Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
During the Rams’ miraculous Final Four run in 2011, the black and gold squared off with Purdue in the Sweet Sixteen and won by 18 points. On Friday night, however, the Boilermakers beat the Rams 59-56 in the Emerald Coast Classic semifinals.
Unlike the NCAA tournament nine years ago, this time Purdue advanced to face Florida State on Saturday night in the championship.
“We fought hard,” coach Mike Rhoades told Ram Radio’s Mike Litos after the game. “It was a bloodbath.”
There were a combined 46 fouls called in the game, 23 against each team.
The Rams committed a season-high 21 turnovers in the contest and forced 18.
“We put them on the line too much, and we had too many turnovers,” Rhoades said. “A lot of them were just over penetration, jumping up in the air, forcing it.”
Both teams struggled early on — Purdue started shooting 1-for-7 from the field, and the Rams turned the ball over six times in the first four minutes.
Junior forward Marcus Santos-Silva got going early by recording 8 points in a row for the Rams, working in the paint. He started shooting a perfect 5-for-5 from the field in the first half.
“He played great,” Rhoades said about Santos-Silva. “He fouled everybody out, he got after rebounds.”
The Massachusetts native worked against Purdue’s Matt Haarms, who is 7 feet 6 inches tall, and was able to get him to foul out in the second half.
Santos-Silva scored a game-high 19 points for the Rams, shooting 8 of 10 from the field. He was 3-for-8 from the free-throw line and missed three in the final minutes of the contest.
The Boilermakers went on an 8-0 run to take the first multiple-possession lead in the game.
VCU answered Purdue’s run with a 7-0 run, sparked by a sophomore guard KeShawn Curry layup, to tie the game at 25 a piece. Redshirt-senior guard Marcus Evans capped the run with a deep 3-pointer for his first bucket of the night.
The Rams shot 52% from the field in the first 20 minutes but only 22% from beyond the arc. Purdue held a 6-point lead at the break, shooting 42% from the field and 30% from three.
After the half, the Rams stormed out on a 9-2 run to take a single-point lead against the Boilermakers. Senior guard De’Riante Jenkins opened the second half with a corner 3-pointer to spark the run.
The Rams trailed by five for about three minutes midway through the second half until the black and gold used a 6-0 run to retake the lead.
Purdue and VCU then traded blows back and forth, keeping the score within two down the stretch.
Vann fouled out with just over a minute to play, sending Purdue’s Jahaad Proctor to the line. Proctor knocked down both free throws, pushing the Boilermakers’ lead to three.
The Boilermakers held onto that lead and handed the Rams their first loss of the season.
VCU shot 44% from the field, including 18% from beyond the arc. Purdue shot 41% from the field and 25% from three.
The Rams will play No. 17 Tennessee on Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. in Niceville, Florida, in the Emerald Coast Classic consolation game.
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