Lafayette was supposed to provide a breather for No. 15 Purdue before the Boilermakers head to New York to play North Carolina in the preseason NIT.
Instead, Purdue struggled Sunday before making eight free throws in the final minutes to pull out a 72-67 victory against Lafayette.
Purdue (4-0) was led by Brian Cardinal with 18 points and eight rebounds. Jaraan Cornell, who had averaged 24 points in the first three games, finished with 11 points.
"They were very like Gonzaga," Purdue coach Gene Keady said about Lafayette (2-1). "They were very well coached, played good defense and shot the 3-pointer well."
Purdue defeated Gonzaga 83-68 Wednesday in the second round of the Preseason NIT Tournament. This Wednesday, Purdue will play No. 10 North Carolina in the semifinals.
"We are looking forward to playing in New York," Keady said. " We are 0-5 against North Carolina. We'll see where we stand on Wednesday."
Brian Ehlers and Tyson Whitfield paced Lafayette with 13 points each, while Ross Harms and Tim Bieg each added 10 points.
It looked as if Purdue would have an easy afternoon, sailing to a 21-6 advantage on Cornell's free throw at the 13:29 mark in the first half.
But the Boilermakers got sloppy as Lafayette converted four Purdue turnovers into points and closed the gap to 25-22 with 6:29 left in the first half on Beig's 3-point basket.
Purdue outscored Lafayette 14-7 in the final six minutes of the first half to lead 39-29 at halftime. Gary McQuay led Purdue's charge with three layups and a free throw.
"I thought we did a pretty good job defensively with our zone," said Lafayette coach Frank O'Hanlon. "Inside, they hurt us rebounding-wise. We talked about keeping our poise, coming into a hostile environment. "
"We need to respect our opponent, but not over-respect them. After a while, I think our players realized they could play here. Playing a gam like this today gave us some poise and confidence."
The Boilermakers continued their surge in the first three minutes of the second half, going on an 8-5 run for a 47-34 lead with 16:55 remaining in the game.
The Boilermakers finished with 19 turnovers, 13 in the first half. Purdue outrebounded the Leopards 44-31.
"We just turned the ball over too many times, especially when we tried to get the ball inside," Keady said. "If we turn the ball over 19 times a game during the Big Ten season, we aren't going to be so fortunate to escape with the win."
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