Purdue took a strange path to the second round of the NCAA tournament: lose five of six games and win its first-round game on a shot by one of its low scorers.
Cameron Stephens, averaging just 3.3 points per game, broke a tie on a jumper from the right corner with 4.8 seconds left and the Boilermakers beat Texas 58-54 Friday night.
"It feels great that we sort of figured out what was wrong with us and did something about it," Purdue coach Gene Keady said.
The Boilermakers (20-12) advanced to Sunday's game against second-seeded Miami, Fla., which beat 15th-seeded Lafayette 75-54. Texas (19-13) suffered just its fifth loss in its last 21 games.
The 10th-seeded Boilermakers overcame 21 points and 14 rebounds by 7-foot Chris Mihm, who had his 16th double-double in 21 games. But after Stephens took a pass from Tony Mayfield, Mihm had a hand in the shot that beat the seventh-seeded Longhorns.
"Their guard drove. I came out and he kicked the ball out," Mihm said. "I actually got a piece of the ball. It was a good, clutch shot and sometimes it goes."
It was only the second basket of the game by Stephens, who took three shots and scored four points in 22 minutes.
"Tony gave him a great pass," said Jaraan Cornell, who led Purdue with 18 points, including four in a row that turned a 51-50 deficit into a 54-51 lead with 36 seconds to play. "His form looked good so I thought he had a great shot at hitting it."
After Stephens connected, Texas' Gabe Muoneke, who had 12 points, threw the inbounds pass off teammate Kris Clack, and Mayfield finished the scoring with two free throws with 4.1 seconds to play.
"We just mishandled the ball," said Texas coach Rick Barnes, whose team made three bad passes in the last 38 seconds. "If we threw it in, they would have fuled us."
The Longhorns' last slim chance ended on another inbounds pass by Muoneke that failed to reach a teammate. Brian Cardinal, who had 14 points, intercepted that after Mayfield's free throws and threw the ball toward the ceiling as time ran out.
"We knew coming into the game that their inside players (Mihm and Muoneke) were great," Cardinal said. "If we could control them and contain them, we'd have a chance of winning."
"They made it tough," Mihm said. "I was able to score, but it was difficult."
The game was close throughout as neither team led by more than four points in the last 27 minutes. And there were four lead changes in the last six minutes.
Texas lost in the first round for just the second time in nine NCAA appearances since the tournament field expanded to 64 teams in 1985. And Purdue, despite having the lowest seed in its NCAA tournament history, reached the second round for the sixth straight season.
The Boilermakers, the only team in the tournament with a losing conference record, were one of seven teams chosen from the strong Big Ten.
Stephens, a 6-foot-8 sophomore forward, had a 49.4 field goal percentage for the season, second best of the eight Purdue players averaging at least 14 minutes per game.
With Purdue leading 44-40, Mihm scored seven of Texas' next nine points as the Longhorns went ahead 49-48 with 5:39 left. Then Cardinal hit two free throws before Ivan Wagner's twisting layup with 1:21 remaining restored the Longhorns' one-point lead, 51-50.
The Boilermakers took the lead back on Cornell's 14-foot jumper with 49 seconds to go and then got the ball back with 38 seconds to play when Wagner's bad pass went out of bounds off Clack's hand.
Two free throws by Cornell made it 54-51 with 36 seconds remaining, but Texas tied the game on a 3-pointer by William Clay with 25 seconds to go.
Then Stephens sank the winning shot, sending Texas home and giving Purdue another chance to make its poor regular-season finish a distant memory.
"We only have one goal in mind," Purdue guard Alan Eldridge said. "We understand that it's going to take everybody to do it and I think that showed up here tonight."
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