NEW ORLEANS (AP)—Purdue forward Carl Landry was so confident about his team’s matchup against top-seeded Florida that he made a bold prediction Saturday.
“If a few possessions go our way and the ball’s going down, Florida has no chance,” said Landry, the team’s leading scorer. “That’s just how the ball rolls sometimes. I think any team is capable of beating any team in this tournament.”
Maybe so. But Landry’s statement caused two teammates to nearly start laughing and prompted coach Matt Painter to immediately try to do damage control.
“Please erase anything Carl Landry said in the transcript,” Painter said.
Painter was much more contrite about the ninth-seeded Boilermakers’ chances against the Gators (30-5) in the second round of the NCAA tournament Sunday.
“It’s really no secret. You have to be special if you’re going to beat them,” Painter said. “You cannot be good against them and expect to beat them. You have to be special.”
Painter acknowledged his team’s main concern against Florida was being able to rebound with a considerable size disadvantage. The Boilermakers (22-11) play eight regulars, and none of them is taller than 6-foot-7—meaning Joakim Noah and Al Horford will have at least 3 inches on their opponents.
To compensate, Painter said his team needed to “shoot at a magic level.”
The Gators dominated Jackson State down low in the opening round of the Midwest Regional, finishing with 62 rebounds and held an NCAA record plus-43 advantage on the boards. Florida started slow and missed numerous open shots in the first 20 minutes, but the Gators responded with a school-record 71 points after the break and pulled away for a 112-69 victory.
Purdue guard Chris Kramer tried to explain what it would take to beat the defending national champions, who have won 13 consecutive postseason games. But he ended up giving an accurate description of what makes Florida so good— balanced scoring and the ability to win games in a variety of different ways.
“You have to find Taurean Green and make him go to the baseline, you have to find Corey Brewer and not allow him to be attacking, a slasher,” Kramer said. “You have to find Lee Humphrey so he’s not wide open for a 3. And you have to find Al Horford and Joakim Noah and keep them from ducking in and turning around and getting easy hook shots.”
Oh, is that all?
The Boilermakers were 5-7 this season against teams that made the NCAA tournament and 2-6 against ranked opponents. That included three losses against No. 1 seed Ohio State and one against second-seeded Wisconsin.
“We’ve kind of grown accustomed to being the underdog,” guard David Teague said. “It takes the pressure off of us and allows us to play loose, play relaxed and play our type of basketball and try to go out and prove everybody wrong. We know we’re not favored to win and not picked to do much.
“But if you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will. We’re very aware that a lot of people are counting us out. But nobody gave us a chance to get this far and to get to this point. That’s what the games are for.”
Still, Teague and Kramer found themselves nearly cracking up when Landry said, “No doubt about it, I really do think Purdue has a great shot of beating Florida.”
Kramer just shook his head as Landry spoke.
“It is kind of a bold statement, but if we come out and we keep on playing the way we’ve been playing and play defense and if we’re all shooting the ball very well, who knows what’s going to happen,” Kramer said.
Florida’s Humphrey said he expected Purdue to be confident.
“I remember last year when we were underdogs, we always thought we could win,” Humphrey said. “I’m sure they have confidence in their team.”
The Boilermakers played well in the opening round against Arizona, winning mostly because of 19 offensive rebounds, 12 steals and just eight turnovers.
But beating Florida would be a considerably bigger achievement.
“You really want to be Florida,” Painter said. “You want to be the No. 1 seed. You want to be a national champion. But you’re not. The only way to push past that is to embrace a challenge like this and go out there and beat them. We know that’s a tall order. … But there’s no doubt it’s why you play college basketball. It’s what you dream of—is to play the No. 1 team in the country.”