 17 on a short jumper by forward Tim James with 7: 23 left. But the Hurricanes didn't score again in the half while Purdue finished with a 15-0 run that, after Cardinal's three-pointer with two seconds left, gave the Boilermakers a 32-17 lead.
"That first half, we were just real sluggish," Hemsley said. "We just made a lot of mistakes."
The Hurricanes' previous low half had been 21 points, but they rallied to beat Rutgers in that game. Again Miami played better in the second half yesterday, pulling to within five points with 11: 06 left.
But the deficit proved to be too big to overcome and Purdue (21-12), despite failing to score a field goal after a dunk by Greg McQuay with 7: 40 left, hit 19 of 28 free throws in the final 6: 21 for the win.
And the outcome was totally unexpected from a Purdue team that had lost three straight games -- and five of six -- going into the NCAA tournament facing a Miami squad that had won nine of its last 10 to qualify.
After getting bounced in the first round of the Big Ten tournament, there was some question whether the Boilermakers would even get an NCAA bid. With a 7-9 conference record Purdue was one of just two schools to make the NCAA tournament with a losing league record (Florida A&M; was the other).
"Our ex-players were calling us saying 'Coach, what has happened to our toughness, where is the Purdue intensity, you guys stink," coach Gene Keady said. "Ex-players got our kids to get in to what we were in the past. The Purdue tradition came back."
And just in time to get the team to its second straight regional semifinal -- at the Continental Airlines Arena where Cardinal and his teams will sit in some pretty choice seats.
"I knew all year we had a good team, it was just a matter of us playing well and playing together," said Cardinal, who had a season-high 20 points as the game's leading scorer.
"Coach Keady is always talking about new seasons and he mentioned to us before the game against Texas [Friday] that the NCAAs were a new season. I think we're making the most of it."
Seeds of upset
The NCAA's Sweet 16 features five teams seeded No. 10 or lower:
School Seed Region
Gonzaga 10 West
Miami, Ohio 10 Midwest
Purdue 10 East
SW Mo. St. 12 East
Oklahoma 13 Midwest
Pub Date: 3/15/99